Today we left Bellagio (trip report here) and drove to Castelrotto. It is about a four hour and 20 minute drive. We had decided that morning we would stop in Verona for lunch. We did our restaurant research in the car on the iPad and chose Osteria Bertoldo. It is located just about five minutes away from the main piazza in a very quiet part of town. We walked into the restaurant and it did not appear as though anyone was there. Soon an older gentleman came out, who turned out to be the chef/owner. He and his wife had lived in Southern Italy for many years, he worked in the hotel business and she in management, but they had recently retired and moved here to be closer to their kids and open a restaurant because cooking was his passion! I am not sure why nobody else was in this fantastic restaurant but it allowed us to have their undivided attention and we enjoyed visiting and talking with them. We had an incredible meal – one of our favorites!!
First off, the bread was the best we have had in Italy. The chef said he gets it delivered daily from Campagna because he can not find any good bread in the north. He served us a complimentary amuse bouche which was a crostini with anchovies and an incredible sauce on it along with a small shot glass size prosecco. For appetizers we shared a plate of wonderful cheeses, an absolutely spectacular octopus salad (simply made with just olive oil, salt and pepper), and delicious melanzane (best of the trip!)
For our main course I had linguine with clams and pomo fresca, Stephen fettuccine with mussels, Lauren pasta with special dried anchovies and Michael pork chops with applesauce. Dessert was wonderful cannelloni and a special kind of cake with dried fruit (not pannettone) all made by his wife. We all agreed it was a great meal and a great stop on our way.
We had never been to Verona so walked to the main piazza and to Juliet’s house. Since we had just seen “Letters from Juliet” it was even more fun to see the notes on the wall and Juliet’s balcony. Verona was a very beautiful city and we wished we had more time to explore. Definitely a place worth spending a night in.
We arrived in Castelrotto about 6pm and checked into our hotel, Hotel Wolf .
Now before I describe the hotel, I just want to mention that I debated between staying in Castelrotto or Ortesei. I had read that Ortesei was a bit bigger, so that was actually my first choice, but it appeared that comparable hotels were significantly cheaper in Castelrotto so we chose to stay there, and it was a good decision. Castelrotto is smaller, but has everything you would need, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, pizzeria and a VERY nice grocery store. We went to Ortesei one night for dinner – an easy 10-15 min. drive and parking there is very easy as there is a nice public garage maybe 300 meters. from the town center. Ortesei was bigger, but frankly just more of the same that was in Castelrotto. More dining options would have been nice, but again the easy drive made everything very accessible. Plus, and I do not want to get barraged here, but I found Ortesei a bit Disneyesque – now, I absolutely hate when others say that, particularly about Venice – I mean those buildings really are that old and are crumbling, it was not just made to look like that – but in Ortesei many of the buildings were newer. It was extremely quaint, but I guess I just did not love it.
Now keep in mind much of this area is a very German/Austrian part of the country– the people speak German, restaurants serve German food, and the homes and hotels/inns all look very German – heck the whole countryside looks German. So… this is a very German looking hotel. The hotel is located right in the center of town and includes on site parking for free (onsite garage parking I believe is just five euros/night). We had one of the family rooms with a balcony, which is basically two rooms, one with a double bed sofa, coffee table, tv and the other with two beds. It was a fairly good size room with a lot of closet space and a good size bathroom, plus the balcony was big enough for us all to sit out on. It had a nice view, though there was some construction going on so there was a big construction crane – actually there was construction and cranes all over this region – I am sure they have a small window for construction season, but still they must not be feeling the effects of a recession too much.
There is a nice breakfast buffet in the morning, with typical soft-boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, breads and cereals in a good sized breakfast room. The couple who ran the hotel were extremely nice and very helpful with all kinds of information. There is also a washing machine downstairs which was very convenient. The only downside was that you had to pay for wifi (which was fine), but then you could only use it downstairs in the lobby and only on one device. If you pay, I would prefer that you could use it in your room. Other than that it was a great stay. Oh, I should mention there was no air conditioning. We did not think this would be a problem because we did not think it would be that hot. Well, it was hot about 95-98 degrees everyday, but it was a dry heat, not like the heat in Bellagio or Bologna and it definitely cooled down at night, so not having air conditioning was not that big of a problem.
Our first night, the owner suggested we walk up a small hill to Restaurant Liftstuberl. It was nice to be able to order proscuitto de melone, caprese AND schnitzel and soup with dumplings. We sat outside on picnic tables and enjoyed the amazing view.
Now a bit about hiking. We are fairly active people, kids play sports and work out, and Stephen and I work out and walk but none of us is a “hiker”. However, when we had read about hiking up in the Dolomites with the gondolas and refugios/huttes we thought, this sounds like our kind of hiking!! There are all different levels of trails, the ones we took gave gorgeous, breathtaking views and were not difficult. I do recommend at least dayhiking shoes and Stephen brought poles, which he found very helpful – particularly when walking uphill.
We set out early because we knew it was going to get hot, and caught the first shuttle to Alpe de Suisi (first shuttle is at 8am, so not an ugly early start). The buses stop right behind Hotel Wolf. We took the cable car up and then the Puflatch chair lift. Next we did the hike that takes you along the edges of the rim. Incredible views, every so often there were benches where you could sit, rest, and take pictures.
Also, you are right along the edge of the cliff with sometimes just an old wooden fence between you and falling – just cautionary for those who might be with smaller children.
We stopped at the Annika Hutte where we had polenta, mixed meats, yogurt with berries and apple streudel. Boy, I wish they had places like that when hiking in America!!
We took the Compatsch Lift down and caught the shuttle back to the hotel and crashed!!
For dinner we decided to go to Ortesei. We got there early and got a chance to walk around and explore. We ate dinner at Osteria Antiche Traube.
