Yes, you heard me right – goulash – Italian goulash. Goulash (or goulasch) is mostly associated with Hungary, but the northeastern part of Italy where this is eaten once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire — that is until after World War I when the South Tyrol was ceded to Italy.
People in the region – now known as Trentino-Alto Adige – still speak German, as well as Italian. In a few valleys, including the Alto Adige’s Val Gardena, where I just returned from, Ladino is also spoken. Ladino is a language that derives from a mixture of Celtic, Latin and the original language of the inhabitants of the area. (Not to be confused with the Ladino language mainly spoken in Israel, Turkey and Greece by descendents of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.)
Signs are always written in at least two languages and sometimes all three in this Northern Italian region that also is home to the Dolomite Mountains — a fantasy land for skiers and hikers where mountain peaks look like they were created by a fairy-tale set designer. This peak is known as the Sciliar, and is particularly picturesque.
To ski the Val Gardena really does seem like you’re in the midst of a fairy tale, especially as you round a bend and find this 17th century castle in front of you – a private residence now owned by the heirs of the artist Cy Twombly, according to one local source I spoke to.
Every now and then a horse and carriage will trot by while you’re skiing, adding to the enchantment.
The mountains and vistas are truly majestic. Sometimes they speak with a grandiose voice:
And other times just with a delicate whisper.
Occasionally a Saint Bernard dog will saunter onto the scene (without the small cask at the collar, alas).
Little chapels spring up where you’d least expect them.
Evergreen trees are more common here than say, the aspens you see along slopes in Colorado.
If you choose La Longia, you’ll have 10.6 kilometers (or 6.5 miles) of uninterrupted skiing.
Just when you think your knees will give out, you come across a frozen waterfall that gives you an excuse for a respite.
But the sweetest reward comes at my favorite mountain hut near the end of the trail – the charming Cafe Val D’Anna, where a hearty lunch always tempts.
The crispy hard bread in the basket is known as schuttelbrot, a crunchy local bread made with caraway seeds and rye and perfect with sausages and polenta.
It’s hard to resist my favorite apple strudel with vanilla sauce (creme anglais). A couple of years ago, a barista working at a different restaurant on the mountain – the Mont Seuc – gave me its recipe (click here), much “cakier” and far different from the phyllo-like pastries in the typical Viennese apple strudel.
And it wouldn’t be skiing in the Val Gardena without at least one bombardino to loosen you up for the next round of schussing down the mountain. This one’s for you Rich. ♥
Back at the hotel, the view from the hotel room at sunset is mesmerizing. But the salt-water indoor-outdoor swimming pool also beckons – and I heed the call. ….. To be continued.
It’s still not too late. Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to:
I have eaten plenty of bowls of goulash soup (recipe here) in my years of skiing in the Val Gardena, but have also enjoyed lots of more substantial goulash stews served with piping hot bowls of polenta. Here’s my version for you.
4 pounds beef chuck, cubed
4 T. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
@ 2 cups beef broth
3 T. tomato paste
3 bay leaves
4 T. sweet paprika
1 T. hot paprika
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. caraway seeds
In a large covered pot that is oven proof, saute the beef over medium heat in the olive oil until browned on the outside. Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onions, adding more olive oil if needed. When the onions are limp, add the garlic cloves and saute for a few minutes. Put the beef back into the pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.