Fai della Paganella and its Plateau
Fai della Paganella is situated on a magnificent panoramic plateau at about 1,000 m of altitude, overlooking the Adige valley, and at the foothills of the Paganella mountain (2,125 m). It developed as a tourist and climatic summer and winter resort thanks to its cool, mild temperate climate, which offers several opportunities connected to the valuable naturalistic aspects, to which must be added the characteristic corners in the village, and a recognized tradition of hospitality.
Fai della Paganella conserves — amongst other things — also an ancient history: the archaeological digs at Dos Castel (described below) have revealed traces of the Pre-Roman Rhaethian people, and an important settlement dating to the Bronze Age. This is an ideal destination for whoever wants to relax on the natural panoramic terraces, cycle or walk amidst the greenery of meadows and woodlands, or along the thematic trails around the village (also described succinctly below), but also in altitude, on the most demanding trails around the Paganella or on Monte Fausior. However, it is not just question of a “natural training ground” immersed in greenery, but there are also structures such as the multifunctional center, which offers manifold opportunities and cultural manifestations.
Fai della Paganella is the ideal place for sport lovers and those wishing to relax alike, especially suitable for families. There are also plenty of opportunities for skiing in winter, as the slopes reach very close to the village. In the center of Fai there are two historic churches, the parish of San Nicolò and the more ancient chapel of San Rocco. Among other historic buildings, the so-called Palazzo di Fai was built around 1620 as summer residence. In terms of hospitality, besides the hotels, there is also plenty to choose among Agriturismi (working farms) and other forms of alternative accommodation of good quality, well inserted — from an architectural point of view — within the texture of the village (still a typical mountain settlement of Trentino, in terms of its outlook) and its landscape.
Easy Trails Around Fai della Paganella
Trail “Acqua e Faggi” (“Water and Beech”) — locality of Seraia.
General Description: this is a thematic trail, immersed in a beautiful and atmospheric Beech woodland. The trail develops at first along the stream that comes from the center of Fai, among narrow small valleys, tiny waterfalls and evocative corners where water flows in tranquillity. Small bridges help crossing the stream and lead to the eastern ridge of the slope, which — on the way back — affords magnificent views over the Adige valley, with a couple of viewpoints. Duration: 45 minutes; Difficulty: Easy; Height difference: 80 m; Starting point: locality Seraia.
Trail “of the Otto” — locality Molini.
General Description: this is another thematic trail, which develops along country lanes and crosses the natural terraces of Fai della Paganella, with its typical ‘baite’ (wooden lodges), amongst scythed meadows, conifer thickets, small cultivated patches, kitchen gardens and beautiful panoramas. Along the trail can be seen boards with the characteristic description of local names, as well as of the local flora. Duration: 1h 30 minutes (40 min MTB); Difficulty: Easy; Height difference: 150 m; Starting point: locality Pradonec. Suitable also for mountain bikes.
Nature Trail — locality Capannina.
General Description: This is a short thematic trail dedicated to the discovery of the nature around Fai della Paganella. Small wooden boards will indicate you the different plant species and the typical flowers that can be seen around the village and its woodlands. For the children, there are some games, while the sounds of the different types of wood can also be tried out thanks to the wooden specimens that are scattered along the trail. Duration: 30 minutes; Difficulty: Very easy; Height difference: 50 m; Starting point: locality Capannina.
“Rhaethian Trail” — locality Capannina.
General Description: this route — for about half of its length — develops along the edge of the Fai della Paganella plateau, offering in several spots the possibility to look over marvelous terraces suspended above the Adige valley, with views over the mountains facing Fai from the other side of the valley. Along the trail, you can get to know the local fauna thanks to dedicated boards, as well as learn more on the Rhaethian language. Just before the archaeological settlement of Dos Castel, a wooden balcony offers itself as a meditation point. The return route to Fai follows several country lanes amidst the meadows and allotments around Fai’s plateau. Duration: 1h 30 minutes; Difficulty: Easy; Height difference: 150 m; Starting point: locality Capannina.
A Brief History of Fai
There exist two theories on the meaning of the name of the village of Fai della Paganella: the first, links the name of Fai with the beech tree (’faggio’ in Italian) — a plant species present locally since more than two million years ago, and that still populates abundantly the surroundings of the village. A new hypothesis has been suggested in the 1980s, following numerous findings of objects that were connected with the daily life of the Rhaethian people in the locality of Dos Castel. It was therefore proposed that — in the Rhaethic language — Fai could mean ‘sight’, ‘view’, ‘vision’, ‘light’, ‘voice’ and “what appears” (this could perhaps be related to the open location of the village).
