This is an excerpt from the book “Südtirol and Dolomites”.
The quaint village of Schenna, nestled between vineyards and orchards, is situated above Merano. A distant view of a world of alpine mountains radiates peace and tranquillity. Schenna, just 4 km from Merano, connects directly with the Merano 2000 hiking and ski area and ski resort.
Schenna’s individual neighbourhoods are quite diverse in terms of culture and landscape, since the elevation of the village ranges from 600 to 1,500 metres: the higher-altitude areas typify South Tyrol’s rural lifestyle, criss-crossed by scenic hiking trails, while the village centre, with its squares, restaurants and many shops, just begs you to take a leisurely stroll through town and do some shopping.
The historical town centre, with its many churches and the mausoleum of Archduke Johann, is a reflection of Schenna’s turbulent history. The imposing Scena Castle, which dates from the fourteenth century, is perched high above the recently renovated town centre.
Lana the castles and churches village on the Adige River
The family-friendly market town of Lana, south of Merano, combines the advantages of a rural environment with a vibrant, urbane town centre. Lana offers a high quality of life and a wide range of recreational and cultural activities, making it as popular with locals as it is with tourists.
Lana is the starting point of a number of different popular cycling routes and convenient to beloved hiking areas such as the car-restricted S. Vigilio (Vigiljoch) Mountain or the nearby Val d’Ultimo (Ultental) Valley. Especially popular amongst cyclists is a route that traditionally forms a leg of the Giro d’Italia: the path winds up Nonsberg Mountain along the snaking Gampenpass.
Castles, manors and churches
With about 40 churches, chapels, and monasteries dating back ten centuries, Lana is an important site for ecclesiastic history. In addition to the sacred buildings, a number of other medieval castles grace the townscape – among them Brandisburg, Leonburg, and Braunsburg.
The neighbouring communities
Lana’s neighbouring communities are numerous and equally diverse. The apple village of Cermes (Tscherms) is rich in castles, walking paths, and ornate gardens while the resort of Foiana (Völlan), known for the healthful quality of its air, and the main local mountain, San Vigilio, are unique recreation areas.
The two neighbouring towns beyond the Adige River, Postal (Burgstall) and Gargazzone (Gargazon), are noted for their culinary offerings and a biotope that teems with nearly 400 different species of birds.
The village of Dorf Tirol is draped charmingly across the sun-drenched vineyards above the spa town of Merano. A chair lift whisks visitors from the centre of Merano up to the pretty and bustling village of Dorf Tirol. This feature makes Dorf Tirol a truly unique starting point for hikes, tours or treks into an alpine world- only minutes away from Merano.
The Tessa (Texel) Group Nature Park begins in the village of Dorf Tirol. It is the largest natural park in South Tyrol and encompasses parts of the Ötztal Alps. Tirolo has always been an ideal point of departure for exploration and expeditions into a vast hiker’s paradise. The ten Spronser Lakes, situated at an altitude of around 2,500 metres, form the largest high-alpine lake district and one of the most beautiful groups of lakes in the Alps.
As the German name Dorf Tirol – as in “Südtirol” – suggests, the village is not only a gourmet and hiking paradise but is also steeped in history. The South Tyrol Museum of Culture and History is located inside Tyrol Castle, which was built in the high Middle Ages and towers majestically above the village. The museum has a wonderful contemporary design and gives detailed information about the history of the town and the region, including the former County of Tirol.
Passeier Valley – Pfelders
The Passeier Valley, which forms a branch of the Merano basin, has everything that lovers of activity holidays and families who like hiking could possibly want: 5 km near the city of Merano are well situated between orchards and vineyards the two holiday places Riffian and Kuens. Hospitality and south tyrolian tradition will welcome you in Riffian and Kuens. Taking St. Martin and St. Leonhard as your starting point, you can take extensive hikes in the mountains.
The high alpine villages of Hinterpasseier, where the Ötztal, Stubai and Sarntaler Alps meet, are substantially more rustic. Moos, Stuls, Rabenstein, Platt and Pfelders offer a myriad of options for recreation, activities, and relaxation in summer and winter alike.
Every municipality here has its own charm. The village of Stuls is located on an exposed site, getting more sunshine hours than any other town in the region. The former mining village of Moos is home to the new Mooseum, which winds into rock tunnels.
Rabenstein’s ice tower is one of Europe’s largest and most spectacular ice-climbing facilities while the high alpine town of Pfelders, which has an extensive area for skiing and winter sports, is family friendly and romantic. An old mule and smugglers’ path across Passo Rombo (Timmelsjoch) has connected Passeier Valley (Passeiertal) with the Ötztal Valley for centuries. Today the High Alpine Road across the pass offers numerous stops with architectural sculptures and a high alpine gallery.
Located at the foot of the Tessa (Texel) Mountains, the wellness village of Naturns has more than 300 sunny days a year, making it the sunniest town in the Alps. Here, the diversity of the landscape in the Merano and Environs holiday destination is particularly pronounced since Naturns encompasses two completely different sides of the valley. While Montesole doesn’t have much rainfall and has thus an astonishingly Mediterranean appearance, the shady, wooded Monte Tramontano (Nörderberg) is its alpine foil.
Naturno is also the perfect place for mountain bike and racing bike fans. The European Cycle Path follows along the old Roman Claudia Augusta trading route. Just sit back comfortably and the new Val Venosta Railway Service Bike and Train offer, “bikemobil Card”, will take you up to the Passo Resia pass. Then, you can hop on your saddle and peddle 80 kilometres along the river Adige all the way down to Merano if you like.
The recently-founded Ötzi Bike Academy members and a number of professional bike guides work together to offer various guided bike excursions, everything from easy rides to much more exacting adventures. They also provide technical training, valuable practical tips, GPS track uploads, GPS rental and special holiday offers.
Naturns is an ideal spot for a holiday, whether focused on activity or leisure. Because the area was inhabited way back in ancient times, Naturns also offers some interesting gems and art and cultural treasures. The S. Procolo Church is absolutely unique, boasting the oldest frescoes in German-speaking Europe: the paintings date back to before Charlemagne. Juval Castle, home of extreme mountain climber Reinhold Messner, towers majestically above.
Algund – Lagundo
The small town of Algund, near Merano, ranges from 320 to 1360 metres in altitude. Algund is all about pleasure and joie de vivre. The bustling community is a fusion of remarkable contrasts: it has a quiet, rural atmosphere on the one hand, yet is painted with Merano’s urban chic at the same time. This is purely the result of proximity: Algund is just minutes away from the spa town, yet is nestled cosily into orchards and vineyards.
The parts of town that lie at higher elevations reach all the way up to the mountains at 1,600 metres: Vellau (Velloi), for example, offers a panoramic view over the entire Val d’Adige (Etschtal) Valley.
Above the village, you’ll find the Algunder Waalweg path alongside the old irrigation chanels, which runs relatively flat from Oberplars (Plars di Sopra) to Gratsch (Grazze)—about 6 kilometres. The Algunder Waalweg is one of the most archetypal hiking trails in the area, and also offers splendid panoramic views over the Val d’Adige, Ifinger (Ivinga) Mountain, Hirzer Peak (Punta Cervina) and Tyrol Castle.
The high alpine Senales Valley in the Tessa (Texel) Group Nature Park is one of the most scenically interesting valleys in South Tyrol. It offers 300 kilometres of sign-posted hiking trails of all levels of difficulty, all the way up to Palla Bianca (Weißkugel), the highest peak at 3,738 metres in elevation. This high mountain valley, in which Ötzi, the celebrated glacial mummy, was found 20 years ago is the only glacial ski area in Merano and Environs. There are more than 35 kilometres of runs for skiers, snowboarders, backcountry skiers, and fans of telemark skiing alike.
In the valleys’ five picturesque villages called Katharinaberg, Karthaus, Madonna di Senales, Vernagt at Lake and Maso Corto, you can choose among activity holidays, cultural trips through Prehistory or simply take time to relax.
Due to the valley’s inaccessibility, a notorious smugglers’ path once ran through here – you can still hike along this path today. The spectacular sheep drive, which takes place on the main Alpine ridge in mid-June, is also well known: just a few shepherds drive up to 4,000 sheep over a mountain more than 3,000 metres high. And for those who seek a challenge, in honour of the Ice-man there is the Ötzi Alpine Mountain Marathon.
Partschins – Rabland – Töll
The municipality of Partschins, together with its two communities of Rabland and Töll on the edge of the natural reserve, is known as the Gateway to the Texel Mountains. Each of these three villages is an ideal starting point for hiking, day trips and alpine excursions in the mountains.
Churches, manors, and farmhouses grace the picturesque village of Parcines, while nature trails provide a rare glimpse into life as it once was.
The Partschins waterfall
A special attraction is the Partschins waterfall, which, spanning 98 metres, is the highest waterfall in South Tyrol. So it comes as no surprise that the region is extremely popular with climbing enthusiasts. For trained and accomplished climbers crossing the waterfall is considered an exciting challenge.
A modern museum in the village centre documents the history of the typewriter from its invention in Parcines right up to the computer age. Mondo Treno in Raband, the largest museum of model railways in Italy, is all about fun and games – you’ll enjoy it as much as your children will.
Marling is located three kilometres southwest of Merano (Meran), on a moraine hill above the horseracing track. Recreation and relaxation are of primary focus in this small community, which knows how to blend tradition with innovation and reconcile the quiet country life with proximity near a town. In addition to traditional activities and events, there are leisure activities ranging from hiking and biking to tennis, from mountain biking to swimming.
Foodies will also love Marlengo for its first-rate farm products including fruit and asparagus, liqueurs, and last but certainly not least, honey.
The Marling Waalweg
This watercourse, 12 kilometres long, is the longest trail of the Merano area. Originally a watercourse for irrigation purposes, the Waalweg is now popular as a hiking trail with visitors. The forest trail, which parallels the watercourse for a length of 2 kilometres, is equipped with information boards on various aspects of the forest environment.
Ulten Valley – Val d’Ultimo
A holiday in the rustic Ulten Valley means immersion in a lively, rough tradition that has survived the unscrupulous progress unscathed. The thousand-year-old ancient larches in St. Gertraud (Santa Gertrude), considered the oldest conifers in Europe, are a testament to this.
You can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life by taking to some of the almost 600 kilometres of hiking trails that cover the valley. On these relaxing hikes, you can marvel at the surrounding vistas, places of great natural beauty, such as the impressive mountains in the Stilfs national park, some of which are more than 3000 metres high.
Deutschnonsberg, with its four villages St. Felix, Laurein, Proveis and the place of pilgrimage Senale, is also located in an endearing spot. You will find peace and rest in this quiet and remote area.
Tisens and Prissian
There are two villages that can be described as castle towns in the highlands above Lana: Tisens (Tesimo) and Prissian (Prissiano). A total of six castles and manor houses, including Katzenzungen Castle with its famous Versoaln grapevine, a mystical little church, and a number of different chapels create a living testament to a bygone age.
Today, locals and tourists alike enjoy the tranquillity and ambience of the two villages, their narrow winding alleys, and town squares. Beyond, there are numerous trails for biking and hiking as well as the Trail of International Felt Crafts.
Fruit trees and chestnut groves line the castle towns. The Keschtn, which means “chestnut” in the South Tyrolean dialect, was once a staple food and still garners a great deal of respect: the Keschtnriggl Festival is one of the autumn harvest festivals held in Tesimo and Prissiano and is devoted exclusively to the chestnut.
Nals – Nalles
Nals (Nalles), known as the Village of Roses, is located 16 kilometres south of Merano. This, the southernmost town in the Merano and Environs region, is strikingly bucolic: colourful vegetation, roses, vineyards, and fruit trees crisscross the pretty village. The mild climate and unspoilt landscape, replete with orchards and vineyards, guarantee that people have a special sense of wellbeing when in Nals.
You’ll find culinary events, wine tastings, and Törggele evenings, featuring regional specialties and fine wines throughout the course of the year.
Nals is not just for nature-lovers and gourmets, though: because it is situated along the South Tyrol Wine Road and is crossed by very manageable bike paths, the village is also an important hub for cyclists.