Explore the best kept secret of the Italian mountains

19 August 2023
Written by The Italy Insider
Insider's Guide

There are many places in Italy that even Italians are unaware of and one of these is San Genesio, a small mountain village in South Tyrol illuminated by the sun 300 days a year. It’s well renowned for the high plateau of Salto (760-1300 masl) covered with larch trees as well as being the cradle of Haflinger horses. A place where it’s easy to slow down and come at one with nature to nurture one’s well being. 

The Dolomites

Where to sleep

Hotel Saltus

Hotel Saltus. Ph. Credits Konstantin Volkmar

Inspired by the surrounding pristine environment, three women, Hedwidge and her two daughters Nadja and Claudia Mumelter, turned dreams into reality when in 2019 decided to finally open their hotel with the ultimate mission: allow their guests to live and experience the true magic of the dolomites. Fueled by personal interests in wellbeing, they ideated an eco structure with meticulous attention to design that recalls the outdoors. The materials are locally sourced, such as stone and larch whereas the colours have been picked to reflect outdoor elements for example the pink of the porphyry, the grey of the Dolomites and of the clouds and the shades of green of the forest. Separating the inside from the outside are large windows so as not to miss even a minute of the mesmerising spectacle that takes place outside: larch tree branches that gently dance away in the wind, sun rays that pierce fiercely through the woods, the light of dawn and dusk and the starry night sky. Read more here.

Room with a view at Hotel Saltus Ph. Credits Konstantin Volkmar

Where to eat


In one of the oldest farmsteads in the area where you’ll find traditional dishes such as savoury and sweet canederli (the apricot dumplings are excellent), ravioli filled with smoked trout, omelettes in broth. The ingredients come almost exclusively from the surroundings or from the stables owned. The most exotic product? The ice cream that is made in Bressanone, 50 km from the house. WEBSITE

Hauserberg Alm

Anna Gruber has only 8 tables and three dishes on the menu: dumplings, goulash and kaiserschmarren, literally the Emperor’s (Francis Joseph of Austria) omelette made with eggs, buckwheat, icing sugar and blueberry jam. After the first visit it automatically becomes a favourite. The hut is open only three months a year, and is located at the foot of the Men di Pietra mountain.



At the San Genesio craft brewery you’ll come to taste six varieties of craft beers, delicious bites and guided tours of the company. WEBSITE

Rafenstein Castle

Simon Unterkofler is the young owner of Castel Rafenstein, surrounded by apple trees and vineyards that he cultivates himself. The place is enchanting, even more so if Simon talks about it and guides the tasting of his excellent wines. M. +393347283728.

What to do


Views from Hotel Saltus. Ph. Credits Konstantin Volkmar

San Genesio in South Tyrol is situated on a sunny high plateau, the largest expanse of larch trees in Europe. Don’t miss out on walking, biking or riding a Haflinger horse on the Salto high plateau with its calming larch trees and the panoramic views on the Dolomites. Even in August you’ll never find a crowd – it is one of those places that on the one hand you would like to keep secret to preserve its beauty, and on the other you would like to shout out to the world and share its amazement.

The plateau is the ideal place for walks, always flat and sunny, dotted with huts with typical restaurants, which often become the destination of the excursion, such as that of Lavena and Tschaufen which in the Middle Ages, was the hunting lodge of lords of Maultasch. In 1907 the Consortium of Haflinger horse breeders used it as a stable for mares. Today this mountain hut, surrounded by a gigantic vegetable garden, can only be reached on foot from Salto. Book an outdoor table, order spigelei (eggs, the typical smoked ham “speck” and potatoes) and craft beer and enjoy the view of Lake Caldaro. WEBSITE

Another unmissable excursion is the one to the Omini di Pietra. It’s a sacred power spot that offers amazing views. The hiking tour starts at the parking space “Campitello”. From here you will walk for about 40 minutes to the mountain hut Jenesier Jöchl (reachable with prams).

By Andrea Fazzari, courtesy Park Hotel Laurin


Even if small, Bolzano is the main city of the Alto Adige region. Here is where you’d come to shop, visit museums and enjoy the hustle and bustle, as it’s only located about 10/15 minutes away from San Genesio. 


Thursday is the day of the Laurin hotel’s long aperitif, a space to relax and chat with friends in the garden among unusual elephant statues or in a room with frescoed ceiling and boiserie with King Laurin’s love pains, leather sofas, fireplace (lit in winter) and DJ. The drink list is really extensive, and we bet there’s at least one you’ve never heard of. WEBSITE


The highlight of the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology is Ötzi, an over 5,000-year-old mummy found in a glacier in the Dolomites. The Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) has 6 locations scattered in the mountains. Founded by mountain climber and polar trekker Reinhold Messner, MMM Firmian is the centrepiece of the project in Sigmundskron Castle near Bozen addresses the subject of man’s encounter with the mountains. Contemporary art is shown at Museion, also a remarkable building for its modern architecture.

Courtesy of Museion

Horse Riding

San Genesio is the homestead of the Haflinger breed, beautiful chestnut coloured horses that originated in Austria and South Tyrol. Here, horse riding is tradition and an excellent means to discover the local surroundings or taking the kids on an exciting adventure atop a shetland pony. There are two stables we recommend Wietererhof and Edelweiß Stella Alpina where you can either book lessons or an outdoor adventure either alone or with a qualified riding guide.



Oberrauch Zitt in Bolzano 

In the Alto Adige region, adults and children, men and women wear the traditional costume during festivities, Sundays, cocktails, festivals, weddings and some even every day. There’s an authentic South Tyrolean fashion that often goes beyond the region, reaching as far as Milan where the sarner, a typical boiled wool jacket, is an evergreen. Long patterned skirts, white embroidered and squeezed bodices, aprons, velvet or boiled wool jackets for women (all these pieces worn together make up the dirndl); leather breeches below the knee, cotton shirts and boiled wool jackets with mandarin collars, bone buttons and leather decorations. Oberrauch Zitt is one of the most elegant shop for dirndls (also available in the mini version, super sexy) and sarners with updated designs and high quality fabrics among frescoed rooms. WEBSITE


All grocery stores sell speck, the smoked ham from South Tyrol. The best quality is the one farmers make for their family, but it’s practically never available. So how can you distinguish high quality speck? First of all it has to have a thick white fatty strip, then you have to squeeze it: if drops come out then it’s a good one! One of the best producers is Kral whose pigs are reared for a year and a half, and uses different parts of the animal. The price is on average higher but it’s worth looking for his stall in Piazza delle Erbe in Bolzano. Open from Monday – Saturday. WEBSITE

federkiel stickerei

Leather embroidery is an ancient craft that the Thaler family has been proudly carrying on for three generations. In Val Sarentino, on the border with San Genesio, Federkiel Stickerei works and decorates leather creating wallets, belts and suspenders in South Tyrolean style but also limited edition bags for Fendi and other haute couture houses. The embroidery is made with peacock feather quill, cut into fine strips and used as a needle to finely embroider, stitch by stitch, the ornaments drawn in the leather. WEBSITE


We are on the plateau of Europe with the highest number of larches. Here they have learned to use its essence in so many ways. Elisabeth Unterhofer Gasser produces natural cosmetics such as soaps, deodorants and creams with larch resin and fir oil as well as organising courses in her laboratory and tours on the Salto meadows in search of wild herbs which she then teaches how to use in the kitchen and natural healing. WEBSITE


Do you like the herbal teas you tasted for breakfast at the Hotel Saltus? They are made with herbs harvested on the Salto plateau, then dried and mixed in this organic farm to make perfumed antidotes against insomnia, colds and other small discomforts. WEBSITE

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