Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is a municipality of the Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano, located in the Alta Val Pusteria/Hochpustertal, South Tyrol. Interestingly, it is
situated beyond the main Alpine watershed, as it is being crossed by the Rio
Sesto/Sextenbach, which – after forming the valley
of the Val di Sesto/Sextental (where the village itself is located) joins the main corridor of the val Pusteria/Pustertal at San Candido/Innichen (notably, the river Drava/Drau, which is in turn a tributary
of the Danube).
In 1918, when Tyrol was split up and divided between Austria and Italy, Sesto Pusteria/Sexten should in theory have remained with Austria, as it is to the east of the Sella di Dobbiaco/Toblachersattel – a physical boundary marking the natural watershed between the Adriatic (Mediterranean) and the Black Sea – but it was annexed to Italy purely for military reasons.
Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is the easternmost municipality of South Tyrol, as well as one of the northernmost in Italy.
As a note of curiosity, it is interesting to notice that in Sesto Pusteria/Sexten it is always possible to keep track of the passing time with one of the most peculiar features of the Dolomites: the so-called “Meridiana di Sesto” (the Sesto Hourglass), which is like a natural clock that tells the time of day according to the peak which is being illuminated by the sun (the names Cima Undici/Elferkofel, Dodici/Zwölferkofel, Una/Einserkofel … all refer to the hours of the clock).
The village is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextnerdolomiten, parts of which belong to the Parco Naturale Dolomiti di Sesto/Naturpark Sextnerdolomiten. Among the main attractions of the area around Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is the Val Fiscalina (Fischleintal), which is the departure point for a classic ascent to the wonderful Tre Cime di Lavaredo – as well as offering magical sceneries in its own right, and cross-country ski routes that remain active until late spring (this side valley has a particularly cold micro-climate).
From Sesto Pusteria/Sexten one can also easily reach the ski slopes of Monte Elmo/Helm (2,434 m) and the Croda Rossa di Sesto/Sextner Rotwand (a.k.a. Cima Dieci; 2,965 m); during the winter season – as well as ski slopes – both offer also the possibility of beautiful excursions in the snow.
Along the valley of Sesto, there are two side-valleys which give access to the Dolomites: the Val Fiscalina (Fischleintal), which is one of the best renowned and most beautiful valleys of the Dolomites, starts in Moso/Moos – at the foot of the Croda Rossa – and from there one can reach the Rifugio Zsigmondy-Comici (see below).
The Val Campo di Dentro (Innerfeldtal) is another secluded, heavily forested side valley that allows to reach the Rifugio Locatelli instead (see below).
In the municipality of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is also the biotope Monte Covolo – Nemes (Seikofel-Nemes), found to the N of Passo Monte Croce Comelico (1,636 m); from there, it is possible to gain also the summit of Col Quaternà (2,503 m).
The landslide at Cima Una/Einserkofel: on the 12th October, 2007, a landslide of huge proportions has fallen from this mountain, luckily without causing victims – but providing nonetheless a stark reminder of the fact that the Dolomites are still living creatures, even though they appear to be still.
The place name of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is first cited as Sexta in 965, then as Sextum in 1208 and again as Sexten (Germanized in Sechsten) in 1298 and 1365, and it seems to derive from the Latin “ad horam sextam” – in all likelihood a reference to its southern position when compared with San Candido/Innichen, whose important collegiate church used this topographic indication.
In fact, even though the toponym is certainly of Latin origin, there is still uncertainty as to what it refers to exactly. It is possible – but not proved – that the denomination only became established during the Middle Ages, and that it was actually coined by the convent annexed to the collegiate church of San Candido/Innichen, as it seems to be too literal a reference to the “sesta ora” of the Benedectine rule to be otherwise (they used this as a topographic indication in reference to the distance from the religious headquarter, which then used to have an extensive control over the territory).
