The lake that has the colours of the rainbow. It’s Lake Carezza, in the Val d’Ega, a small fraction of Nova Levante in the province of Bolzano. The Catinaccio and Latemar mountains reflect themselves in its crystalline waters, owning it its nickname as the Rainbow Lake and its notoriety as the location of many legends.
Surrounded by the peaks of the Catinaccio and Latemar mountains, lies the small village of Carezza, a hamlet in the municipality of Nova Levante, in the province of Bolzano. Following the road that leads from Nova Levante to Passo Carezza, you’ll reach the famous Carezza Lake, known as Karersee in German. It is a small alpine lake located at 1,534 meters of altitude and set between a dense forest of fir trees.
Surrounded by the slopes of Latemar, the Carezza Lake is famous for its crystalline colours with emerald hues; for this reason, it is also called “Lec de Ergobando” (or “arcoboàn“), translating in “Rainbow Lake”. In 2010, near the lake, a new visitor centre was inaugurated.
The name of the lake derives from the “Caricacee“, a family of plants with broad lobed leaves. The name “Carezza” would be the Italian adaptation of the local dialect term that indicates those plants.
A well-equipped trail can be walked around the lake, but it is not allowed to access its shores. This place is particularly beautiful in the evening and early in the morning when the Latemar mountain group with the green of the forest reflects in the crystal clear waters of the lake.
The most famous legend of Lake Carezza: the story of the nymph Ondina
The characteristics of Lake Carezza were the sources of inspiration for painters and writers enchanted by the beauty of this panorama. Thanks to its fairy-tale nature, the lake has been the scene of numerous South Tyrol legends, among which the most famous is the legend of Ondina, the beautiful nymph who lived in the depths of Lake Carezza and whose sweet voice bewitched all those who crossed the Costalunga Pass.
Legend has it that the Latemar sorcerer had fallen in love with the nymph Ondina and had tried several times to kidnap her. One day he asked for help to the Stria del Masare, a witch who set up a brilliant plan: she suggested to the magician to take the form of a seller of precious stones and jewels and to build a rainbow that went from the Rosengarten to the Latemar. Ondina, who had never witnessed such a show, would surely have approached the shore of the lake to admire it. So the wizard decided to follow the witch’s directions and he created a wonderful rainbow.
The surprised nymph came out of the water and approached the bank, intrigued. The sorcerer ran to the lake, but he forgot the seller disguise. Ondina recognized him and, in the blink of an eye, she disappeared into the lake. From that moment no one saw her again, nor did anyone hear her sweet voice again.
The wizard, madly in love, threw the jewels into the lake and tore the marvellous rainbow to pieces. Then he fled to Mount Latemar, and there was no news of him either.
The colours of the precious stones and the rainbow ended up in the waters of the lake, giving it all the hues of the iris. From green to blue to indigo, the Carezza Lake still reflects the colours of the landscape and the seasonal tones.
A statue dedicated to the nymph Ondina
To remember this legend, a bronze statue of the nymph Ondina has been hidden at about three meters deep in the waters of Lake Carezza: when the waters are low or the lake freezes, it reemerges from the deep to the surprise and amazement of the tourists.
Many divers, in winter, swim under the thick layer of ice of the lake to go and immortalize the statue of the nymph, and to shoot wonderful documentaries that tell the beauty of this place.
The visual phenomenon of the Enrosadira: the mountains that become pink at sunset
Another famous legend of the Dolomites is about King Laurino, a dwarf king who had a splendid rose garden on the Catinaccio. The Catinaccio is a massif in the Dolomites located between the Val d’Ega, the Valle di Tires, and the Val di Fassa. In German, it is called Rosengarten, which literally means “rose garden”.
Legend has it that one day the prince of Latemar, intrigued by roses, came to the reign of King Laurino. Here he saw his daughter Ladina, he fell in love with her and he kidnapped her to get married. King Laurino, enraged, decided to throw a curse on the rose garden. Neither by day nor by night no human eye could have admired it. The King, however, forgot about the sunset, the moment of the day when, even today, the garden and its colours become visible.
The scientific explanation of this legend can be traced back to the visual phenomenon called in Ladino Enrosadira, which literally means “to become pink”. The main characteristic of the mountain group of the Catinaccio is, in fact, the pink colour that it takes on at sunset. This phenomenon is caused by the composition of the rocky walls of the Dolomites, which are formed by the homonym dolomia rock.
What to do in Carezza
Carezza is not only famous for its lake, its legends and its location in the heart of the Dolomites – a UNESCO World Heritage. In winter, in fact, it sports one of the main ski areas of northern Italy, the Carezza Ski, featuring 41 Km of slopes, 1 Snowpark and also 2 parks for children.
Here are also cross-country ski runs, 3 toboggan runs and countless snowshoe and non-snowshoe trails, including the Legends Trail and the Elizabeth Walk, dedicated to “Sissi” Empress of Austria, who spent a rest period in Carezza. On this path, you can also admire a monument dedicated to her.
If you prefer hiking and trekking, Carezza and the whole Val d’Ega offer numerous excursions with different levels of difficulty.
In fact, through various routes, it’s possible to discover the natural beauties of this valley. You can learn about the ancient crafts and traditions of the people who live there and maybe stop in a hut where a shepherd will be ready to offer you a glass of fresh milk, yoghurt with berries or a delicious platter of speck.