Old mines and breathtaking waterfalls, wooden huts and trails kissed by the sun, we start exploring the Ahrntal (Valle Aurina in Italian) and Predoi Valley, a paradise in the Alps in South Tyrol, the northernmost municipality of Italy.

When we get in the Ahrntal, the colors of the mountains, lit by the last warm rays of the sun, and the eerie silence, broken only by the ringing of the grazing cows, welcome us.

From here only a few kilometers of trails separate us from Austria. All around the green woods, meadows and snowed peaks. Just with the first look we fall in love with this simple and authentic place. A weekend is not enough to savor it and we still have a great desire to return.

Here are 7 good reasons to discover the Ahrntal (and to return to visit it!):

1 – 7 hours of walking on the Sun Path

Ahrntal

We walk the Sun paths, through idyllic woods and meadows in bloom. We start from the valley floor to climb slowly up to the ancient stone huts and wood.

Everything here seems to stand still as in the past: we hear the ringing of grazing animals, the scents of the mountain, and we are enchanted by the breathtaking views.

Our guide, who always lived here, explains us that the Sun Path (Sunnsatweg) that develops on the sunny side of the Zillertal Alps between 1,000 and 1,300 meters above sea level can be followed for 30 km and 7 hours of walking (here’s the map of the path that can be discovered in several stages), linking ancient farmsteads in wood and stone.

Once all these huts were inhabited, and the mountain was the ‘house’ of many people. The paths that we are crossing now, once were crossed every day by children to go to school.

Today the tracks are beautiful hiking trails and the mountain huts have been carefully restored to create sustainable tourism opportunities to bring life back to the mountain.

2 – 15 Alpine farmhouse that make you fell like traveling in time

Ancient house in Ahrntal
Annienta stone and wood house in Ahrntal, photo by Silvia Ombellini

You can stay in a hut to taste an exquisite Tyrolean lunch of local produce. Or go with the kids to meet the farm animals and keep them entertained in original outdoor play areas while the adults enjoy a little relaxation.

Other huts have resumed life with the breeding and production of delicious organic cheeses, thanks to young farmers full of talent and enthusiasm.

The thing that most impressed me is the care with which the 15 Alpine farmhouse that are located on the Ahrntal trails are preserved and kept alive, their relationship with the context, the perfect balance between tradition and contemporary life. Small details bring you back to the life of old times: an old wooden sleigh, a calf grazing the grass in front of the farm, traditional agricultural tools, an ecological toy designed and built to entertain the kids.

3 – 60 sweet goats sweet from which are made Heidi’s organic cheese

Young farmer in Ahrntal
Hermut and his organic cheese, photo by Silvia Ombellini

As a child he looked like Peter, the one from Heidi, and he had a great passion for mountain life. Helmut Großgasteiger is thirty years old and since 2006 he  has began an organic production of goat cheeses, raising 60 German noble goats with the help of his parents.

With the light in her eyes and the smile of someone who really loves their job he welcomes us in Kleinstahlhof farm, telling us about the project of his life. We are at 1225m of altitude, over San Giovanni in Valle Aurina. Here once they bred cows, then in 20o6 e 60 German noble goats arrived, with whose milk Helmut produces a unique cheese, inspired by Heidi’s story.

The white goats graze freely mountain herbs and love to be cuddle by tourists, especially by children! The cheese is called “Heidi, Peter and Schnucki” in honor of the famous novel by Johanna Spyri (www.kleinstahl.com).

4 – 10 meters waterfalls and the rainbow

Schwarzbach Waterfalls, Ahrntal
Schwarzbach Waterfalls, Ahrntal, photo by Silvia Ombellini

There must be a connection between water and happiness, as Wallace Nichols argues in his latest book Blue Minds. I continue to think about it crossing this easy itinerary in the countryside of the Ahrntal that leads us to the beautiful Schwarzbach Waterfall (Black River).

A fresh water stream flows beside our feet, anticipating the arrival of the waterfall and accompanying our pace. Children can not resist the temptation to dip hands and feet in the icy water.

After a few minutes a natural show opens before us that manages to silence even the most boisterous boys. Suddenly we are all engrossed watching the high water’s jump that envelops us with its dull sound.

In the bottom of the waterfall a gift is waiting for us: a beautiful rainbow to observe and photograph!

5 – 2 km journey to the center of the earth into Pedroi Mine

Perdio Mine, Ahrntal

A journey to the center of the earth more exciting than a Jules Verne’s novel, and adventure that keeps everyone in suspense. We start on a small yellow train, after wearing helmets and rain jackets. The descent lasts about one quarter of an hour, in an incredibly narrow tunnel, dark and deep.

Arrived in the heart of the ancient copper mine of Predoi, walking in the shadows of the galleries we discover the story of the miners in a fascinating underground museum. It’s incredible to think that a few centuries ago in these narrow tunnels hundreds of men worked. The guide who accompanies us on foot with a flashlight illuminating our path involves the children with the history of the mine, and showing them the stones from which copper was mined since the second millennium BC.

The Predoi mine is well connected by public transport, with an efficient and colorful bus with departures every half hour. Here you can find more information on times and prices of your visit to Predoi Mine.

6 -1100 meters inside the mountain, here you breathe the purest air in Europe!

The purest air in Europe, Ahrntal

Not enough? Before rising in the sunlight you can stop in the middle of the mine to breathe the purest air in Europe.

The climate center of Predoi is located in one of the abandoned tunnels of the mine, and here you can practice from April to October the cave therapy (his exact name is Speleotherapy). We did this by listening to the notes of a harp with a hot herbal tea in hand, reaching an incredible state of relaxation. All at 1,100 meters in the heart of the mountain!

At these depths  pollen and allergens do not arrive and the air is pure. Breathe it is a cure for those suffering from allergies. But the beneficial effect is for everyone: just sit in an armchair reading a good book or sipping a hot tea and breathe deeply!

7 – 10 kinds of strudel and a flower garden

If you are looking for a wellness holiday, Alpen Palace is a must stop, a 5-star hotel with magnificent panoramic views, wellness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and a special consideration for the environment.

The restaurant’s cuisine is based on local products, including herbs from the garden and the mountain cheeses, and you can taste over 10 different types of strudel, from the traditional one with apples, to that of pear, hazelnut, chocolate, currants. The hotel’s heating is made with solar panels, the energy is clean, the decor is made with wood furniture.

The wellness center, with sauna, turkish bath and swimming pools, also offers the opportunity to swim in an outdoor pool with heated water, surrounded by a beautiful flower garden and stunning mountain views of the Ahrntal.

Alpen Palace Hotel, Ahrntal

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Pearls of Responsible Tourism in the Alps

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Author: Silvia Ombellini

I am an architect with a passion for travel. I think it is urgent to be able to live in harmony with the ecosystem we are part of. After the birth of my second baby, Leo, I began to work at Ecobnb, an adventure undertaken to change the way we travel, to make it more sustainable, respectful of the environment, places and people.
More posts by Silvia Ombellini →


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