The Dos Castel
The Dos Castel is a rocky spur that rises in a strategic position, controlling the Adige Valley, in the middle of the eastern margin of the plateau of Fai della Paganella. It is precisely in this area — identified as a Rhaethian settlement — that were brought to light many materials and wall structures, which can be referred to a village founded during the Rhaethian period. Of this settlement are visible the foundations of some small dwellings for one family, with a quadrangular perimeter, built with dry-stone walls or against the rock walls.
The Dos Castel lies at 923 meters a.s.l. above the Adige valley. As it happens with other similar locations in Trentino, which conserve precious remains of the past, according to popular tradition, also at Dos Castel would be kept a treasure. The archaeological digs that have been brought to light indicate that this position has been used as settlement since the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age (14th C BC), and subsequently in the Recent and Final Bronze Age (13th-12th C BC). The most meaningful archaeological finds, however, date to the second Iron Age (half 6th-1st C BC), which in this territory is characterized by the presence of the Rhaethian people (“Culture of Fritzens-Sanzeno”).
This culture manifests a strong local imprint, in continuity with the preceding tradition, but was also characterized by the acquisition of models and life habits that derive from peninsular environments, in particular from the Etruscan-Padanian area. The most important cultural innovation, however, is represented by the adoption of an alphabet in north-Etruscan characters, adapted to the needs of the local language and conveyed with a particular handwriting, known as Sanzeno alphabet. In the territory of the Adige valley, first evidence of the use of this alphabet dates already to the 7th-6th C BC (First Iron Age), but it is only from the half of the 6th C BC onwards that writing knows such a wide diffusion. The inscriptions in Rhaethic alphabet can generally be seen on ceramic containers, on the handles of metal containers, on utensils of daily use (also in iron), on votive objects such as those found at Dos Castel — and in other locations too. The use of scripture would also have fulfilled an exceptional role, connected to motivations linked with cult, even though one cannot rule out that some acronyms, such as those represented on the tools of daily use, could stand for marks of the individual workshops or signs of ownership.
The Lime Kiln
A lime kiln was built preferably leaning against a slope. It would be realized with stones that were resistant to strong heat, and it presented a semi-cylindric ditch at the base and a cylinder that got narrower towards the top; on the side, it would be endowed with an aperture that could be used for introducing timber, in order to feed the fire. Through the fire (made with timber), the ‘cooking’ of limestone would thus take place; with a heat of 900° would be obtained a friabile product that was then transported and placed in water tanks, where the stones — by reaction — would boil for several days: the final product of this process was ‘quicklime’. When the process of re-hydration was complete, the so-called ‘hydrated lime’ would form, ready to be kneaded with sand, water and other components, on the basis of the future uses that were intended.
Water and Beeches in Fai della Paganella
The whole territory of Fai della Paganella lies on a karstic area, where therefore the chemical activity exercised on the Dolomite and on limestone — over the course of the centuries — has modified the rocks by consuming them, cutting them, incising them, and by creating real underground tunnels, with numerous caves endowed with stalagmites. For this reason, it is not easy to find streams or water courses over the plateau, and this is instead one of the few areas where you will be able to admire the flow of running water over the surface, which over millions of years has incised the rock, thus forming furrows and more or less incised small valleys, until creating real sinkholes, with beautiful waterfalls also.
It seems that the name of Fai della Paganella may derive from the massive presence of this tree in the woods that surround the village since time immemorial; in fact, the Latin name of the species is Fagus sylvatica — hence, from there, its likely transformation into Fajum-Faj-Fai. The beech trees are so atmospheric and impressive here that they have often inspired popular legends, evocative of positive values. The beech tree gives life to forests with a solemn and majestic outlook; they are silent and shady — as this one in the locality of Seraia. The beech forest is also referred to, sometimes, as “mother of the woodland”, as its understory is rich in delicate and scented flowers, such as cyclamens and anemones (but only in spring and late autumn, before and after the thick canopies obstruct the passing of light); many species of mushrooms also grow here, some of them edible too. A tip: lie down, look at the sky, and enjoy the silence of this woodland; listen to the rustling of leaves and to other muffled noises; observe the shadows and the games of light that enter the dappled shade … and you will be transported into the magic of the beech woodlands around Fai della Paganella.