It is expensive, but so worth the splurge!! In addition to an a la carte menu they also have several different degustazione menus – one with three course and one with four (not including dessert) and then they have two surprise menus one with four courses and one with five. Stephen and I ordered the three course menu and the kids each ordered the four course surprise menu.
Everything was excellent. We all started out with an Amuse Bouche of goat cheese on crostini with balsamico. Our appetizer was a salmon tartare dish, kids had salmon prepared a different way. Primi course Stephen and I had the most delicious gnocchi, actually made with tomatoes so they were a little red. Kids had saffron risotto dish. For Secondi Stephen and I had venison with speck and mushrooms and the kids had a lamb dish. Kids dessert was nocciola ice cream and crème brulee. Even though our menu did not come with a dessert we were served small glasses of a very light mocha mousse – the odd thing was the mousse was pink so you were expecting a berry flavor but they were mocha.
We had four full days in the region and the plan was to hike two days and explore other things the other two days. We had discovered that Innsbruck was only about a 1.5 hr drive from Castelrotto so decided to head over there. I dutifully went on Fodors to see what others said we should do there, and was hit by everyone saying not to go there, as not a lot to do or see. I was a bit surprised, so went down to talk to the lady at the front desk about what we should do. She said Innsbruck is a lovely city nestled beneath the mountains and a great daytrip from the area, so we said, “what the heck” and drove there.
The city center is not that large, so easy to get around in a daytrip. It is in a beautiful setting as she said, nestled just at the base of the mountains and we found it to be a very charming city. We enjoyed walking and shopping – there was a nice mall located just in the city center, that was great mostly because it was air conditioned, and it was HOT outside.
We had an excellent lunch at Lichtblick located on the 7th floor of the Rathaus Galleria. Even though the lunch menu was very limited since it was Saturday, everything we had was fabulous. Three of us had a great fillet with risotto and mushrooms and Lauren had a delicious salad with avocado, shrimp and crab. Also, the bread was really good there.
We also stopped at Amarino for gelato – the same one that is in Paris.
Just a note, when driving from the south as we did, as you enter the city you notice what looks like a very large glass look-out tower – we wondered what it was. As we left the city we were able to see that it is the Olympic ski jump with the observation area. Very cool, especially since it is located so close to the city center.
We did not get back until almost 6pm and were tired from our day and the heat. Unsure of where to eat dinner we just walked around until we decided on Saalstuben where we had an OK dinner.
Today was our second hiking day. I had printed out excerpts from this blog; OneLittleWorld before we left. I gave it to Stephen the night before and said – “pick one of these hikes”. So, the next morning we drove to Ortesei, parked our car in the convenient parking garage and walked to the Seceda lift – which is actually two different gondolas, so make sure you pay to get to the very top. After we got off the lift we walked to the top of Seceda where the cross is.
This was the most uphill of this hike, as most of it is downhill – though do not let that fool you – down hill can be tough!! Then we walked down the backside where it met the main trail. The trail continued as you could get up close and personal with the Odles – spectacular!!
Michael enjoyed climbing up the craggy rock tips and standing on the edge – sometimes he scared me so much I could not look.
This is really incredible scenery and we just enjoyed hiking and taking it all in.
We walked down to the Trior Hutte and had a great lunch of schnitzel, bratwurst and knoodle soups. Stephen and I shared a kaisermarren for dessert (though they had it on the regular menu) – but it is a delicious cut up pancake with yummy jam.
We took a break here and did like everyone else and caught some rest on the chairs or on the ground.
Continued the hike down to the Col Raiser lift and took the lift down to St. Christina.
Since it was Sunday the shuttle bus to the center of town was not running past mid-morning so we walked the 1 km – still downhill. We arrived at the bus station just as the Ortesei bus was pulling in – perfect timing! Took the bus back to Orteisei and then drove back to Castelrotto.
For dinner we went to the pizzeria just around the corner from our hotel, Zur Alten Schmiede (Paniderstrasse 7) and had absolutely excellent pizza – wonderful thin crust. We ordered two, a proscuitto one and one with chantrelles. Michael liked it so much he ordered a second proscuitto pizza and ate most of it himself! We watched the first half of the World Cup finals there, but then went back to the hotel for the second half. Four years ago we were in Italy during the quarter finals when the Italians won the World Cup – so fun to be in a country that was winning!! They were crazy – everything stopped during the games and then people went wild in the streets with their scooters and flags. We were so disappointed when Italy did not make it to the second round just a few days before we were leaving for this trip. So, anyway, that night people were watching the game, but not too much excitement – plus let’s face it that was kind of a boring game until the very end when someone finally scored.
We debated on whether to do another day of hiking or go to Bolzano to see Otzi, the Iceman. I wish we could have found a way to do both – but we wanted to get an early start the next morning to Milan so decided to just do Bolzano.
We actually enjoyed Bolzano more than I was expecting. Where much of this region is mostly German/Austrian architecture Bolzano is very Italian. It has a nice porticoed street with good shopping .
There was a nice open air food market going on down one of the streets that day as well. We enjoyed wandering the streets but it was quite hot.
Stopped at a nice restaurant located in one of the piazzas for lunch. After lunch we went to the Museum to see the iceman, Otzi – nicely air conditioned!! The exhibit was very well done and very interesting – most things also written in English. I was glad we had decided to go to Bolzano and not miss this.
For dinner we had all agreed we wanted to go back to the pizza place we had been to the night before – unfortunately it was closed tonight. We just randomly chose to go to a restaurant located across the main street from the large grocery store (sorry can not remember the name) and proceeded to have the worst meal of the trip. Even the caprese salad was bad – awful mozzerella – how can you do that in Italy???
Next up, our last two nights in Milan.