South Tyrol's Val Venosta and the Tower of Curon

Sat, 01/18/2014 - 03:00
Tower of Curon

If you’re looking for a break from the traditional Italian destination, why not try the Val Venosta Valley in the South Tyrol. Located just over the border of Switzerland and Austria, with alpine trails and mountain bike tracks, it’s the perfect area for an activity holiday.

Walkers particularly like the diversity of the mountains that rise up from the valley floor. Vineyards nestle on the south-facing lower reaches whilst a little higher alpine strawberries and apricots are cultivated between the ancient pathways.

The area boasts the magnificent ‘King’ Ortles Mountain; at 3,905m, it is the highest in the Eastern Alps and was first conquered back in 1804 by Josef Pichler. A handful of companies offer two-day hiking treks up the mountain to many of the huts, where the brave spend a chilly night’s sleep: but please note these are challenging treks and not for the inexperienced hiker. For a more sedate pastime, the glacier on the northwest flank is a photographic opportunity not to be missed.

Possibly the most visited attraction in the area is the Tower of Curon, a bell tower that rises from the waters of Lake Resia. Originally part of the village of Curon, it stands proud from the lake created artificially by flooding the valley to join the lakes Curon and Resia.

Despite protests, in 1950 work began in earnest and the 150 inhabitants of the town were forcibly removed, while houses, churches and agricultural properties were destroyed; only the tower remained untouched.

Today, the tower, which is a protected heritage site, stands as a reminder of where the town once stood. Several restoration works have taken place over the years to protect it. In 2009 the lake’s water level was lowered to repair cracks in the walls caused by winter frosts. The total restoration cost including work to the roof was €130,000.

In summer the lake hosts many activities, ranging from sailing to wind-surfing and in winter, when it freezes, it becomes possible to walk across the surface to the tower. The towers’ bells were removed in 1950, but local folklore tells of people still being able to hear the bells ringing out over the frozen lake.

Getting There:

By air, the only airport in the South Tyrol is at Bolzano, which has scheduled flights from some major Italian airports, like Rome and Naples. The nearest international airports are at Innsbruck and Verona.

The rail services in the area are comfortable and punctual, with no need to change trains at the Brenner Pass and the average journey time from Munich to Bolzano is four hours. Journey times and changeovers from London to Munich vary.

Obviously, for complete freedom, travelling by car is essential; the highway infrastructure is excellent, making driving an ideal way to not only see the area but to transport all the equipment needed to enjoy all the outdoor activities on offer.