Mals, the sunniest locality in all of South Tyrol, is situated at an altitude of 3,445 ft (1,050 m) in the Upper Vinschgau Valley (Val Venosta) . The valley lies between the highest mountains of the Eastern Alps: the Ötztalern group to the east, the Ortler group to the south, and the Sesvenna group to the west.
Its appeal arises from the great differences which characterize the landscape: glaciers immediately above the bottom of the valley rise up almost to the 13,000 foot (4,000 meter) level, while the valley floor is carpeted with meadows and fruit orchards.
Along with the outlying villages of Burgeis, Schlinig, Schleis, Laatsch, Planeil, Plawenn, Ulten-Alsack, Tartsch, and Matsch, Mals has the second largest geographical area of any community in South Tyrol. This community contains 5,265 inhabitants, of whom approximately 2,000 live in the village of Mals itself. It is also the center for commerce and public instruction in the Upper Vinschgau.
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History - Culture
The roots of the locality name "Mals" date back to preRoman times, thus indicating how ancient the settlement was. The Romanesque towers of the Fröhlichsburg castle ruins, the medieval churches of St. Benedikt , St. Johann,
and St. Martin; and the gardens and lanes ringed by walls all give Mals a picturesque aura overflowing with history. The frescoes in the Benedictine Chapel, in Mals, along with those in St. Prokulus near Naturns in the Lower Vinschgau, are among the oldest wall paintings in all of Tyrol and, indeed, in the entire Germanspeaking world, dating back to the time of Charlemagne. In the immediate vicinity of the village are to be found such luring attractions as the 900yearold monastery of Marienberg, the churches of Söles and St. Stephan that date back to the early Middle Ages, and the walled city of Glurns (Glorenza), which holds the distinction of being the smallest city in all of Italy. The Vintschger Museum in Schluderns provides a window on the archaeological wealth of the valley, while themedieval Churburg castle, with its Hall of Armor and Armaments, renders a unique view of what the life of the knights was like. On the other side of the
Malser Haide (the Mals Heath), the breathtaking beauty of the Vinschgau highlands reaches it peak with Lake Reschen, where the church tower of the flooded village of Graun rises up out of the water.
Several public transport connections make convenient day trips possible. The new Vinschgau Train running every hour lets the 80-minute-long train journey to Meran become a natural and cultural discovery. Austria (Upper Inn Valley / 12 miles) and Switzerland (Münstair Valley / 6 miles) can be reached by bus service in less than half an hour.
Outlying Villages of the Community of Mals
Burgeis (elevation 1,216 m./3,990 ft., approximately. 852 inhabitants, 2.5 km./4 miles away from Mals, first historical record, 1160 A.D.) is especially rich in fresco-covered facades on homes, old portals, stone staircases, and bay windows. In the village center, inns rich in tradition invite the visitor to sit and pass the time away. The nearby Fürstenburg was built in the 13th century as the seat of the lords who at one time were the most powerful in the Upper Vinschgau Valley, the prince-bishops of Chur. Marienberg, the highest of all Benedictine monasteries (1,335 m./4,380 ft.), is reached by an old footpath. Its impressive Baroque
church and especially the Romanesque crypt (12th Century) are among the most beautiful artistic monuments in the Vinschgau Valley. Attractive goals for hikers are the romantic Pfaffensee lakes above the monastery (2,222 m./7,290 ft.), named after the Benedictines. Another hiking trail leads from Marienberg back to the nearby St. Stefan chapel, which, as a result of archeological excavations, can be dated to the early days of Christianity in the 5th Century. The Watles mountain above Burgeis (2,557 m./8,389 ft.) offers the winter visitor ideal conditions for skiing and sledding, as well as giving the summer visitor ample opportunity
for mountain climbing, hiking, and paragliding.
The small, high-lying mountain village of Schlinig (elevation 1,726 m./5,663 ft., approximately 188 inhabitants, first historical record, 1159 A.D.) lies 8 km./5 miles away from Mals and is an ideal starting point for summertime excursions in the border area to Switzerland. A broad palette of possibilities is offered to the casual hiker as well as to the experienced Alpine climber. From the Sesvenna Refuge, marked climbing routes lead up to the surrounding mountains of the Sesvenna Group. Several peaks over three thousand meters (Piz Sesvenna, 3,205 m./10,515 ft. Muntpitschen, 3,162 m./10,374 ft.) lure the seasoned hiker - of particular interest is the path through the wildly romantic Uina Gorge, which leads all the way to Ramosch in the Lower Engadine Valley. In the winter, Schlinig offers many possibilities, especially for ski touring, downhill skiing, and cross country skiing.
Schleis (elevation 1,064 m./3,491 ft. approximately 359 inhabitants, 1 km./0.6 miles west of Mals at the entrance to the Schlinig Valley, first historical record, 1159 A.D.) welcomes the visitor with an abundance of architectural jewels from earlier days: fresco-bedecked houses, walls with towers, round arch gates, and stone steps strikingly characterize the image of the village. Schleis is an ideal starting point for hikers and mountain bikers, for example, along the Adige River toward Burgeis or down the valley toward Laatsch. Marked paths and trails also lead to the Schlinig and Arunda Valleys and to surrounding Alpine meadows.
Laatsch (elevation 985 m./3,232 ft., approximately 606 inhabitants, first historical record, 1160 A.D.) lies about 1 km./0.6 miles southwest of Mals on the road to the Münster Valley near the Swiss border. Old houses with crenellated walls and arched gates testify to the significance of the village in medieval times. Also worth seeing are the churches of Laatsch, especially the uniquely constructed, two story St. Leonhard with its rich fresco paintings and the precious winged altar. Not far from the village, between Laatsch and Taufers, the Tyroleans suffered in the bloody battle of Calven in 1499 against the Swiss, up until then the greatest defeat in their history. Today, a monument at the spot where it occurred stands as a memorial to this momentous event (there is a permanent exhibition on Calven in the Tauferer Gate Museum in neighboring Glurns!) Well-marked hiking and bicycle trails invite the visitor to make excursions in the vicinity.
