There's Something About Ritten
From Bozen, the Rittnerstraße mountain road takes you up the Ritten Plateau. The road is sprinkled with twists and turns, and as you drive on, it feels like you're hiking a switchback trail. You wind left and right past vibrant vineyards and orderly orchards. With every turn, you are teased by small glimpses of the Dolomites – until finally, the pale grey giants stand before you. The iconic Schlern, the Rosengarten, and the Latemar among others greet you from across the way. Welcome to Ritten!
You can forget about the anonymity of big city life here. When I first moved to Unterinn, a small village on the Ritten Plateau with a population of 1,500 (my high school in the U.S. had more students), I realized fairly quickly that there was something special about this place.
When my husband and I would go to the grocery store, it would take us twice as long. Why? Because everywhere we'd go, there was someone he knew.
"Hey, hi, how are you?"
We'd go for a walk, "Wia hauts? How are you?" Even when we'd go hiking, "Hoila! Griast enk! Hi guys!"
What was my husband, the mayor? How on earth does he know so many people? Once we were out of earshot, I'd get the scoop.
"That's the baker; we used to play soccer together."
"I went to elementary school with her. Her mom was in the choir with my mom."
"Oh, him? He worked with my dad. He's dating the girl whose mom was in the choir with my mom."
It felt strange that everywhere we went, everyone knew everyone. Except me. My mind felt like a detective in a crime show: names, people, and places plastered on the walls with red string connecting the dots. There were so many faces, so many names, so many impressions. How could I remember them all? The first year was tough. But as time went on, I started connecting the dots, understanding the dialect, and talking more. Things got better. A lot better. And funnily enough, after three years of living here, now sometimes I'm the one saying hi to people, telling my husband, "Oh, that's so-and-so, I met her at blah-blah-blah. Don't you know her?"
Talk German to Me
Of the 8,000 inhabitants of the Ritten Plateau, more than 95% are native German speakers, 4.5% are native Italian speakers, and 0.25% are native Ladin speakers. The rest is a mix, but considering I know another American and a Canadian here, 0.000375% are native English speakers. United we stand!
Although I understand a lot of what's going on when people speak dialect, I still don't know when I can use hell, sell, and sem.
I try. And I fail. But I won't give up! As far as my Italian is concerned, let's just say: I've mastered talking with my hands and using inappropriate words when I'm practicing driving and the engine dies – for the millionth time! But of course, I live in Italy; I should know Italian. I know, I know! It's on my to-do list, right after acing my driver's test. Wish me luck!
The Wonders of Ritten
Ritten is a magical place. And one that sometimes smells like chocolate. Chocolate? Yes, chocolate! In my small village of Unterinn, the international chocolate and wafer company Loacker has its factory.
If you're in the U.S. reading this, you probably know the company by their famous Quadratini bite-size wafers. When I was a kid, I remember asking my mom to get me these at Trader Joes. It was a good day when she said yes. Who would have thought the logo I had admired as a kid (as I munched away on the wafers getting crumbs everywhere) would be my neighborhood view as an adult? SCORE!
Earth Pyramids, Cows, and Nature GALORE!
Whether you want to walk to the 25,000-year-old Earth Pyramids formed by erosion or hike to the top of the Rittner Horn at 2,260m, the choice is yours! Ritten features 350-kilometers of well-maintained trails that have a magical way of heightening your senses. Observe the wind as it navigates the landscape, dancing in the grass, rustling in the trees, and whistling in your ear. Feel your lungs fill with fresh mountain air as you enjoy the fleeting moment of the here and now.
The Ritten Plateau boasts several Earth Pyramids. There are some in Unterinn, Klobenstein, and Oberbozen. Take your pick, take a pic, and relish before these incredible formations!
'Tis the Season(s)
One of the reasons I love Ritten so much is because life here seems to march to the beat of nature’s drum. Each season brings transformation, special dishes, and outdoor activities. You can also discover the calmer side of life here – one that is genuine, down-to-earth, and true to itself.
Spring is the season that re-animates the world around us, and it's especially noticeable here. As the snow melts, the streams and waterfalls start to roar. The sun stays out longer, the trees blossom, the birds sing, and the flowers bloom. There is plenty to do and explore on the Ritten Plateau in spring. One particularly nice hike takes you from Klobenstein through Signat to Unterinn.
Directions: Walk from the Klobenstein railway station to the sports zone and continue on trail no. 15 to Rappersbichl, cross the railroad tracks, continue on trail no. 13 towards Waldneregg, take a detour to the fire water pond with a loop path and viewpoint (trail no. 13b). At the Plattnerhof bee museum, continue towards Wolfsgrubenersee lake (trail no. 13) and head past the lake. On trail no. 13, walk through the Ortlwald forest to the Signat viewpoint, continue descending to Patschuner (staying on trail no. 13). From here, follow the Keschtnweg chestnut trail to Unterinn. Hop on the 165 bus in Unterinn and head back to Klobenstein.
Distance: 12.7 km
Duration: 3 hr. 50 min.
In the summer months, the Wolfsgrubenersee lake is a relaxed meeting point after an active day of hiking or mountain biking. Take a dip or a well-deserved nap on the lawn and let the warmth of the sun and the sound of discreet chatter lull you to sleep.
A hike from Pemmern to the Rittner Horn is a must in summer! The Rittner Horn (2,259m) is well known for its panoramic view. From here, you can see the Dolomites, the Großglockner, and the icy Ortler Group.
There are several routes you can take to get to the top, and you can even take the cable car to Schwarzseespitze (2,070m) to make the journey easier. If you find your stomach growling before reaching the summit, the Feltuner Hütte mountain hut along the way is the perfect place to stop and regain strength with a hearty South Tyrolean meal.
Fall in Love
Fall on the Ritten Plateau is when nature shows off its true colors, painting itself in extraordinary shades of amber red, burnt orange, bright yellow, green, and brown. One of the best ways to appreciate nature’s masterpiece is during a walk in the woods – better yet, to a Buschenschank farmhouse tavern to celebrate Törggelen – a South Tyrolean tradition that takes place from October to mid-November. Törggelen combines a walk in the colorful landscape and a meal shared with family or friends. This meal celebrates the year’s young wine. It includes typical local specialities like dumplings, salt pork, ribs, various sausages, and sauerkraut, with roasted chestnuts and krapfen (a flat fried pastry filled with jam or poppy seeds). After several enjoyable hours of good food and great company, a small glass of homemade schnapps is the perfect finish to the special get-together.
Wild about Winter
Come winter, the snow-covered landscape will keep you busy. The small Rittner Horn ski resort is rarely crowded and offers everything you need to satisfy your craving for snow-filled fun. Take the cable car to the top and enjoy the panorama, the fresh air, and the vivid Dolomite peaks. From the mountain station, you can take a winter stroll along the panorama loop trail (Panoramarundweg), head down the mountain on your skis, or go cross-country skiing.
So, there you go – a small glimpse into my world and the world of Ritten.
But, of course, that's not everything. I don't want to give it all away. Why should you buy the cow when you get the milk for free?
Ciao! Pfiati! Bye!
Earth Pyramids: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritten