Although the highway is the fastest way to get from Milan to Glorenza, in South Tyrol, there’s another route we can take, longer but definitely more spectacular, through Swiss lakes, valleys and woods. Most of the times, the best way to reach a place is not the easiest one. Taking a longer road often allows us to discover new places, and even thought it might seem a waste of time, we soon realize it’s the best way to live an adventure. I’ll write about Switzerland another time. For now, let’s go straight to Glorenza, in Val Venosta.
Glorenza, the smallest town in South Tyrol
Next to Müstair, in Engadina, is the Italian boarder, which we cross to reach Glorenza, or Glurn as the locals call it. This walled town is the smallest in South Tyrol and one of the most beautiful borghi (old towns) in Italy. In the Middle Age, Glorenza was an important commercial center. Travelers and salesmen had to pay a toll rate to sell their products at the local market, thus allowing the city to thrive. Glorenza benefited especially from the salt trade, which came from the deposits of the nearby Hall, in Tyrol. In the Sixtieth century, the town was destroyed and rebuilt. Today it is a charming, touristy place. Once entered through the imposing gate, we take Florastrasse. It’s a street of typical stone houses and porticos, some white, others pastel blue, green or pink. Then we get to the main square and church.
The Market in Glorenza
In a narrow lane which leads to another church, numerous stalls celebrate the fall season. They display orange pumpkins, red and golden apples, fresh mushrooms but also seed bread, peer and nut bread, buckwheat and blueberry cake. And strudel, of course, their traditional apple cake. There’s not just one strudel in South Tyrol. Everyone has their own personal recipe. Some make it with shortcrust, others with a thin crust. Some use apples and nuts or dried fruit, others peers and chocolate. At the Riedl patisserie in Floralstrasse you’ll find the thin crust version, with apples and icing sugar. But their ricotta cake and Linzer torte are also worth a visit.
The picturesque village of Clusio
There’s a beautiful road connecting Glorenza and the small town of Malles, a trail running through apple fields and farms. I’m always taken aback by the silence, broken only by the ring of the church bells and the monotonous jingle of a calf’s bell. In the village of Clusio, time seems to be going slower, without rush, without stress, as the seasons follow one another with their changing colours. There’s a small family hotel, Zum Goldnen Adler. The rooms have a view on an old barn. Breakfast is served in a charming stube, which once was the warmest room of the house. Homemade jams and cakes, fresh yogurt, mountain honey are for those with a sweet tooth. Guests who prefer a salty breakfast will enjoy speck, vegetables, seed bread and local cheese.
The legend of Lake Reschen
I hear the story of Lake Reschen, not far from here, a dam surrounded by the mountains that was artificially created to produce hydroelectric energy. The old village of Curon, which stood in the way, was emptied and relocated, but the ancient church bell still stands and emerges from the water. Someone says that in winter nights, when the lake is covered by an iced sheet, the sound of the bells can be heard from afar. I like thinking that the spirit of the past survives somehow, and protects these places as they are, like a beneficial spell.
“MERENDA” IN GLORENZA
• Riedl Alois, via Malles 11, Glorenza. Apple strudel, ricotta cake, Linzer torte… here you can find all the typical baked products of South Tyrol, so it’s a good place for an afternoon break (“merenda”).
• Panificio Schuster, via dei Portici 3, Glorenza. If you like bread, pay a visit to this bakery and try their apple or pear bread. South Tyrol is also famous for its rye bread with sunflower seeds, which was a staple food for farmers and shepherds in the past. Rye bread with speck, cheese and cucumber, as well as fruit and nut bread, was the typical “merenda” of the mountain people.