Since moving to Italy, I’ve been eager to visit an Italian refugio. A rifugio is a mountain hut where hikers, skiers, mountain bikers and the like can find food and often lodging at a reasonable price. A “true” rifugio is located in the middle of the mountains and can only be reached by foot. Many people will do multi-day hikes (sometimes 10 days or longer), hiking from hut-to-hut as they go.
When our plans for an overnight hike to a hut in the Dolomites were foiled this weekend, we set out to recreate the experience closer to home in Parco Regionale del Corno alle Scale.
Our attempts to book a hut near Corno alle Scale before we left were seriously comical. A wild goose chase, I’d say. We dialed at least three wrong numbers (I don’t think it was helping that our guide book is 9-years-old) and tried making a reservation at a refugio that only serves food. We finally got a hold of a refugio that did have beds, but it was booked solid. In the end, our only lead remaining was a refugio called Sega Vecchia. It was in our guidebook, but we couldn’t get a hold of them because the numbers in the guidebook and on the web were outdated. I joked to Luke, “I bet you they’ll have availability, because no one can call them to reserve!”
It turns out, I was right.
We showed up at Sega Vecchia on Saturday afternoon and were greeted by a young married couple. Sure enough, they had beds available. They had a group of kids leaving that day. We’d be the only ones there that night. The woman, Olga, led us to the dormitory upstairs. The dorm had seven triple-layer bunk beds (21 beds in total). There were male/female bathrooms downstairs. No shower. The space between bunk beds was awkwardly short, seeming better suited for small kids. But as we’d just be sleeping horizontally in the space, we nodded and agreed to stay.
Sega Vecchia isn’t a “true” rifugio since you can drive there. But it’s a serene location nonetheless. You drive down a long narrow road into the depths of the park to get there, and it’s surrounded by woods and the sounds of a stream. It’s also a prime spot to start/end a hike as it’s located at the head of a number of trails. Sega Vecchia, which means “old saw”, is the name of the rifugio because there was once a saw mill at this location.
When we arrived back from our hike up Mt. Nuda around 7:30, Olga and her husband began cooking dinner for us. In the main room with us, there was a small bambino snacking on Corn Flakes and intensely watching Alice in Wonderland (in Italian) on a Netbook. There was another group of adults sitting around a table playing cards and drinking beer. A couple of other guys came in to say “Ciao”. They all seemed to know each other. Luke and I, still curious about this whole refugio thing, wondered who all these extra characters were. We eventually found out that Olga and her husband were babysitting the little boy that night and that the other adults were family friends visiting from Bologna and just in for dinner.
As for dinner, first, we were served bread, wine, and a platter of cheese, prosciutto, and salami. Then for the main course, we had tagliatelle with mushrooms (we were given the choice of either mushrooms or ragù for the two of us). We had no idea what to expect for food in a rifugio and were pleasantly surprised with the meal.
Tired after our day of hiking, we retired early and let the others enjoy their dinner together. In the morning, we stirred around 8AM. Olga’s husband was there, but still sleeping. Around 8:40 or so, Olga returned from babysitting, apologized that no one had made us breakfast yet and set off to prepare us something. A few minutes later, a guy named Francesco arrived to help her. We were served a spread of breakfast items (some of which we were not sure how to eat as we are still confused by the Italian breakfast). There was bread, butter, three kinds of jam, breakfast cookies, yogurt, cereal, hot milk, and chocolate powder. We were also offered tea or coffee. Once again, our expectations for food were exceeded.
After breakfast, we finally got the chance to chat with Francesco about Sega Vecchia and ask why it was difficult to contact them. We found at that Francesco and his colleagues purchased Sega Vecchia this past year. After much renovation, they opened its doors in August 2012 and haven’t gotten around to publicizing yet. Sega Vecchia was formerly owned by the owner of the Cooperativa “Agritur” in Lizzano in Belvedere (who still manages the garden next door to Sega Vecchia and sells some of her products there). Along with Sega Vecchia, Francesco and his colleagues purchased four other rifugi in the park. They are planning to have two of those, Rifugio Bagnadori and Rifugio Donna Morta, available this year. Those two rifugi are “true” rifigui and will be run differently than Sega Vecchia. They will be rented to groups at a flat rate and must be reserved ahead of time (no one will be there if you just show up). Rifugio Bagnadori can sleep 10-14 people and is rented at 120 Euro/night. Rifugio Donna Morta sleeps 6 and is rented at 80 Euro for the first night and 70 Euro for subsequent nights. Each of the shelters have a toliet and a stove (either gas/wood).
If you are interested in staying at any of Francesco’s rifugi, including Sega Vecchia, you can reach him at:
http://www.rifugiosegavecchia.it (coming soon)
Despite the miniature beds and a little confusion, we thoroughly enjoyed our first Italian refugio. And, you can’t beat the price. The total for dinner, lodging, and breakfast was 32 Euro/person.
Next up: Day 2 – Hiking up Corno alle Scale and to the Dardagna waterfalls (a scenic hike from start-to-finish)