Italy has many natural hidden gems, besides its artistic and historical treasures – like the mountain lakes. Although I’ve been going on holiday in Südtirol (Alto Adige) for many, many years, it was not until last spring that I discovered its lakes. I had always associated this region with mountain trails, skiing, local dishes like canederli and strudel, German language and perfect organization. But I knew there were mountain lakes which were famous all over Italy, possibly the world, and I decided it was high time I saw them with my own eyes. Starting with Anterselva, on the border between Italy and Austria.
Anterselva, the solitary lake
Anterselva Lake and is truly in the middle of nowhere. There’s only one road that leads to the lake from the small town of Valdaora, in Val Pusteria. It follows the course of Anterselva river, running through a green valley with just a few mountain villages. Black and white sheep graze on pastures. The fields are dotted with isolated houses and little churches with their typical bell towers. The snowy peaks of the Alps frame the peaceful, bucolic landscape.
First you get to a lovely hotel, the Seehaus. As I saw it for the first time, I thought it looked like the perfect place when you need to run away from the stress of modern life. You come here, relax in the garden, go for a walk in the woods or around the lake, have dinner in the nice hotel restaurant, and sleep. I bet the nights are utter silent around here. And in wintertime, for sure the snow adds some white magic to this enchanted location.
Following the trail
From here starts the trail that goes around the lake, allowing us to enjoy it from every perspective. Small, sandy beaches hem Anterselva lake, appearing through the pine and fir trees as we walk along the trail. The only sounds are those of nature: birds calling, leaves moving, the wind blowing. It’s springtime, yet there are minuscule snowflakes whirling around me. The Alps are covered in snow and the chilly temperature today has brought a little snow, although the sun keeps breaking through the clouds. What a surreal view.
At the halfway point, you come across a mountain hut – baita in Italian – where people stop to eat and relax. Their strudel, the local apple pie, is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Then the path goes a little bit uphill, allowing us to get a perfect view of the mountain lake. From here it looks cobalt blue, glimmering in the morning light. The snow-covered rocks reflect on the water surface. And it looks like I’m one of the few people walking around the lake today.
Braies, the mystic lake
My exploration continues in Prags See, perhaps one of the most photographed of the Italian mountain lakes. Every place has two names in South Tyrol, which geographically belongs to Italy but has its own traditions and is linked to Austria. I’m secretly happy that we get to have a small part of that country. So if you read about Braies Lake and Prags See, know that they are the same place. And what a place.
The legends says it was created as a punishment for the mountain people who mistreated a beggar, but the lake actually originated from a landslide. Anyways, there’s something mystical about this place in the Italian Alps. The water is emerald green in some points, deep blue in others. The high mountains surround it like a crown. Its color reminds me of another lake I’ve already written about, Carezza. Don’t forget to include it in your itinerary, if you decide to explore the Italian mountain lakes.
WHERE, WHEN, HOW
Anterselva Lake can be reached by car or by train + bus. In any case, you need to get to the small town of Valdaora. From here, if you’re driving, follow the sign to Rasun and Anterselva. There’s only one road leading to the lake, so you cannot get lost. If you are traveling by train, get off at Valdaora station and take the local bus to the Seehouse Hotel.
The same goes for Braies Lake. You can drive there or take the bus from the small town of Villabassa (nr 442). It will take you to the lake in just 20 minutes.
I would suggest visiting these mountain lakes in spring, summer or autumn, since they might be frozen in wintertime. To know more about South Tyrol in winter, read here.