Listen to the Small Bells and Say Hello!

Waalwege are the traditional hiking paths along the waterways in South Tyrol, like the one in Marlengo, a popular walk for the entire family

Here, somewhere, he stood and listened. And he only breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the bell ringing. Then he knew it was all right.

Waalwege are the traditional hiking paths leading along the old waterways in South Tyrol. In former times there was the Waaler, a man responsible for maintaining the waterway (the Waal), and for him the Waalweg trails were built alongside the waterways. Today, these serve as popular hiking trails known as the Waalwege. The most extended one is the Waalweg of Marlengo/Marling – an easy path suitable for families, where hikers say hello to one another.

Waalwege have been around since the 12th century. They are unique to South Tyrol, because they can only be found only around Merano/Meran and the Vinschgau Valley. The Waale were built as an ancient irrigation system, diverting water from the mountains down to more arid areas, thereby irrigating the fields.

Today, the Waalwege are especially popular walking trails, because they have little difference in height and offer wonderful views of the surrounding villages and mountains. They are situated at medium height and can be walked almost year round. From April to November, water is still transported, and only in the cold months does the Waal remain empty. A trip to the Marlinger Waalweg is especially worthwhile in spring, when the cherry trees and apple trees are in bloom, or in autumn when the forests and vineyards glow with many vibrant colors. Walking the entire route of the Marlinger Waalweg takes about three hours.

But back to the Waaler: after a storm, he needed to free the thin canals from branches and stones, and this is still the case today. He has to ensure that all locks remain open to prevent flooding. Small bells can be heard ringing, operated by a water wheel and a hammer, which constantly beats against the bell after reaching a certain water level.
With a length of 12 kilometers, the Marlinger Waalweg is the longest of its kind in South Tyrol. It runs from the village of Tel/Töll, where the water is derived from the Etsch river, to the Raffeingraben ditch in Lana. It travels closely along the route of the irrigation canal, leading past chestnut groves, orchards and vineyards. It offers fascinating panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the basin around Merano. It is also a popular hiking trail for families with children or with four-legged friends. The Marlinger Waalweg, which was built between 1737 and 1756, initially leads over bridges along imposing boulders, and here are the first photo opportunities: from the dry spots of the sun-kissed rocks, while in the spring it is possible to finds wall flower. Continue through orchards and vineyards past old farms. Especially worth seeing: Lebenberg Castle rising above the village of Cermes/Tscherms, which dates to the 13th century.

By the way, there is also toilet facilities and mountain inns along the way. And the facilities are not merely portable plastic toilet boxes, but were designed by local craftsmen and decorated with paintings.

The Marlinger Waalweg is popular with visitors and locals alike, and you will always meet like-minded hikers along the way. It is not uncommon to say hello to them! And because this hello (“Grüß Gott”) is as much a part of South Tyrol as bacon and the Schüttelbrot bread for Marende, the Marlinger Waalweg is also called the "Grüß Gott Weg." If you hear people just say "Hoi", "Hoila" or "Griassdi", these are all just different ways to say "hello".
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