Silence, quiet and unspoiled nature. Far from the famous towns of the Dolomites that have been stormed and full of shops, the “other Pusteria” is instead made up of farms, woods and tranquility. It is the tourist area of Gitschberg-Jochtal in South Tyrol, located at the crossroads between the Isarco Valley and the Val Pusteria. A place of passage for those heading to the most famous San Candido, Sesto, Dobbiaco and Plan De Corones, it surprises with its hidden side valleys. By e-bike it is possible to slide on the cycle path along the Rienza river and discover the various villages, or to climb through the woods on dirt roads towards Spinga or Valles. And then stop at a farm, talk to the owners, learn their stories, taste their cheeses, see their animals, admire the northernmost vineyards of Italy. And then enjoy the rest in the wonderful spas of its hotels designed for the whole family.
By e-bike in the “other” Pusteria
The e-bike is the best way to discover the Gitschberg-Jochtal area. At the Rio Pusteria railway station, it is possible to rent them and move on cycle paths but also between low-traffic roads and paths in the woods.
From Rio Pusteria to Valdoies. The most interesting route is the one that from Rio Pusteria reaches Valdoies along the cycle path that runs along the lake on the north bank and the Rienza river for about 6 kilometers. The route is quite simple even for the less experienced and is on an asphalted surface with a very slight slope. At the beginning of the route you can visit the Santer farm where organic wine and apple juice are produced. Halfway between Rio Pusteria and Valdoies is the Chiusa, a fifteenth-century castle that served as a customs house. It can be visited only on Thursdays. If it is true that the cycle path continues up to San Candido for another 49 kilometers, you can stop in Valdoies and then return back by train if necessary. But before continuing or turning back, we recommend a stop – in Valdoies di Sopra – in the commercial area on the right. Here it is possible to taste and buy Capriz cheeses, dairy, resale and bar where to eat or have an aperitif. It produces award-winning soft or aged goat and cow cheeses. In its basement there is the cheese museum, where it is possible to discover the secrets of production, the choice of the quantity of rennet according to the season, the processing. Next to the Capriz there is the Loden Welt, a Loden factory (the typical Tyrolean woolen clothing) with shop and museum.
In the Valles Valley. Another itinerary is the one that goes from Rio di Pusteria to the Valles hamlet, in the side valley of the same name. It is a path of just over 8 kilometers, much more challenging than the previous one, which leads from almost 800 meters above sea level to 1400 meters above sea level, on a provincial road. Beyond the fatigue, which an e-bike can still mitigate, the route climbs along this narrow valley in an idyllic setting with woods, a few farms and green meadows. Point of arrival the pretty and typical church of Valles. Just before entering the village is the Unteregger farm of the Zingerle family. It is a farm with hundreds of sheep from which the milk is milked to make excellent goat cheeses. You can visit the animals and discover the secrets of cheese making. The farm also recovers part of the whey, waste from cheese processing, to produce creams for the skin.
Between the Isarco Valley and the Pusteria Valley
Less demanding and with wide views is the circular route that starts and returns from Rio Pusteria and touches the town of Spinga (about 10 kilometers). From Rio di Pusteria continue along the cycle path heading south. After a few kilometers you reach the Lanz service area where you can buy local products or simply eat or rest on the wooden tables. The Lanz family also produces Riesling wine (they own the vineyards just above the service area) which is vinified in a bunker designed before the Second World War and subsequently used by NATO during the Cold War. The company carries out guided tours here. Immediately afterwards, turn right and start to climb along the hairpin bends of the road that leads to Spinga. You then leave the tree-lined area and continue pedaling through fields of grass to the village, with its parish church dedicated to San Ruperto. Going down, do not miss the cross placed on the point where the Val Pusteria crosses the Val d’Isarco in a panoramic area in memory of the effort of the Pusterese people against the Napoleonic troops more than two centuries ago. In Spinga, then, we remember the legendary woman Katharina Lanz who stopped the French with a pitchfork. Another place to eat is the “Ban Erschbama”, a refuge located just below the village of Spinga, where you can taste the typical Tyrolean dishes. From there, you can easily return to Rio di Pusteria along an asphalted road in the woods.
Hunting for mills
A pleasant cycle and pedestrian path is the path of the mills of Terento. Situated on a plateau overlooking the Val Pusteria, the town and its surroundings are full of ancient water mills made of wood. Some are 500 years old and those present along the path have been recently renovated without affecting their ancient charm. You start from the village and cycle (or walk) north into the Terento Valley. The first one you will come across is the Müller mill and then continue to the Tolden mill where there are also the earth pyramids, born from the natural erosion of the soil. The trail then leads to the Hansen mill, the Gasser, the Hansleitner and the Jakobe up to the Talackerer mill. Here you cross the stream and continue south along the Strada del Sole until you reach Terento again. The route is 4.5 kilometers long and has a difference in height of just over 200 meters.
Weeks on e-bikes
In June, the “Bike Weeks” are scheduled in the Gitschberg-Jochtal area, ad hoc packages for those who love cycling but also for those approaching this sport for the first time: e-bike tours, thanks to assisted pedaling allow anyone to approach the bicycle and also make medium-long routes without excessive effort. From 11 to 25 June, e-bikes and culinary pleasures are an interesting combination for those who prefer an active outdoor holiday and typical South Tyrolean hospitality. There are two types of stay packages: a “short” for four nights and two excursions, and a “week” for seven nights and four excursions. Each day of excursion included in the program includes different routes depending on the preparation of the participants, but with common meeting points to share convivial moments and guided tours such as cheese tasting at the Capriz Dairy.
The Gitschberg-Jochtal area is also ideal for family travelers. There are several playgrounds in the area that allow children to approach the mountains while having fun. In Jochtal there is the homonymous adventure park. Children can test themselves by climbing the wooden deer, discover the animals in the mini-zoo and have fun in the water garden. Another interesting place for children is the Parco del Sole Gitschberg, on the sunny plateau of Maranza. Here is a giant slide. Finally, in Terento there is the Active Park, close to the state state of Pusteria. Here children will find water games, a small zipline, a high ropes course and mini golf.
Where to sleep?
Certainly one of the most evocative places to sleep away from traffic is Valles. Here there are several medium-high category hotels where you can spend a stay away from the noise and still ideal for families. Among these is the Hotel Masl, an ancient inn dating back to 1680 transformed into a modern (but Tyrolean-style) structure with a 2 thousand square meter spa, a restaurant and an indoor and outdoor play area for children. Guests can discover the hotel farm and can also visit the Messner family hut, owner of the Masl, in the Malga Fane area. Also in Valles, the Fischnaller family has recently inaugurated the Natur Camping Lärchwiese, a charming campsite surrounded by nature. It is located a few steps from the Jochtal cable car and covers an area of almost 3 hectares. It boasts over 90 pitches with parking spaces. Each pitch has electricity, connection to drinking water and waste drains, access to TV (including satellite) and free wifi. In short, a real glamping where you can combine the desire for adventure without sacrificing comfort.
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