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Often called 'The Pearl of the Dolomites', Lake Carezza is one of the must-see sights in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Located at the foot of the Latemar Massif, the smallest group of peaks in the Dolomites, the towering, snow-capped peaks are reflected in the small pool of water called Lago di Carezza in Italian and Karersee in German. The name means 'the caress' in Italian, and the clear, ever-changing waters certainly add a visible caress to the stunning landscape.
Less than nine acres in size, the glacially-carved lake has no visible inlet for water, being supplied by underground springs and snow melt. Pictures of the Dolomites reflected in the lake's surface have graced the pages of such publications as National Geographic and are often used in tourism brochures. But nothing reflects the true beauty of the lake like a visit in person.
Small but deep, the lake is also known as the Rainbow Lake. The colors displayed in the waters are stunning and attributed in an old folk-tale: a spurned sorcerer formed a rainbow to seduce a nymph who lived at the lake and when eluded, ripped down the rainbow and threw it into the water. In truth, many of the colors are reflected from the surrounding evergreen forests, colors of the mountain rock faces, and the sky above. The size of the beautiful pool varies according to the season and is largest after the spring snow melt. The fame of the lake continues to grow, with most local tours of the area including a stop at one of the viewing platforms near the lake. The entire area is a holiday favorite, so plenty of lodgings such as hotels and guest-stays are found nearby. Several spa resorts are located in the area.
The nearby town of the same name is a popular holiday destination during all seasons. In winter, Karerzee hosts guests to two ski resorts guaranteed to produce great skiing amid beautiful mountain backdrops. One includes the first snow park for children-a big hit with families. Located in sunny Val d'Ega, the Village of Carezza or Karerzee is geared to tourists, with plenty of lodgings, restaurants and resort areas featuring miles of walking paths and outdoor adventure activities. The Village of Karerzee is often the beginning point for mountain climbing treks, and several horseback riding facilities in the area offer horseback tours of some of the most scenic areas.
The entire Val d'Ega is home to small picturesque villages where tourists are welcomed and entertained. Sunny pastures filled with wildflowers give way to forests and the rocky foothills of the Dolomites. Besides Latemar Mountain, the valley is walled by the red cliffs of Rosengarten (Rose Garden) Mountain. This mountain has a pinkish hue due to the mineral composition of the rock, with romantic legends attached to its color. Between legends of destroyed rainbows and the also-thwarted Laurin, King of the Dwarves whose rose garden turned the mountain red, the area near Lake Carezza is steeped in folklore and offers a glimpse into the rich legends of South Tyrol. The scenic beauty and environmental richness of the Dolomite Mountains are why the UNESCO Council nominated them in 2009 as a Natural World Heritage site.
No visitor to Lake Carezza should pass up an opportunity to visit some of the most interesting locations in South Tyrol. Only about an hour-and-a-half north of the lake, the South Tyrolean Museum of Mines is a hands-on museum of mining near Ridanna. Until recently a working mine, visitors can see the history of 800 years of mining technology and the complete production process involved in extracting minerals from the dolomite and mining dolomite itself. The natural environment within the mine tunnels is reputed to be good for colds and sinus problems.
Only an hour from Lake Carezza, the City of Bolzano holds many historic buildings and castles, highlights of a far different era. Late Middle-Ages Sigmundskron Castle is now in ruins, its vast fortifications a mere shell of its former glory. But it remains an important reminder of South Tyrol's fight for freedom. The castle holds one of the four mountain museums established by famed mountaineer Reinhold Messner. Open for daily tours, nearby Maretsch Castle was built as a private residence rather than for military purposes. The oldest part of the castle dates to the 13th century.
The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano holds the area's oldest inhabitant: the mummy of famed Otzi, the Iceman. Carefully preserved in a temperature-controlled chamber, Otzi's naturally mummified body was found in the mountains by hikers and had been frozen immediately after death about 3300 BC. With Otzi were found tools, weapons and stored food. The information gained from studying Otzi and his belongings has been translated into a series of displays and hands-on activities that will awe children and adults alike. Did Otzi visit Lake Carezza? We can only speculate. The capital city of South Tyrol, Bolzano is one of the few Italian-speaking cities in the area and holds Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, where lectures are held in German, Italian and English. Some of the highlights of interest to tourists are Museion, museum of contemporary and modern art, Muri-Greis Benedictine Monastery with baroque paintings by Martin Knoller, and several historic churches. The city is home to several popular sports teams.
The history of South Tyrol is one of changes. First ruled from Rome, the area was taken over by Bavaria and was home to a largely German population ever since 700 AD. Before World War I, the area was ruled by the Hapsburgs and became a county of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. South Tyrol fell into Italian hands during the war where it has remained. Concerted efforts by Mussolini to change the area into a more Italian territory were largely successful, although highly discriminatory. Now, the autonomous province by law protects the rights of the German-speaking minority. Meanwhile, underneath all of the world turmoil, little Lake Carezza has held its own dramas in the form of elusive lake nymphs, drowned rainbows, thwarted dwarf-kings and the former inhabitants of Otzi's mountainous homelands. Lake Carezza stays the same: hauntingly beautiful and a magnet to visitors the world over.
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