Sulden is a name from mysterious origin, but probably it derives from a celtic expression meaning "small water": in fact according to naturalistic studies in this zone was effectively present a swamp.
Sulden occupies one of higher valley of the eastern Alps, being inhabited from 1880 to 1920 meters. The valley is surrounded towards east, south and west side from glaciers that contribute to get the winter rather rigid, also because mountains limit the duration of solar irradiation during cold season.
The valley takes place to Gomagoi near the crossroad to Sulden; here during the glacier era the moraines have shaped and flattened the land,forming terraces on the valley slopes, while in the center of the valley the river has dug its bed. Entering into the valley and paying attention, the diversity of the mountains can be noticed: on one side there are those ones not very steep and covered with a thick vegetation up to the high altitude, on the other side the peaks of the Ortles, Zebrů and Gran Zebrů stand on their impressiveness. These peaks are composed of naked rock almost white and eternal glaciers. During XIIIth century the inhabitants dug into the valley for finding minerals and metals and they exploited small deposits of iron and copper. A mine has been dug on the "Zumpanell" slope for digging out a lot of magnesite: it went on for about 20 years.
The vegetation is beatiful and very rich: where conifers woods have their limit and the shrubs assume an appearence much reduced for surviving at high altitude, the Alpin flora shows its grandiosity entirely. From the underwood to the last sodes of the earth before the glaciers we can observe an amazing variety of colors and species, like the white of ranunculus, anemone, crocus and daisy, the yellow of arnica and buttercup, the red of azalea and rose-bay, the pink of primrose, spring buttercup and crocus, the violet of soldanella and edelweiss, the blue of little bell and speedwell. We can find a lot of mushrooms, even if not all of them are eatable...
Could lack animals in this paradise? Surely not...Solda is in the "Stelvio National Park" territory and it's quite easy to meet in the woods deers, roe-bucks, hares, squirrels and foxes. Stoats and marmots privilege rocky zones, like frogs, the sky is the reign of eagles and lammergeyer, while titmice, chaffinches, robins and woodpeckers chirrup in the foliage.
Solda valley is inhabited from 1840 to 1920 meters above sea level, it is surrounded by high mountains with glaciers that limit sunny hours specially during winter. As the rest of Venosta Valley is a quite dry zone, with less rainfalls than the rest of Alps. Priest Eller made these observations in XIX century (from book of Priest Josef Hurton):
During last years weather data are collected by Province of Bolzano and we can say this:
Solda Valley is part of Venosta Valley, which name derives from its firts inhabitants, the "Venostes", that where a celtica ancestry appeared in 1000 B.C. The celtica presence in these zone is displayed for some customs that where transmitted up to now like the red-hot discus throw and the "Naunen" belief of the wicked ghostes.
In 15 B.C. the Venostes were subdued by Romans that afterwards introduced Cristian religion and improved agricolture introducing fruit and wine growing. When Roman Empire fell down the "Venosta" zone passed to French people and from 1363 to 1918, with the whole "Tirolo", grew into Austrian under Asburgo dominion. From XIVth century the region was stroken several times by plague, cholera and natural calamity, also by wars of which we can remeber the "Engadina" war between Swisses and Austrian people and Napoleonic wars.
From 1918 Fascism tried to italianize the South-Tirol people speaking german language, but the agreement between De Gasperi and Gruber in 1946 gave the autonomy to Bolzano district, guaranteeing the living together of three language groups: german, italian and ladin.
First Solda inhabitants were hunters and shepherds that during summer season sojourned for hunting and pasturage. They discovered the presence of iron material in the valley and informed Stelvio's miners. Colonization of the valley began towards 1100: in that period a german law estabilished that lands and mines belonged to the sovereign.
First agricolturers took over in 1192 and they built 12 farm-stead; in 1369 was demonstrated the presence at Solda of the S. Geltrude church, that was probably built by the miners. When the tourism began in 1870 hotels and huts were erected near the farm-stead, it was built a real road 11km long for making possible a comfortable entry with carriages and so Solda grew up in the number of inhabitants and for its touristic importance.
At Solda, like in the whole Venosta valley, there are a lot of religious symbols, first of all two churches. The old church is a simple building made by wild rocks between the tower and the sacristy. Its today's shape dates back to the XVIth century and under the plaster of roof and walls were found frescos dated back at the same period, but a painting of "S. Cristoforo" dated back to XIVth century testifies its more ancient origin.
New church is a "neoromanica" building, much bigger than the old one, is adorned with ligneous altars and frescos: it was consacrated in 1902. Near "Sulden Hotel" there's the Evangelic church, a simple stone building erected in 1904.
The Lourdes cave is situated in the wood and it was dug and blessed in 1892: the inhabitants and tourists, in the sacre cave, light candles in adoration of the Virgin. In the valley there are also chapels and crucifixes along the road and paths.
Mountains and Huts
Ortles, among all Tirolo's mountains, is the most impressive and fascinating so whoever, climber or not, is enraptured by its impressiveness. Giovanni of Asburgo was the first person who decided to climb that mountain when he saw it from Resia Pass; and so in 1804 the attemptes to reach the peak started. The first who arrived at the Ortles Peak was Josef Pichler on 24th of September 1804 and from that day a lot of climbers tried to discover the easier way to arrive on the peak. This one was found and traced on 7th of July 1865 along the Tabaretta Crest on which the Payer Hut was built in 1875 at 3029 meters.
Then were built the other huts which exist nowadays. Coston Hut or Hintergrathuette has been built in 1892 near a little morainal lake at 2661 meters; the City of Cantů bivouac or Ortlerhochjochhuette is the highest (3536 meters) and it has been built in 1901; the City of Milan Hut or Schaubachhuette, built in 1876, is at 2581 meters on the rocky board which delimits the "Solda Glacier"; the Serristori Hut or Dusseldorfhuette, at 2721 meters, has been built in the Zay Valley in 1892, while the Tabaretta Hut at 2556 meters, situated between Solda and the Payer Hut, dates back at first 1900 years.
Then news of Ortles climb was rapidly propagated and the opening of the Stelvio road and new huts increased the use of Alpin guides that became famous thanks to Hans Pingerra and Peter Dangl. The Solda-Trafoi Alpin guides association was founded in 1876. In 1933, thanks to the tourism increase, a ski-school was born and Alpin assistance boasts since 1970 a dog avalanche school. The volounteer firemen group was born in 1965 and White Cross in 1974. The meetings of this and other groups and associations take place at the "House of Mountain", a building situated in the centre of the village, near the church, built in 1973 with contribution of two important Solda's guests: Dr. Aldo Bush and his wife, the opera singer Magda Olivero.
Solda's mountains have been the strategic scenery during the First World War; soldiers moved in the snow trying to take the enemy by surprise, they dug tunnels in the ice, carried weapons, munitions and wood up to the highest peaks. Austrians hoisted cannons on the Ortles Peak at 3860 meters: the highest stationing of the war! A lot of weapons and bullets have been found on the Ortles, Gran Zebrů and Cevedale, hardly disputed during the war. Solda valley fortunately remained unharmed and when the war finished Sudtirolo lands became Italian.
After the two World War the economical and technological development has increased comfort for favouring tourism and so, further the growth of the village, lifts were built for exploiting snow at high altitude (also at Solda, as in the rest of Alps, there's been the glaciers retirement: some drawings show that in 1815 "Solda Glacier" reached up to the cableway leaving, while studies of some lichens assert that glacier in 1600-1700 arrived up to the church!). At first inhabitants worked in the "Orso-Langenstein" zone, under the Ortles, building one chair lift (1958) and two ski-lifts (1961); then worked on the other slope in "Pulpito-Kanzel" zone in 1965. Then, with the building of Madriccio Hut in 1975, the cable-way and two ski-lifts were realized; a third ski-lift was realized in 1987.
In last years works at Solda were concentrated at the restructure of buildings and the modernization of the ski-lifts culminated in 2003 with a new cable-way.
For more infos about Solda and its history we advice you to visit Valley Museum that you can find in the scholl rooms and to buy in the mini-market the book of Don Josef Hurton: