Day 3 of our North Italian adventure saw us finally make it to the Dolomites, a spectacular range of mountains that extend from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. Sure, we had already watched sunset over Lake Como and stayed in the shadows of the Brenta peaks by Lago di Molveno, but now it was time for next level scenery. After stalking photographer Jona Salcher on Instagram, I decided on a few spots I definitely wanted to hit, and right near the top of that list was the Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi) – the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe. In the winter, it’s a very popular area for skiing and snowboarding, but in the summer in transforms into lush green countryside, perfect for hikers and cyclists.
There’s a Seiser Alm website (click here) which is packed full of information, but we weren’t exactly sure where to start, so instead we took ourselves to a tourist office in the town of Seis (Siusi) and made some plans based on pictures we had seen. From Seis, you can take the Alpe di Siusi Cable Car cable car all the way up to Compatsch (Compaccio) at 1850m – check ahead for cable car opening times. Supposedly you can drive up too, but that depends on roads being open or existing – I wouldn’t always trust Google Maps there!
As we emerged from the cable car, the impressive Schlern (Sciliar) was immediately visible. It has a unique, recognisable outline as a long straight plateau suddenly drops vertically before two towers (Santner and Euringer) rise up on the northwestern side. We marched off to the top of the Panorama chairlift, taking in great views of Schlern, as well as the imposing Langkofel peaks to the east. What makes the Seiser Alm even more photogenic is the seemingly random placement of mountain huts plucked straight from the Shire, and a wealth of colourful flora at every turn.
After working up a bit of an appetite, we made our way from Panorama to Gostner Schwaige, a highly rated restaurant and cheese-farm on the mountain run by the Mulser family. They also run the Aussergost farmhouse suites down in Siusi allo Sciliar. At Gostner Schwaige, Franz Mulser & co. use fresh and seasonal ingredients to create their take on local, alpine cuisine. We enjoyed their outstanding bread, meat and cheese boards, and exceptional fresh pasta and dumpling dishes, garnished with foraged flowers and herbs. Tankards of Forst beer went down rather easily in the sunshine too.
Feeling energised, we over confidently set off on a pretty long walk up the other side of Compatsch, getting another perspective of Schlern. We made it as far is Rifguio Arnika before we had to head back to catch the last cable car down to Seis. Splashing out on a night or two at a mountain hut allows you to do a lot more exploring without the restrictions of the cable car, and also gives you the opportunity to see the Seiser Alm in a different light, at sunrise or sunset. However, we opted to stay down in the valley with the rest of our belongings and the car!
There are several towns that you can use as a base in this part of the Dolomites. We set our sights on the picturesque village of Kastelruth (Castelrotto) and booked to stay at Hotel Wiesenhof – the lovely Lenka was a great host, and upgraded us to two rooms with a view towards Tisens. We didn’t spend long in Kastelruth, but we walked through the old town past the church tower, and had decent local food and drinks at Hexenkeller, a cosy restaurant and pub. If you want to stay somewhere a little livelier, Ortisei (St. Ulrich) in the Val Gardena is a larger town with plenty to do and it’s not too far away.