It is also possible – however more unlikely – that the name makes a reference to the sixth milestone of a Roman road that allegedly passed through the area, connecting Littamum (current San Candido/Innichen) to Passo Monte Croce di Comelico. Apart from the name, though, there are hardly any traces of the past in the villages of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten and Moso/Moos, as they were both almost completely erased by the Italian grenades during WW1.
During WW1, the village of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten found itself in the middle of the hostilities. The Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops faced themselves for the control of the main peaks, such as the Croda Rossa di Sesto, Monte Covolo, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Monte Paterno. When the war finally broke, the village was left almost completely undefended, as everybody took to the hills.
During the hostilities, many were the people who actually stood out, such as for instance the famous Alpine guide and mountaineer Sepp Innerkofler, who distinguished himself for his acts of bravery.
At the end of the conflict, it soon became evident that this village was the one that had suffered the more destruction in the whole of South Tyrol, clearly because of its position so close to the frontier.
In November 1918, the Italians finally descended on Sesto Pusteria/Sexten from Passo Monte Croce di Comelico, and the village was eventually annexed to Italy following the Treaty of Saint-Germain (1919), even though – like San Candido/Innichen – it should have remained with Austria, if anything for purely geographical reasons.
Not surprisingly, during the Fascist regime the area was under pressure again for its proximity to the border, and several new fortifications were erected, remnants of which can still be seen today. At Passo Monte Croce di Comelico, for instance, there are several bunkers, which form part of the ‘Vallo Alpino’ of South Tyrol – especially at Crestòn Popera. All these works went on to form a barrage at Passo Monte Croce Comelico.
The area became also quite ‘hot’ well after the end of WW2, when South Tyrol was agitated by a series of terrorist attacks at the hands of the separatist movement, which fought for re-annexation to Austria during the 1960s.
The population of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten is almost completely of German mother tongue.
The coat of arms of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten represents three silver mounts on a blue field, which allegedly symbolise the Tre Cime di Lavaredo; this effigy was officially adopeted only as late as 1972, and it is attributed to the local painter Albert Stolz (see below).
The Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul was initially built at the end of the 13th century, but there is no trace left of this early building. It was reconstructed several times, and it appears today in the latest version of 1824. Of a moderately neo-Baroque style, the church displays two works by the Venetian painter Drusi, while the frescoes are by local painter Albert Stolz.
Stolz also painted the famous, evocative Danza Macabra (‘Dance of Death’) that adorns the round chapel at the entrance of the cemetery, representing several local characters ‘dancing’ with death (this was a recurrent theme in the iconography of the Middle Ages, which was in this case being reinterpreted).
Moso/Moos also has a church at the centre of the village; it is dedicated to St. Joseph, and it was built in 1717. The so-called ‘Chapel in the Wood’ was erected during WW1, as the main church had been damaged and this chapel was being used instead; afterwards, the little building remained, and it is today a nice location to reach on foot, not too distant from the centre of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten.
The ‘Bagni di Moso’ (Bad Moos) are to be found near the village bearing the same name, at the entrance to the Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal. They consist of mineral springs with magnesium sulphate, calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate. Known since the 1500s, they were mentioned for the first time in 1650 by the Count Brandis in his work on Tyrol. The ‘Bagni di Moso’ then underwent successive modifications, until the erection of a proper spa facility in the first decades of the 1800s. After that, they were renewed several times, until becoming the modern facility that they still are today.
By the village two forts were erected on the two sides of the Val di Sesto: the Forte Mitterberg (to the N) and the Forte Heideck (to the S), linked between them and also with other fortifications belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire army. The forts originally had the function of stopping the descent of the Italian troops, in the case that the defense line at Passo di Monte Croce di Comelico was broken, and so to prevent access into the Val Pusteria. But these structures were already considered obsolete at the beginning of the hostilities, and therefore scarcely efficient; in fact, they ended up being quite an easy target for the Italian army – so much so that the Forte Heideck has been dismantled, while the Forte Mitterberg is still in good conditons, and it represents a good example of defensive fortification dating to the 19th century.
