Culture and customs in South Tyrol - traditions around the Sciliar

Learn more about customs and traditions in South Tyrol and experience culture in the Dolomites during your holidays in Siusi allo Sciliar

The Sciliar area
The sunny plateau of the Sciliar area is surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Dolomites Mountains, by forests, sunny valleys and alpine meadows. The rich variety of this landscape, the sheer beauty of it, local culture and traditional life and, last but not least, the generous and kind people have always been a great attraction. This plateau has always been populated; there are finds of prehistoric settlements; we can see ramparts, ruins of a Roman fort, ruins of medieval castles and estates from the 17th and 18th century. The most important landmarks of the Sciliar area are the churches, chapels, old towers, traditional farm houses and wayside crosses; guests like to hear about these buildings and their history.

Kastelruth/ Castelrotto
Kastelruth has 12 small towns which form its municipality; three towns have a Ladins speaking population, they are called Pufels, Runggaditsch and Überwasser. Kastelruth has about 5.400 inhabitants and it is a famous and quite unique mountain resort situated on the sunny side of the Alps.

the town centre, 1.060 metres above sea level; the market place of the town centre is closed; medieval influences can still be seen. There is also an old Calvary.

, 1.002 metres above sea level; Seis still shows characteristics of a typical mountain town; the old parish church, Maria Hilf, used to be a place of pilgrimage; there are two ruins of medieval castles: Hauenstein and Salegg.

Other small towns are called: St. Valentin, Tisens, Tagusens, St. Michael, St. Vigil, and St. Oswald; the SeiserAlm/ Alpe di Siusi, 1800 – 2.200 metres above sea level, is the highest mountain pasture of Europe, famous for its wonderful hiking paths  and the skiing resort with plenty of snow. There are 21 square miles of alpine pastures with a huge variety of alpine flowers from mid June to mid July. National Park Sciliar.

Where does the name Sciliar come from?
When we go back to Oswald von Wolkenstein, we first hear the name Salern; this seems to be the oldest name which was handed down through the centuries; Salern was later changed into Schlern, which is the German name of Sciliar. In 1924 Karl Felix Wolff, a well know writer and collector of Dolomites legends, found out that in Ladins Dialects there were still the words “salara” and “saljerie”, which meant watercourse.
Today we think that this referred to the dangerous wild rivers which were coming down from the Sciliar Mountain after thunderstorms; even today we notice this spectacular natural event when the mountain seems to be made of water. There is also a possibility that the word comes from the “Schlernblut”, which is a mysterious and constant subterranean watercourse, and is fed, according to some locals, by one single reservoir.

The witches of the Sciliar Mountain
The Sciliar has been centre of magical powers since primeval times.
Various demons were soothed with all sorts of burnt offerings on the Burgstall hill and the Roterdspitz.  The most terrible things happened in the seventeenth century after the Counter – Reformation; people were literally searching for victims which could be blamed for natural and personal disasters. The Sciliar area was considered a meeting place for the devil and the witches. Nine women were condemned to death around the area of Völs/ Fiè: they were accused of being witches and of being responsible for bad weather. We will never how many women were condemned to death or tortured in the entire Sciliar area; there were also accused of taking part in the witches feast, of having an indecent relationship with the devil, of riding on brooms through the night and of other sacrileges. They were accused of damaging the population with the help of the devil, causing too much rain. The symbol of the witch on the broomstick has now become a popular and positive symbol for the Sciliar area.

What to see in Seis?

The new parish church
It was started in 1937 and it was consecrated to the Holy Cross in remembrance of the catholic jubilee year 1933. The church was then consecrated in 1950; the clear structure of the walls refers to the strict forms of basilicas. The bell tower got five new bells in 1962.

The old parish church in Seis.
Maria Hilf" is the old parish church of Seis and it is situated in the centre of town; it is built in a typical early Baroque and it was consecrated in 1657. One altar and one bell were probably brought here from the castle ruin Salegg. The 14 stations of the way of the Cross are particularly interesting because in their frames we can see "Arma Christi", instruments of suffering or torture; they date from the 18th century. The pulpit is also quite remarkable.

Hauenstein, a castle ruin.
This castle was built by the lords of Hauenstein in the 12th century and it is situated at the bottom of the Santnerspitz peak. This castle was enlarged in the 15th and 16th century. One of its owners was the great minnesinger Oswald von Wolkenstein.

