Between 1941 and 1948 the Sauris valley was the scene of truly grandiose works: the construction of the Lumiei hydroelectric power plant, with the magnificent barrage (dam) in La Maina.
At that time, it was the highest dam in Italy and one of the largest in the world measuring 136 metres high. Due to the lack of local labour, engaged on the front line, 300 New Zealand prisoners were employed to carry out the works. Of these, approximately 100 were hosted in the shacks in La Maina.
The Lumiei power plant was inaugurated on 30th March 1948 and between that year and the year after, the basin was filled with water. Of the fifteen families that lived in the old hamlet, eight of them had to abandon their property (homes, stables, haylofts, meadows, fields, woodland, mills and a sawmill) and build new homes in upstream areas.
The lake was emptied
In 1992 the lake was completely emptied to allow ENEL to carry out maintenance work on the dam. The landscape without water had a bleak, almost lunar appearance, surely different from what it looked like fifty years previously. This made many memories flow back for the elderly; the younger generations, who had been used to seeing the lake since they were born, it provided an opportunity to get to know a little history of their town.
Sensations and memories:
- “It was great to live in La Maina, afterwards everything changed. When they decided to build the dam, they couldn’t wait to send us away. They took most of the countryside away from us to build shacks for the workers”;
- “At the end of October 1948, the level of the water started to rise, we did not know where to go. When I look at the lake, I know what I have been through and I suffer for this, my heart is down there, I have lost everything, my home and my fields.”;
- “I worked for SADE, in all we were about one hundred workers. I remember the incredible deforestation work. All the trees were cut down and the timber was stacked and taken elsewhere. The inhabitants were paid, and they were offered a job. Of course, they had no choice! It was a great Fascist-style venture and the partisans tried to prevent the dam from being built. A few gunshots were heard but nothing more.”
If you wish to know more, go to the Ethnographic Centre in Sauris di Sopra, where you will find Lucia who will tell you everything about the building of the dam and the birth of the Lumiei valley and you will be able to purchase her book entitled “La Diga del Lumiei nella valle di Sauris” (The Lumiei Dam in the Sauris Valley).
foto @ giorgiacarlig
Sauris di Sopra
If you wish to know everything about the history and traditions in Sauris, visit the Ethnographic Centre in Sauris di Sopra where there is a rural building dating back to the 19th century, a typical example of an Alpine architectural structure made of wood and stone.
Here you will find Lucia who will tell you all the secrets of the history of Sauris and she will definitely guide you through the discovery of work tools and handiworks coming from local families, that document the cultural characteristics of Sauris-Zahre. Here you can also visit thematic temporary exhibitions, associated with the tradition, history and language of the local territory.
Just before arriving in the town, stop to visit the church dedicated to St. Lawrence, dating back to 1328. This still hosts some original Gothic-style elements. Inside you can admire a valuable wooden panel altar featuring the Last Supper by Michael Parth from Bruneck (1551).
Sauris di Sotto
In Sauris di Sotto, visit the church dedicated to St. Oswald that dates back to the 14th century and it has renovated elements dating back to subsequent centuries. Inside the church, there is a wooden panel altar (Flügelaltar) of particular interest by Nicolò from Bruneck in 1524.
In St. Oswald’s Museum, hosted in the presbytery in Sauris di Sotto, with the assistance of the librarian Noemi you can discover further secrets relating to the history of the community, more specifically through the events associated with the cult of St. Oswald and the sanctuary bearing the same name.
Just before the hamlet of Lateis, you will find the small church dedicated to St. Valentine; the view of Lake Sauris from here is a must-see.
photo: @alessandro secondin
Are you ready to discover the exquisite agri-food proposals of the highest hamlet in the region? In Sauris, we are sure that you will find several alternatives to tickle your taste buds.
Sauris di Sotto
Along the characteristic cobbled streets, in the historic centre you will find the Morgenleit restaurant, it has a wide-ranging menu and it changes according to the season. Do not hesitate to ask Loris for some help in choosing the most suitable dish for you.
Only a stone’s throw away, you will find the historic restaurant La Pace, where Franca and her family members prepare traditional dishes that have been skilfully presented and cooked.
For a quick lunch or an aperitif, you can also go and meet Sarah, at the Bar Kursaal: you will not be disappointed. Here you can also have scrumptious breakfasts with home-made desserts.
For a romantic aperitif, held in a special location, go to Borgo Eibn, only a stone’s throw away from the town. If you wish to stay there for dinner, try Rocco’s freshly-grilled meat as well as the other products from the Carniaagricola company.
If you need to buy the necessary ingredients for your dinners in the apartments of the Multi-building Hotel, nip into the well-stocked Schmit supermarket that is near to the Tourist Information Office.
Sauris di Sopra
In the Borgo di San Lorenzo, there is the Pame Stilf pizzeria, here you can have breakfast, at lunchtime you can eat traditional dishes, and in the evening, you can relax in front of a piping hot pizza.
You can have a rich breakfast and taste local products at the Speck Stube, where you will find Donatella and Caterina ready to welcome you. In the small grocer’s shop nearby, you can buy all you need to cook your meals in the apartments of the Multi-building Hotel.
You will be able to have a special breakfast also on the terrace of the Albergo Neider. Danila will welcome you also for lunch, an aperitif and for your candle-lit dinners in summer; instead, during the cold months, you will be able to have dinner enjoying the warmth of the indoor stube and fireplace.
If you want to know absolutely all there is to know about Sauris beer, go to the Kelder, the Zahre beer factory outlet. Here, in the former home of Massimo e Sandro Petris’ parents, you will find Deborah and Sergio who will present you with the 5 beer types produced by the Zahre beer craft brewery. You can accompany the tankards of beer with products from the Wolf ham factory and locally-produced cheese. Do not miss the guided tours of the brewery that Sandro and Massimo periodically organise.
The premises immersed in the woodland
Daniela and Augusto will welcome you into the charming Chalet Rikhelan restaurant, where you will be able to taste the dishes prepared by chef Claudio. The terrace of the Chalet that overlooks Mount Bivera is the perfect location where to have a romantic aperitif; we suggest having an Ugo, prepared with the mint grown in the Chalet garden.
On Mount Ruche, you will find Derna and her holiday farm; here, don’t forget to ask for an herb-flavoured grappa, herbs which Derna personally picks in the wood.
Between Sauris di Sopra and Sauris di Sotto you will find the campsite, here you will find the C’entro e co restaurant in Velt run by Gianna and Flavio. Here Flavio will allow you to try experiential tasting sessions of local products and some traditional dishes.
By the Lakeside
Would you like to have dinner in a special location? The Maanja restaurant is the ideal place to go! You can have dinner while admiring the lake through the large windows in the dining room.
If you wish to stop for a snack or an aperitif while enjoying the view of the lake from above, go to the Pa Krhaizar restaurant. Here you will find Antonella and her female staff will welcome you as if you were a member of the family. In winter, a visit there is an absolute must, to have a break to enjoy the warmth in front of the magnificent “fogolar” in the living room while sipping home-made grappa or a cup of herbal tea.
Would you like to have a Sauris dinner, prepared by a real Sauris-born chef? Go to Riglarhaus, Paola and her staff will delight you with a wide variety of dishes prepared with local products. It will not be easy to choose from the various proposals!
photo: @paola toniutti