Things to See and Do in Sesto Pusteria/Sexten
The Museum ‘Rudolf Stolz’ was inaugurated in 1969, and it hosts the works of this important representative of a local family of painters composed of three brothers. Rudolf dedicated himself in particular to the execution of frescoes in various parts of Tyrol; in the museum are exposed numerous works, especially in charcoal, used as a preparation for the frescoes, and then drawings, gouaches, watercolors, mostly representing landscapes and scenes of daily life from the Alta Val Pusteria/Hochpustertal: but a living example of his frescoes – and certainly his best work in Sesto Pusteria/Sexten – has to be the chapel by the cemetery mentioned above, while more of his work is also exhibited in the chapel of St. Joseph in Moso.
Another noteworthy characteristic in Sesto Pusteria/Sexten are the cribs, famous the world over because of the ability of local woodworkers. They are sumptuously staged for the Christmas period, certainly providing a major motive of attraction to the village, and they can be admired both around the streets, in churches and also in a dedicated exhibition.
In terms of local products, the mountain cheese from Sesto Pusteria/Sexten has been listed as one of the Italian traditional products.
As for sports activities, in Sesto Pusteria/Sexten there is also the biggest indoor rock climbing facility in the country: 16,5 m high, it is impressive and worth visiting even if you are not a rock climber, as it is situated in a building which is completely made of glass, so to give the impression of being outdoors, and allowing the possibility to climb even in the middle of winter.
Besides, there is an ample choice especially when it comes to winter sports, when even the swimming pool is being transformed into an ice rink. Skilifts take to the Croda Rossa di Sesto, from where several ski slopes depart; also, it is interesting to add that there are here two unusually long sleigh rides, the Croda Rossa (5 km) and the Klammbach (6,5 km).
The Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten
They take their name from the village of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, which is located to the NE of the massif.
The most elevated peak is the Punta dei Tre Scarperi (3,152 m), and they comprise quite an extended territory, delimited roughly by the lower Val Pòpena (Val Pòpena Bassa) and the Val di Landro/Hölenstaintal, by the Alta Val Pusteria/Hochpustertal, the Val di Sesto/Sextnertal, the Passo di Monte Croce di Comelico (1,636 m) near the border with Austria, and the Val Padola, valle del Piave and Val d’Ansiei in Veneto.
They are almost completely lying inside the perimeter of the Parco Naturale Dolomiti di Sesto/Naturpark Sextner Dolomiten-Drei Zinnen – at least as far as the section in South Tyrol is concerned – istituted in 1982.
Inside this group is also the famous “Strada degli Alpini” (see Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten).
The Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten can be further subdivided into a series of minor groups:
The Tre Scarperi group is delimited by the Passo Grande dei Rondoi (2,289 m) and the Val Campo di Dentro/Innerfeldtal, Val Sassovecchio, Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal and the Val di Sesto/Sextnertal. The major peaks are Punta dei Tre Scarperi/Dreischusterspitze (3,152 m), Punta Piccola dei Scarperi (3,095 m), Punta Lavina Bianca (2,987 m) and Lastron degli Scarperi (2,957 m).
The Rondoi-Baranci group comprise the Rocca dei Baranci (2,966 m), Croda dei Baranci (2,922 m), Croda dei Rondoi (2,873 m) and Monte Rudo (2,826 m).
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen is certainly – and by far – the most visited group within the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten. They comprise the Cima Grande di Lavaredo (2,999 m), Cima Ovest (2,973 m) and Cima Piccola (2,857 m). Amongst the minor summits are to be counted Croda dell’Arghena (2,252 m), while a little to the N is the slender outline of the Torre di Toblin (2,617 m).
The Monte Piana group is situated in the high Val di Landro/Hölenstaintal, and it comprises two main peaks, Monte Piana itself (2,324 m) to the S and Monte Piano (2,305 m) to the N.
