A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
This winter I found myself in a small idyllic town nestled away in the northern Italian Alps. Pfalzen (German) or Falzes (Italian) is a village of barely 3000 people located in Sudtirol, close to the Austrian border. Set in the Puster valley, this charming little town offered the perfect getaway from the tedium of essay-writing and exam-prep, where you could take repose in the lap of nature and soak in the splendour of mountains floating above cloud and mist. I was finally able to shut out all noise – physical and mental – and think one thought at a time. My watch stopped working and time ceased to be much of a factor.
Taking a walk in the town, we see a towering Gothic church overlooking the rustic cottage-houses, all built in locally available wood, braced for the winter snow and well oriented for the abundant sunshine. What was curious though was the window frames painted on the outside walls. A number of hotels, with their names in bold calligraphic script similarly painted on the exterior, cater to families and adventurers from around and about. Everything in the town is within walking distance – the tourist information centre, the municipal office, a supermarket, a few bars and restaurants. The town also offers a ski slope, a floodlit sledge slope, a skating rink, and several winter walking trails. What’s more the famous ski resorts of Sudtirol, Kronplatz/Plan de Corones with its state-of-the-art lifts, cable cars and downhill runs, and Anterselva with its vast cross-country slopes and Biathlon centre, are just across the valley.
The food in this region of Italy is obviously quite different from the others. A 15 minute walk in a pinewood forest near the small skiing slope in Falzes brings one to a small family-run restaurant in Irenberg. What is amazing about the place is its traditional local cuisine, cooked by the father, and served by the children. There is no large variety as in the other restaurants in Falzes such as Winkler, which is well-established and caters to a wider touristic clientele. The Irenberg restaurant offers a more friendly and homely atmosphere, and the food is truly delicious. Try their Canederli, a typical farmer’s dish from Tyrol – little dumplings of ham, cheese, and bread leftovers cooked in broth; spinach and ricotta ravioli; and the pasta alla pastora, the pasta with the shepherd’s sauce – ham, mushrooms, peas, tomato sauce, and some secret ingredients. Finish this off with some lampone caldi con panna e gelato – warm raspberries served with whipped cream and ice-cream, and you will return home satisfied.