The romantic ruin of Castel Rafenstein rises high above the city of Bolzano at the entrance of the Val Sarentino valley.
On a rocky hill high above the Talvera Gorge, at the entrance of the Val Sarentino valley close to Bolzano (Bozen), Castel Rafenstein - "Burg Rafenstein" in German - appears in conspicuous position. The complex was constructed in the 13th century by the Bishop of Trento Friedrich von Wangen in order to control the commercial relationship between north and south and in order to keep the sovereignty of Bolzano. As this is also where an important commercial road passed by, this castle in the Mediaeval and still in early modern times was rather significant. At that time, Castel Rafenstein was only composed of a great hall, a low donjon as well as a circular wall.
Only in the 14th century an outer ward, a bastille and a southern wing were added to the complex. In 1357, the castle was owned by Franz von Ravenstein. As his son died very early, the possession was handed over to the Goldegg family, thereon it was bequested to the Weinecker family. From 1500 to 1599, Sigmund Gerstl and Hans Wueff owned the castle, afterwards the Earls of Wolkenstein took it over. The most significant construction phase of Castel Rafenstein took place in the 16th century, when the Mediaeval complex became a late Gothic building. Only in the 19th century, when the Earls of Wolkenstein did no longer inhabit the castle, it began to decay.
After extensive stabilisation and renovation works in the last years, the ruin of Castel Rafenstein is now accessible again to the public. Closeby there's a restaurant, named Castel Rafenstein Restaurant, offering homemade South Tyrolean specialities. And how to reach Castel Rafenstein? It can even be reached by car, but the road is steep and narrow and only recommended to those who are experts. On foot, however, the ruin is reachable from the road to San Genesio.