Art in the Sciliar area
Eduard Burgauner, the great - grandfather of Mrs Egger, was one of the famous painters of the Sciliar area. His many paintings, they date from the end of the 19th century, can be seen in a collection of his daughter the Hotel Bad Ratzes, which is the home of Mrs Egger. Paintings can also be seen in the Garni Villa Hermes in Seis and several houses in Kastelruth have outside paintings by Eduard Burgauner; these houses are: Gasthofzum Wolf, Mendelhaus, the Burgauner bakery and the house Felseck.

Sciliar National Park
The large Sciliar - Rosengarten National Park, 6.796 ha, is in the western South Tyrolean Dolomites. This park is united with the Alpe di Siusi landscape protection area. The Sciliar Mountain, its highest peak is the Petz with 2.563 m (about 8.400 feet), is an impressing massif; its towers, the Santner and the Euringer, are South Tyrolean landmarks. The forests around Seis, Völs, Tiers and the Tschamintal valley make also part of the National Park. In 2003 the National Park was enlarged around Tiers and so the Rosengarten massif became part of this landscape protection area.

Castle Prösels: Fine ladies and strong knights
The castle was built between 1490 and 1520; it is a typical fortress of the time of Maximilian I. with a gothic chapel in the courtyard. The halls are decorated with magnificent frescoes and ornaments.
Every year there are a series feasts and events at Castle Prösels; the rich programme includes six classical concerts, matinees and various evening concerts. There is also an art gallery, the “Tischlerhaus”, where well known artists exhibit their pictures and sculptures. During the summer we have the nights of castle Prösels, the castle is open for visitors until midnight. Apart of that you can see castle Prösels almost every day with guides.

The “törggelen” - from the Latin word “torquere” which means pressing wine
South Tyrolean smoked bacon, dumplings and more
The “törggelen” is an old tradition in South Tyrol. There are several towns in the Val d’Isarco, or especially along the wine road near Bolzano, where there have always been great feasts at the end of the wine harvest. Traditionally all neighbours, helpers, friends were invited to a rich “Marende”, a snack with several traditional dishes including fried chestnuts and “Susser”, the new sweet, slightly sparkling wine with just a little alcohol.
What exactly did this “Marende” consist of? It was a very rich meal with Sauerkraut, Tyrolean dumplings and smoked pork, homemade pork sausages or cold cuts with smoked homemade sausages, cheese and homemade rye bread. Traditional deep fried pastries with cranberry or chestnut filling were also served with fried chestnuts. The “Susser” was especially delicious with these dishes.
Today most traditional inns serve these dishes from October to the middle of November.

The "Almabtrieb" - a century old tradition.
The “Almabtrieb” is the healthy return of man and beast from the high alpine pastures. It doesn’t always take place at the same time; it depends mainly on the weather. In Siusi it will take place on the 6th of October this year.
This return is cause for celebration when no fatal accident happened during the summer and reason to organize a unique festival with music and dance; these festivals in September, October were traditionally the official end of the alpine summer.
The cattle are decorated with crowns of alpine roses, mountain pine, carline thistle and silk flowers; especially the leading cow is decorated in a very pompous style. On her crown with flowers, twigs, silk ribbons there are also mirrors and bells to advert evil and a cross to symbolize Christ.

Local markets and special markets
A shopping experience
South Tyrol has a long market tradition and so has Kastelruth. We have farmers’ markets which are very successful. In Bozen there is a very big market every Saturday, you’ll be surprised how many articles you’ll find there on offer.
Here is a small list of the markets in Kastelruth and its surroundings:
Tuesdays: Seis – farmers’ market
Wednesdays: Völs – weekly market
Thursdays: Kastelruth and Seis – weekly market
Fridays: Kastelruth - farmers’ market
Saturdays: Völs - farmers’ market
On top of that you’ll find so called flee markets, which sell all sorts of curiosities.
The traditional market of the Alpe di Siusi is on the 2nd of September; in the old days it was a cattle market for farmers, now it has become a traditional market for everybody.
You’ll get creative tools, toy and decorative articles at the craftsmen’s market.


Wellness for the senses - wellness for body and mind
Spend time for yourself and allow your body and soul to become one with the wellness and beauty treatments during the most precious weeks in the year.

Life is beautiful!

• Swimming pool
• Finnish sauna
• Infrared sauna
• Solarium
• beauty and massage


During pleasant walks along sunny alpine paths or demanding hikes in the mountains you can enjoy the breathtaking landscape of the surrounding Dolomites. One holiday won’t be enough to see all the spectacular sights of the Sciliar area.



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