From Gewürztraminer to cappuccino
Hiking from Merano to Lake Garda – this tour awakens deep longings. It has been at the top of my wish-list for a long time, as it combines everything a hiker’s heart desires. ‘Dolce Vita’. Lovely pathways, enchanted forests, the rugged peaks of the Brenta Dolomites to cypresses and olive groves on the last metres to the magical Lago di Garda. So I put on my hiking boots with high expectations, curious to see whether the path can really offer what it promises. It’s the beginning of October and the scent of autumn is in the air. I’m looking forward to the play of colours in nature, moments of ‘Törggelen’ pleasure and a lot of Mediterranean lifestyle. On a week of hiking all to myself that couldn’t be more varied. Then I just start walking…
Picture-book perfect South Tyrol
That’s exactly how I always imagined the Meraner Land to be. The picture-book idyll that I have heard and read of so often is a reality. On the Marlinger Waalweg, the babbling water of the historic irrigation channels accompany me with every step. In my whole life I have never seen so many chestnuts, and apple trees and grapevines also stretch along the slope in abundance. A real feast for the senses. Only my black rain cape, which makes me look like Batman, disturbs the idyll. But it doesn’t matter, even wet dogs cannot help but enjoy the mountain trails.
Medieval castles, dumpling trio and an enchanting forest
I catch the first glimpses of the Dolomites and the approaching Bolzano. Initially only through fog, which knows how to increase the tension. I walk towards the Middle Ages over alpine footpaths. Burg Hocheppan sits imposingly on a rock and spoils me with a delicious trio of dumplings in the cosy beer garden – including an extensive cuddle session with the fluffy castle cat. On the way to Lake Kaltern, my mystical highlight of the day awaits me in the ice holes – a natural phenomenon in the middle of the forest. Huge boulders overgrown with mosses and ferns create a magical atmosphere that captivates me until the evening.
Buon Giorno, Italia
Sure, I’ve been on Italian territory for the last few days. But as soon as I reach the Mendel Pass with the steep funicular, I feel like I’m really in Italy. Coniferous and deciduous forests now accompany me on my journey through Trentino, and I am greeted everywhere with a friendly ‘Buon Giorno’. I walk past fragrant pine trees through a ravine to the monastery of San Remedio, which immediately casts a spell on me. The spectacular location in the middle of a canyon, the steep stairs and sacred rooms of the Santuario – just wow!
Bears, the cult of the Madonna and turquoise-green mountain lakes
I am standing in the Val di Non at the entrance to the Brenta Dolomites Nature Park and the first thing I see are information and warning signs, Help, I landed in the middle of the bear area and today I am walking towards the Paganella plateau with a lot of care. Distracted by the autumn colours shining in the sun, I can soon enjoy the lonely and wild forest paths again. In between I look again and again at the mighty Dolomite rock faces and pass some mountain chapels with splendid examples of Italian Madonna art. When I finally arrive at the turquoise green Molveno Lake, I am completely spellbound by the sight of this breathtaking backdrop. I celebrate my survival of the brown bear territory with an obligatory glass of Aperol Spritz on the lake shore.
On adventurous paths through the Brenta Dolomites
I go high up – with the cable car from Molveno to the mountain area of the Pradel. Brenta Dolomites – I’m coming! I hike to the Rifugio Croz Altissimo on the narrow high path above Lake Molveno and hardly get anywhere. The rugged, grey rock faces and the adventurous, sometimes exposed, alpine path let my love for the mountains shine through – and make my camera red hot. But after the euphoria comes bitter disappointment. The small via ferrate that starts just behind the Rifugio da Silva and leads downwards over narrow rocky passages is a bit too much for me. ‘Only for experienced and sure-footed mountain hikers’ the Eurohike brochure had warned, but I didn’t want to hear it. It can’t be helped; I take a long detour and in the late afternoon I reach the crystal-clear mountain lake Lago di Nembia where the shuttle bus to Comano Therme is already waiting for me.
Grande Finale – step by step towards Lake Garda
At the last stage of this wonderful multi-day tour is already waiting for me, and I am looking forward to my beloved Lago. Today I take it easy in order to enjoy every remaining metre to the full. From the quiet nature reserve in the Lomason Valley, the hike leads me to the Rifugio San Pietro at 974 m altitude. The feeling of seeing Lake Garda for the first time from here is indescribably – and the strangolapreti, which I enjoy on the sun terrace, incredibly delicious.
I walk through sleepy fortress villages with a medieval flair on stone-paved, along stone walks, cypresses and olive trees, step by step towards the lake shore. And what do I do first after a happily reach Riva and proudly look upon Lake Garda shimmering in the sun? Dolce Vita sends its regards: I treat myself to a huge and well-deserved gelato and think about the past varied days of hiking.