At 7:00 AM sharp we awake. We have no choice. Everyone one in Timau wakes up at 7:00 AM to the deafening ring of the church bells – everyday. I love the sound of the bells – but these are 50 feet from my window. But it’s OK, because we need to get going. We are crossing the border to Austria to climb to the WW1 battlefield of Freikofel. It is a beautiful day, but like any mountain climb, it is best to be off the peak by the afternoon when storms are more likely to pass over. The climb is steep at points, but we make it and the need for physical activity at this point in the trip is paramount. The peak is lined with trenches and the mountainsides are dotted with caves. It is amazing to see the enemy trenches are as close as 25 yards. I find it hard to believe soldiers fought here for years – it is the middle of June and it is cold. I can’t imagine it in the winter. It has been almost 100 years since WW1, but we are finding lots of artifacts/souvenirs – bullets and shell fragments. In the end, a very rewarding hike. On the way down my 13 year old niece, Anna informs my 14 year old son, Angelo, that the drinking age for beer in Austria is 14. So my son and I engage in a game of chicken where he tells me he will order a beer at the bottom and I inform him that I don’t care. At the base of the hike there is an Austrian Gasthof where I discover my new favorite beer – Gosser. It is welcome refreshment after the hours of hiking. Angelo did order his beer – but we both decided I would finish it after he had a few gulps.
With most of the afternoon still ahead of us, we decided to head back to Italy to visit a mountain Refugio where smoked ricotta is made. Here ricotta is smoked to increase the shelf life, giving it characteristics similar to ricotta salata. In the summer months, cows from the valley are brought up into the mountains where the grasses eaten by the cows provide subtle variations in the flavor of the cheeses. Pramosio Casera is a beautiful dairy farm high up in the mountains where Italians visit on a weekend or after a hike for a glass of wine or a hearty meal. It is here where they make cheese, butter & yogurt.
We drive for what seems like forever on a one lane dirt road up the mountainside until it opens up to a small valley just below the peaks. It’s about 3 o’clock and there is a pretty good crowd. On the menu there is gnocchi, polenta, frico, and homemade sausage. We can’t resist and order up a couple of plates of gnocchi, along with some homemade sausage and polenta – just a light afternoon snack.
I am again awed by how good everything is – or maybe I am just very hungry after hiking all morning. We enjoy with a nice glass of the house red wine and I feel like a short nap may be on the horizon. Unfortunately it is Sunday and the cheese operation is closed, so we sample some of their flavored grappas then head back to Albergo Matiz for dinner. Tomorrow we will be hiking another mountain peak, so I do not feel too guilty about our multiple meals.
Over the next 2 days Diego and Albergo Matiz continue to astound us. Some of the highlights include Pasticcio, which is a kind of lasagna dish, but Diego served it with wild boar ragout. Cervo con polenta – a local hunter had brought in some deer which was prepared as a stew and served with polenta . Ravioli filled with radicchio and smoked ricotta, gnocchi prepared in a white sauce with speck (more on this later), and for dessert panna cotta with a fresh berry sauce. Of course we had the Cjarsons daily. Diego paired each dish with a perfect wine and followed each meal with his flavored grappas. It was an incredible experience and we have already started dreaming of a return trip. It is time to leave and head to the Dolomites, where we will do some long high altitude hikes in Italy’s most stunning mountains and tour Val di Fasso. If you are ever in Northern Italy I highly recommend a stay at Albergo Matiz da Otto – https://www.facebook.com/ristorantedaotto