The Cadini di Misurina are a sub-group situated to the E of Lake Misurina; it is less extended than the others, but it gathers nonetheless several peaks with a slender or jagged appearance. In the Ramo di San Lucano (San Lucano branch) one can find the Cime Cadin di Nord-Est (2,788 m), Cadin di San Lucano (m 2.839) and Cima Eötvös (2,815 m). Other peaks that are very frequented by the mountaineers in this group are the Torre di Misurina, Torre del Diavolo (2,598 m) and Torre Wundt (2,517 m); the area is also crossed by the “Sentiero Bonacossa”.
The Monte Paterno – Cima Una group is situated right at the core of the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten. The highest peak is Monte Paterno (2,744 m); other elevations comprise the Croda Passaporto (2,744 m), Torre Pian di Cengia (2,700 m) and Cima Una (2,698 m).
The Croda dei Toni group is situated in the Val Giralba, between the Passo Fiscalino (2,519 m) and the Val Cengia. It comprises the Croda dei Toni (a.k.a. Cima Dodici/Zwölferkofel; 3,094 m), Croda Antonio Berti (3,029 m), Cima Sud della Croda dei Toni (2,945 m) and Cima d’Auronzo (2,945 m).
The Popera group is the most extensive sub-group of the entire Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten; it develops from N to S with side chains that encircle vast screes known as ‘cadini’. The main peaks are Cima Undici/Elferkofel (3,092 m), Monte Popera (3,046 m), Giralba di Sotto (2,995 m), Cima Bagni (2,983 m), Croda Rossa di Sesto/Sextner Rotwand (a.k.a. Cima Dieci; 2,965 m) and Cima d’Ambata (2,872 m).
In the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten – especially within the Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti di Sesto – there are numerous Alpine huts.
Among the main ones, the following must be included (please note: in this section will be only be mentioned those huts either found within the territory of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, or functional for trips that also cross the muncipality. For a more extensive list of Alpine huts in the area, refer to Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten).
The Rifugio Antonio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte) is situated at 2,405 m in the heart of the park. The construction of a hut in this quintessentially iconic location had already been suggested as early as 1881 – at the heyday of the mountaineering expeditions in the Dolomites – by the then Austro-German Alpine Club.
After due investigations in the area, it was unanimously decided that this was the best location for an Alpine hut, because of the unique view that can be enjoyed on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen (2,999 m) as well as on nearby Monte Paterno/Paternkofel (2,746 m) and the other surrounding mountains. The construction of an Alpine hut began in 1882 by the Forcella Toblin, and it opened in the following spring of 1883. The small original building was destroyed by an Italian grenade during WW1; following that, in 1922 another small ‘rifugio’ was opened, replacing the former, which was then expropriated in 1923 by the Italian Alpine Club (the area in the meantime had become Italian) – and that is when the building was enlarged into the structure that we still see today.
The hut can be reached on foot only; the quickest and easiest route is probably from the Rifugio Auronzo (see below); the link with Sesto Pusteria/Sexten (through the Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal) is certainly more demanding. As a note of curiosity, by the hut there is also a chapel and two small lakes of glacial origin: the ‘Laghi dei Piani’ (Bödenseen).
The Rifugio Auronzo (Auronzohütte) is situated by the Forcella Longères, in the municipality of Auronzo di Cadore (and therefore outside the park), at 2,320 m. From the hut a wide view can be enjoyed on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen, the Croda dei Toni, the group of the Cadini di Misurina, the Cristallo, the Lake of Misurina and the Val d’Ansièi.
The Rifugio Auronzo is often used as a stepping point for the ‘Via Ferrata De Luca-Innerkofler’ on Monte Paterno/Paternkofel (2,744 m) and for the “Alta Via No. 4, Grohmann”, as well as for the popular roundtrip around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen, for which it is conveniently located roughly half-way, when coming from either direction.
The Rifugio Auronzo has quite a tormented history. In the late 1800s, the Austrian had begun the construction of some huts on the N side of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen (such as Rifugio Locatelli; see above), and it was then decided that the same should be done on the S side; therefore, in 1912, the construction of a hut began, then called Rifugio Longères – but it opened officially olny as late ad 1925, and under the new name of Rifugio Principe Umberto. After the end of WW2 it was dedicated to Bruno Caldart (an Alpine guide from Auronzo), and following a damaging fire in 1955 it was finally restored and enlarged in the shape that it still retains today, under the current name.
