Mount Vigiljoch

Mount Vigiljoch

Mount Vigiljoch / Monte San Vigilio, a hilly crest of grassland and forests located right above Lana, is a recreational area popular with tourists and locals alike.

When he was little, Ulrich Ladurner was fascinated by the hotel located right next to the mountain station of Vigiljoch’s cable car. “I was always asking myself: What kind of people live there? What happens inside this building?”, he tells us. hose were perfectly valid questions, seeing as in its prime in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, the hotel was a holiday home for highclass guests, including former German chancellor Willi Brandt as well as South Italian aristocracy, who spent entire summers on Mount Vigiljoch.
Yet once the glamour was gone, the hotel gradually went to rack and ruin and ended up in a squalid state. Ulrich Ladurner, a Merano native and director of “Dr. Schär”, a company producing gluten-free foods, did not want it to decline any further and decided to buy the hotel. He commissioned renowned architect Matteo Thun and spared no expense to turn the “vigilius mountain resort” into something truly new and special. The five-star hotel located at 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above sea level now shines in sparkling glass and wood – it is not just any old hotel. “I wanted to turn it into something special”, Ladurner says. “And it worked in the past, even though it’s not connected to any roads. So why not make it work again?’
Not all locals were happy with what he did at first – after all, they consider Mount Vigiljoch their personal property. They kept calling the hotel names such as “bird house” or “cowshed”. Meanwhile, however, all the former critics have been convinced (or have simply fallen silent), and the stark contrast between the extraordinary structure and the rustic landscape around it remains.
Nature right on your doorstep
But Mount Vigiljoch has far more to offer than just Ladurner’s hotel. A multitude of hiking paths crisscross the area, mountain inns and huts cater for hikers and tourists in summer, and the area is a great insiders’ tip for tobogganers and skiers in winter.
Mount Vigiljoch remains a car-free zone. The easiest way up there is to take the cable car from Lana, which was built back in 1912 and was one of the first passenger cable cars in the world. The gondola was renovated a few years ago and takes you to the mountain station located at 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) above sea level. The ride is short and takes you up steep terrain. From the mountain station you take a one-person chair lift almost all the way up to the top of the pass. Short hiking tours get you from there to the small Vigilius Church and the idyllic Schwarze Lacke (black lake) mountain lake. Alternatively, you can take a cable car from Lana’s Pawigl/Pavicolo neighbourhood or a cable car from Rabland/Rablà on the Vinschgau valley side of the mountain.
Mount Vigiljoch has always been a highly popular spot with the locals from the valley. Many families spent their summers in the small holiday homes spread across the entire crest, and it is a traditional destination for school field trips in May. For Ladurner, Vigiljoch is one of many great childhood memories, reminding him of day trips with his class at school, his parents and friends.

Just a short distance from the Ortles mountains
Mount Vigiljoch stretches from Meran/Merano to the Southwest and separates the lower Vinschgau valley in the West from Burggrafenamt in the East. The hilly and forested Meran area of Vigiljoch is the foothills of the Ortler mountain range, a massif home to South Tyrol’s highest peak.
On its flank, starting from Vinschgau valley, you will find Naturns/Naturno, Plaus, Rabland, Töll/Tel, Forst/Foresta, Marling/Marlengo, Tscherms/Cermes and Lana. On the south side of Mount Vigiljoch lies Ultental/Val d’Ultimo. Vigiljoch itself lies 1,743 metres (5,720 ft) above sea level and refers to the section between Vinschgau valley and Burggrafenamt. Here, at the site of a former Pagan cult, close to the former border between the bishoprics of Trento and Chur, you will find the Vigilius Church, also known as the “Jocher Kirchl”, which is dedicated to Saint Vigilius.

The church is what is known as “weather church” and every year on 26th June, the Day of Saint Vigilius, it becomes a popular destination for pilgrims from nearby villages. The early Romanesque nave shows a cycle of 14th-century frescoes depicting the 12 apostles and a crucifixion group. After having been used as a cowshed for a long time, the little church was renovated in the late 19th century and reconsecrated. Close by, at the foot of the church, you will find the Jocher See, a small pond that reflects the trees and sky. It carries water only during the snowmelt period and is said to be haunted.
Jocher Gschichtn (Stories from Mount Vigiljoch)
Norbert Menz from Merano compiled everything you need to know about Vigiljoch in his book titled “Jocher Gschichtn” (Stories from Mount Vigiljoch). He introduces the reader to many plants that are found there and explains how they can be used in cooking and for medicinal purposes, including the “Zirm”, a species of stone pine also known as the “Queen of the Alps”. Menz does a very thorough job of taking stock of the area, lists all the mountain huts, tells stories of wolves’ caves and lime kilns and gives a description of the people living there – one-of-a-kind characters shaped by lonely summers up in the mountain huts. History and stories such as the one about “Wascht”, a shepherd at the Tufer Mountain hut, and the flour soup recipe of “Wendl” are characteristic of his book.
Ancient Celts are said to have left their marks there long ago: Some old stone bowls were found, and there are many stories about the “Tatzelwurm” (a mythological worm-like creature), gold treasures and human remains.

A journey into the past
For Ladurner, Vigiljoch is like an obligation. “I spend a lot of time up there and need to take care of things that others don’t even think about: I get rid of litter, restore paths and roads after winter, clear up, and continue improving things”. For him, the future of Vigiljoch is its past. “Vigiljoch is still very original, and that’s what makes it so appealing”.
Vigiljoch used to be Merano’s and Lana’s local skiing resort, and this is also where the Vigiljoch ski club used to organise legendary club championships. Yet modern-day skiers have totally different expectations regarding the slopes, lifts, culinary delights and entertainment provided by such a resort, so Ladurner prefers focusing on “winter relaxation”. “It was a conscious decision to counter that trend”, he says. “People look for simplicity. They want
to escape from their complicated worlds; they don’t want to be overwhelmed. They want a retreat, to keep things away from them for a while”. But he doesn’t think it’s all that easy. “We have to be the first ones to do this”, he says a little thoughtfully.
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