From Mals a street leads to the small mountain village of Planeil (elevation 1,596 m./5,236 ft., 7 km./4 miles away from Mals, approximately 166 inhabitants, first historical record, 1258 A.D.). The road runs along the Puni Creek in the Planeil Valley, past the ancient Stone Bridge which many researchers believe made up a part of the former Roman road. The village is impressive because of the steepness of the slopes. The houses, built very close to each other, form a medieval architectural totality of stone stairs and passageways, maintaining the Rhaetien past of the Upper Vinschgau Valley. At the end of the valley, the hiker is already lured by the three thousand meter peaks of the Ötztal Alps (Valvelspitze, 3,359 m./11,020 ft., Danzebell, 3,145 m./10,318 ft., Portlesspitze, 3,071 m./10,075 ft.; Falbanairspitz, 3,200 m./10,499 ft.; Rabenkopf, 3,391 m./11,125 ft.), but easier hikes to the Alpine pastures of the vicinity are also available.
In Plawenn (elevation 1,720 m./5,643 ft., approximately 46 inhabitants, 9 km./6 miles away from Mals, first historical record, 1140/90 A.D.) is to be found the highest noble estate in Tyrol. The red painted building with crenellated gables and corner towers is surrounded by a few farm houses. The tower area dates back to the early 12th Century and today is partly used as a restaurant. From Plawenn, the visitor is offered a beautiful view of the gigantic cone of earth of the Malser Haide (the Mals Heath), which also offers a variety of hiking possibilities.
South of Plawenn, on the northernmost edge of the Malser Haide (the Mals Heath), two small groups of farm houses cling to the valley walls: Ulten and Alsack (elevation 1424 and 1529 m./4,672 and 5,016 ft., respectively, approximately 48 inhabitants between them, first historical record, 1270 and 1320 A.D., respectively). In the Maria Chapel of Alsack, the art lover will find one of the most precious works of the Mals painter Karl
Plattner (The Mourning of Christ).
Tartsch (elevation 1,029 m./3,376 ft., approximately. 492 inhabitants, about 1.5 km./1 mile east of Mals; first historical record, 1159 A.D.) lies on the legend-rich Tartscher Bichl, a striking group of hills (1,077 m./3,533 ft.) which has a dramatic effect on the appearance of the settlements. Archeological excavations have revealed traces of settlements here dating back to prehistoric and Roman times. (Early finds from the nearby vicinity are displayed in the Vinschgau Museum in neighboring Schluderns.) The enigmatic "bowl stones" are found strewn over the entire Tartscher Bichl. The most noticeable eye-catcher, though, is the St. Veit am Bichl church with its old surrounding wall. It dates back to the 11th Century and thus is one of the oldest structures in the area.
Matsch. About 20 km (12 miles) in length, the Matscher Valley changes dramatically in elevation by nearly three thousand meters: from the glacial area of the Weißkugel (3,739 m./12,267 ft.) to the fruit orchards at the mouth of the Saldur Creek near Schluderns (921 m./3,022 ft.), thus giving an example of the variety of the Vinschgau natural landscape. The history of Matsch (elevation 1,564 m./5,131 ft., 8 km./5 miles away from Mals, approximately 465 inhabitants, first historical record, 1160 A.D.) is closely connected to that of the governors of the same name, and the ruins in Upper and Lower Matsch testify to the power at the time of this famous-infamous noble family. The houses of the slope settlement, located very close to each other, the terraced fields with their high protective walls of up to 15 m. (50 ft.), and the field-names are remnants of the Rhaetian history. In the valley floor, the visitor can hike from farmhouse to farmhouse (Thanai, Glieshöfe, Matscher Alm), and a complete palette of challenging three thousand meter peaks lures the mountain and ski-tour fans to the world of glaciers in the Ötztal Valley around the Weißkugel (such as Litzner, 3,205 m./10,515 ft.; Hochalt, 3,284 m./10,774 ft.; Rappenspitz, 3,187 m./10,456 ft.; Ramudelspitz 3,292 m./10,801 ft.; Saldurspitz 3,433 m./11,263 ft.; Lagaunspitz 3,438 m./11,280 ft.). Especially attractive is the pass from the Oberetteshütte refuge (open from June to October, 2,670 m./8,760 ft.) over the Bildstöckljoch pass (3,092
m./10,144 ft.) into the Schnals Valley.
Sports - Amusements - Free Time
In the winter, the nearby ski area of Watles and the magnificent cross country ski trails at Schlinig offer a variety of recreational vacation options. In addition to these, the Ortler-Ski-Arena can be reached in less than 20 minutes. For those who are interested in hang gliding, Watles offers ideal conditions. On the slightly bent route to Meran, one fo the most beautiful cycle routes in South Tyrol, cyclists will appreciate combined bike and train trips, which are made possible through convenient train connections and bike hire.
The Sports Complex in Mals has available a large indoor swimming pool, an adventure pool, bowling alleys, and tennis courts.
The expansive Oberwaalweg (sunny promenade) is one of the most delightful walking paths in the area. The beautiful park above the village has long provided
an area of relaxation.
With all of this available, the market community of Mals in the Vinschgau offers an eventful and refreshing stay to all visitors, no matter whether they are interested in culture, are nature lovers, or are active travelers.