The Rifugio Auronzo can be reached by means of a controversial toll road that starts at the northern end of Lake Misurina, by the small Lago di Antorno. The road is 7 km long and quite expensive, but the hut can also be accessed by public transport. It is possible to walk to the rifugio via a path that follows the road from a distance, in about 1 h.
A word of warning: it is not advised to spend much time in this location that is unfortunately too plagued by cars and tourist herds to be enjoyable; in my opinion, it is best to use this location merely as a starting point for further walks and nothing else.
In fact, the Auronzo mountain hut is usually the starting point for the roundtrip around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen, which normally takes one to Rifugio Lavaredo first (see below) and then on to Rifugio Locatelli (see above), in about 1h30; also, the Rifugio Zsigmondy-Comici (see below) is about 3h away.
The Rifugio Lavaredo is situated at the foot of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen, at 2,344 m. It was erected in 1954 by one of the founders of the ‘Alpine Rescue’ in Auronzo and it is just 20 mins away from the Rifugio Auronzo (along the way, there is a chapel dedicated to the many victims of WW1).
The Rifugio Carducci is situated in the Alta Val Giralba at 2,297 m; it is a good base for excursions along the “Alta Via No. 5”, of the ‘Titian’. The hut was built in 1908 by the Italian CAI at the foot of the Croda dei Toni, and it is dedicated to the renowned Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, who sojourned in the area in 1892.
The Carducci hut can be reached from Rifugio Berti (1,950 m; see below) via the Vallon Popera, Passo della Sentinella and the “Strada degli Alpini” (see below) until the Forcella Giralba; also, via the Forcella Giralba, one can continue on to the Rifugio Zsigmondy-Comici (see below); the two Alpine huts are in fact both along the route of the Alta Via No. 5, del Tiziano, which connects – in the final stretch – Auronzo di Cadore with the terminus at Sesto Pusteria/Sexten.
The Rifugio Zsigmondy-Comici (Zsigmondy-Comici-Hütte) is an Alpine hut situated in the territory of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, at the heart of the Parco Naturale Dolomiti di Sesto, 2.224 m. It lies at the foot of the northern face of Croda dei Toni (a.k.a. Cima Dodici/Zwölferkofel), 3,094 m. It takes its name from mountaineers Emil Zsigmondy and Emilio Comici, and it was erected by the Austrian Alpine Club during WW1; after being damaged during the conflict, it was then rebuilt in 1928 and further restored in 1984.
It can be accessed from Capanna Fondovalle (1,548 m) in the Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal in 2h, and from Moso di Sesto/Moos in 3h30. As stated earlier, it also lies along the track of the “Alta Via No. 5, of the Titian”.
Climbs are possible to the Cima Undici/Elferkofel (3,092 m), Monte Popera (3,045 m) and Croda dei Toni (Cima Dodici/Zwölferkofel; 3,094 m). From the hut starts one end of the famous traverse known as “Strada degli Alpini” (see Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten). Distances: Rifugio Auronzo is 2h30 away, Rifugio Pian di Cengia 1h, Rifugio Locatelli 2h and the Rifugio Berti 5h.
The Rifugio Pian di Cengia/Büllelejoch Hütte is an Alpine hut that also lies in the muncipality of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, at 2,528 m. It is situated on the trail connecting the Rifugio Comici-Zsigmondy (¾h) and the Locatelli/Dreizinnenhütte (1h), on the southwestern side of monte Paterno (Paternkofel) – the setting of so many battles between the Italian and Austrian armies during WW1.
The Rifugio Tre Scarperi/Dreischusterhütte (1,626 m) can be accessed from the Valle Campo di Dentro/Innerfeldtal (see below).
