Kastelruth or Castelrotto as it’s known in Italian is a small little village situated in Northern Italy. To me, this town was the highlight of our 2008 Europe trip. To get there, we had to take a series of trains followed by a bus from the valley floor up a series of switchbacks to the town. While situated in Italy, over 80% of the 6,000 residents speak German as their first language and identify themselves as Tyrolean first, Italian second.
While not much to do in the town itself, Kastelruth is the gateway to the Alpe di Siusi which is the largest high altitude alpine meadow in Europe. When you picture cows with giant bells munching on grass and wildflowers with snow covered peaks in the background, the Alpe di Siusi is just that. It’s located in the western part of the Dolomites mountain range and is world renown for skiing and hiking.
On the first morning, we took the very long cable car up the mountain to the entrance of the meadow where we had planned a day hike. It was surprising to feel how much colder it was in the meadow, than it was back in town. I wasn’t prepared for this and was only wearing shorts and a light long sleeve shirt. The meadow was unlike anywhere I’d ever been before. It felt like another planet. There were very little trees and rolling grassy hills were back-dropped by dramatic alpine peaks. The meadows were sporadically dotted with small huts and cabins. We hiked for a couple hours before stopping at an alpine hut for lunch. On the hike back down, we gave head nods to grazing cows and tested the electric fences that kept them contained.
As soon as we left, I wanted to return and felt like we needed to abandon the remainder of the trip and simply stay put in Kastelruth for another week. There is no doubt in my mind that we will return… It’s just a matter of when.