The foothills bounding beneath the Dolomites brim with natural beauty and cultural intrigue. Lucky for us, the Oachner Höfeweg Farm Trail circles through the heart of it all.
YOU MIGHT THINK the Dolomites ought to occupy all your time while exploring South Tyrol, but as utterly awe-inspiring as the Pale Mountains are, they reflect only a sliver of the region’s splendor.
To really appreciate the melody of landscapes ravishing South Tyrol, we recommend rambling the foothills of the Dolomites, specifically those rollicking the Alpe di Siusi region. Such a hike intimately immerses you in the rural richness of the land and its people.
In this post, we take you on a crisp autumn journey across the Oachner Höfeweg — also known as the “Farm Trail of Aica di Fié” and “Sentiero dei masi”. As you’ll see, this half-day hike bobs and weaves through prolific pastoral scenery punctuated with mountain-shouldered forests, lushly fruited slopes and centuries-old farmsteads rooted in the stones of Ancient Rome.
Crowned with a Castle
The Oachner Höfeweg is a circular 8-mile hike with multiple trailhead locations. You can be on the trail within a matter of minutes from virtually anywhere in the Völs am Schlern (Fiè allo Sciliar) region.
Since we were lodging at the bliss-inducing Romantik Hotel Turm, we opted to begin the trek at the foot of the Prösels Castle. This 13th-century behemoth thunders atop a hillside less than 10 minutes from the resort.
The trailhead, here, sits next to a parking lot below the castle. While you can choose to hike the path in either direction, we followed the sign pointing west toward St. Kathrein (S. Caterina).
Heading away from the castle, the Oachner Höfeweg cuts through a thicket of trees before ascending into a patch of pastureland peppered with cows, barns and sprawling panoramas of Völs am Schlern.
Further off the horizon roars the mighty Schlern mountain. Unfortunately for us, the emblematic stone horn of South Tyrol was hidden beneath a shroud of morning clouds.
From Towering Pines to Prancing Vines
Around 20 minutes into the hike, we wandered into a pine forest carpeted by moss, ferns and other evergreen flora. Deeper in we found a scattering of ruins and a stone structure known as the Wirtskeller. This medieval-aged cellar once preserved the wine, cheese and speck for the nobles of Prösels Castle.
According to a sign posted nearby, cold air circulates year-round in the cellar through “Eislöcher” (ice holes). These holes channel cool air continuously streaming beneath the rock-riddled mountainside. Like a mountain-made refrigerator, the cellar always hovers around 13 °C (55 °F) as a result. In addition to cooling the cellar, the natural phenomena elevates the humidity in the surrounding forest promoting the abundant greenery mantling the trees, boulders and forest floor.
After failing to find any long-forgotten wine bottles stored in the Wirtskeller, we pressed on the Oachner Höfeweg. The forest eventually thinned revealing a picturesque Tyrolean farmhouse perched by a hillside vineyard parading the season’s gold.
We stood next to an old fence adoring the farmstead known as the Rieferhof. Its wooing rustic charm romanced our imagination. We told ourselves if this quaint farm ever went up for sale, we would move heaven and earth to buy it.
Perfumed By Apples
Reluctantly continuing on, we hopped back into the forest. Soon, we bounced downhill beyond the pines into a stand of apple trees.
Since it was harvest season, the trees bore no fruit but between the rows, we lustfully eyed bin after bin of newly plucked gems. These plump beauties belonged to the nearby Flungerhof farm.
As we dawdled past the orchard, freshly pressed South Tyrolean apples perfumed the trail. This honeyed fragrance could sweeten even those fated with the sourest mood.
We later discovered Flungerhof cultivates mainly Golden Delicious and Royal Gala apples — among the most aromatic varieties in the world. Owned and operated by a mother and son team, the farm specializes in producing traditional apple cider vinegar, juices and syrups for the South Tyrol market.
From Flungerhof, the Oachner Höfeweg led us through an underpass of the Tierser Strassee. After a few bends in the trail, we descended through a grove of beeches to a sun-steeped farm known as the Zalterhöfl.
Here, the trail borders this gorgeous property allowing hikers to marvel at the details of its Alpine barn and dwelling. They showcase an assortment of old farming tools and traditional Tyrolean accents that beautify from the foundations to the roofs.
A Garden of Groves
Our journey beyond the Zalterhöfl furrowed through a dramatically different kind of woodland where deciduous trees like chestnut, walnut and aspen dominated overhead. Unlike the dark, green pine forest of earlier, this species-rich stretch of the hike made it well known autumn was abloom.
The leaves were afire with color and the ground was littered with fallen chestnuts. Every now and then, the forest parted gifting us sweeping views far across the Eisack Valley (Valle Isarco) to grassy slopes holding villages unknown.
We strolled within the forest for quite some time before trudging up a somewhat steep hill running near a meadow. Deep into the northern sky, we spied a steeple planted on the Renon (Ritten) high plateau above Bolzano.
Upon summiting the hill, we landed at the Tommelehof farmstead. Romantically ravaged by time yet still well maintained, the buildings on the farm gave us a fascinating peek into the rural life of South Tyroleans today and long ago.
The Tommelehof was first mentioned by the name “Mitterpsenner” in the year 1200. It was presumably at one time the site of an Ancient Roman watchtower with remnants of its stone walls still standing.
Today, the Tommelehof is a traditional farm stay. Guests can choose between three holiday apartments located in a nearby rustic building that once was a barn. However, the only guests we encountered were a sleepy pup on the porch and a stray chicken strutting back and forth.
Just beyond the farmstead, we hiked atop a vineyard careening into a shady grove. Garnishing the slope of vines was a vegetable garden flush with herbaceous fortune. The kitchen where these treasures toiled had to be divine.
Vino & the Valley
The next leg of the hike began to curl us southward through more chestnut-laden woodland. Here, we spotted a sign pointing us to Gemoanerhof — another historical farm offering apartments for guests as well as a Buschenschank: a traditional Tyrolean tavern and kitchen.
As we were not hungry yet, we proceeded on the Oachner Höfeweg, which now steered us east toward the heart of Tires Valley. Soon, we came to the high-elevation vineyards of Prackfol — a lovely family-owned wine farm we toured the previous day.
We lingered here soaking in the same views as the day before. The idyllic scene framed by these fruited slopes is the stuff of storybooks. In the distance, like the blunted teeth of a mad man’s saw, teased the pale peaks of the Rosengarten, one of the most beloved sights of the Dolomites.
Past the Prackfol Wine Farm, we marched up a wooded enclave that eventually cleared unveiling pastureland yawning into the valley bottom. Like sleight of hand, the Rosengarten, once piercing clear, was now lost to us on the horizon. In only a matter of minutes, the cloud cover had swelled and the once sunny vale unfolded into a misty gloom.
We welcomed the break from the sun. The steady rise on this stretch of the Oachner Höfeweg seemed to have no end.
A Restful Mountain Tavern
After a thirst-quenching swig from our water bottles, we continued hiking along an old stone wall that looked as if it once guided Roman legions through this corner of South Tyrol. Below us, we spotted a few sheep carelessly nibbling on the grass above a berry orchard.
Within 20 minutes we came to Innerperskoler Hof — a farm and Buschenschank first mentioned in 1267. We could not ignore our hunger any longer so we slid into at a table on its terrace facing the Rosengarten.
While waiting for our order of Schlutzkrapfen, Knödel and a Bauerngröstl we explored the farm. A swing set anchored above the farm’s vineyards invited a quick whirl.
We then took a peek inside a tiny chapel on the farm. An inscription above the doorway indicated it was built in 1736. Inside, an ornate altar depicting St. Florian charmed us into leaving an offering.
After polishing off our meal and a delicious helping of Apfelstrudel, our feet found the Oachner Höfeweg again. While we longed to finish the trail loop, an afternoon spa appointment at Romantik Hotel Turm prompted us to trek back the way we came.
But we were not through with the Oachner Höfeweg yet. Our adventure on the farm trail was so enamoring we returned the next day to visit the Fronthof for a lunchtime Törggelen experience.
As the largest farmhouse in South Tyrol still fully preserved from the 1300s, this mountain tavern is worthy of its own post. Coming soon!
How to Hike the Oachner Höfeweg
Adding the Oachner Höfeweg to your South Tyrol itinerary makes the most sense if basing yourself in or near the Völs am Schlern area of the Alpe di Siusi region. The trail is open for adventure year-round.
As noted earlier, you can hop on and off the Oachner Höfeweg from multiple locations. Our recommendation is to begin from the parking lot situated beneath Prösels Castle. This will allow you to easily add a tour of the castle to your day if you wish.
Another good starting point is the parking lot in the village of St. Kathrein (S. Caterina) near the old church of the same name.
Each trailhead has free public parking.
The Oachner Höfeweg is well marked so you will not have any issue navigating the hike. The signposts will also indicate which Buschenschanks you can expect to be open for dining.
If you intend to complete the entire loop, plan for at least half a day. In our experience, you could make this a full-day outing if you do not want to rush your time enjoying the taverns and wine farms dotted along the trail.
In terms of difficulty, anyone who is reasonably fit can handle traversing the Oachner Höfeweg. There is plenty of opportunities to rest along the way.
Hiking poles are not needed unless you simply like to have them for extra support. As always, we recommend packing water bottles and strapping on a backpack for adding or shedding layers as you ramble on.