The Rifugio Antonio Berti is an Alpine hut located on the southern fringe of the vast Vallòn Popera, in the section of the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten belonging to the municipality of Comelico Superiore, at 1,950 m. It is nevertheless included here as it lies a very short distance away from the territory of Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, and excursions in the area usually stray on the two sides of the regional boundary.
It is surrounded by the imposing walls of Cima Bagni (2,950 m), Monte Popera (3,046 m), Cima Undici/Elferkofel (3,092 m) and Croda Rossa/Rotwand (2,965 m).
Through the re-adaptation of a former WW1 building (Ex-Comando Vallòn Popera), the first hut was erected here in 1924, but it was substituted by a totally new building in the 1960s, dedicated to Antonio Berti, poet and mountaineer, also famous for his descriptions and activities of exploration in the Eastern Dolomites. The current hut is at a slightly lower altitude when compared to the former, and it is still possible to see the original building.
The hut can be accessed from the parking at Passo Monte Croce Comelico in 2h30; ascents to Cima Undici 3,092 m and Monte Popera 3,046 m are possible.
The Rifugio Berti is one of the starting points of the famous traverse known as “Strada degli Alpini” (see Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten), which takes to the Comici and Carducci huts through the Passo della Sentinella and Forcella Undici in 5h. The hut is also the starting and arriving point of the ‘Ferrate Zandonella I and II’ to the Croda Rossa (7h), and it is used as a base for the Variant II of the “Alta Via No. 5, of the Titian”.
Further excursions from the hut include the trail to the small glacial lake of Laghetto del Vallòn Popera in 30min, then on to the Passo della Sentinella (2,717 m) in 2 h.
Also, the ring “Anello Vallòn Popera” starts by the ‘Ex-Rifugio Sala’, then it leads on to the Croda Sora i Colesei (2,303 m) through war tunnels and with a panoramic view over the Alta Pusteria/Hochpustertal; from there, one can proceed on to the Forcella Popera and return to the hut through the Laghetto Popera in 3h (circular excursion).
As anticipated earlier, for more information on the “Strada (or sentiero) degli Alpini”, please refer to the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextner Dolomiten page.
It has to be signaled too that there are several walks that can be enjoyed at lower levels from Sesto Pusteria/Sexten, without venturing into higher grounds, and that these also can rely on a good support of lower-altitude facilities.
On the southern side of the Val di Sesto/Sextnertal, the Val Campo di Dentro (Innerfeldtal) offers pleasant paths among conifer woods, all the way to Rifugio Tre Scarperi/Dreischusterhütte (1,626 m). From there, it is possible to embark on the trails that form part of the “Alta via no. 4, Grohmann”, which presents two variants both joining together before the Forcella Toblin, in the vicinity of Rifugio Locatelli (see above).
The Val Fiscalina (Fischleintal) also can provide quite fulfilling excursions in its own right, without the need to venture further up; here too there are several structures which can be relied upon at lower levels, such as Ristoro Piano Fiscalino (Fischleinbodenhütte; 1,454 m) and the Rifugio Al Fondovalle (Talschlusshütte; 1,540 m). Of course, continuing on from there would lead to either climb on the paths of the “Alta via no. 5”, of the ‘Titian’, or along the Val Sasso Vecchio/Altsteintal, which would lead eventually to Rifugio Locatelli.
Rifugio Rudi and Rifugio Prati Croda Rossa can be reached either with the Croda Rossa cable car or walking from Bagni di Moso/Bad Moos, from the valle di Sesto/Sextnertal, or even from Piano Fiscalino (Fischleinbodenhütte).
On the northern side of the valley are Rifugio Klammbach (1,944 m) and Rifugio Alpe Nemes (1,877 m); in general, this side of the valley presents gentler slopes, so it is better suited for quieter walks with lesser – and more gradual – gradients in altitude. Several huts also service the slopes of Monte Elmo/Helm, which are good for easy walking too. This side of the valley is less heavily wooded, and therefore more open and sunny – so it is particularly suitable for winter walks.