Situated right at the end of the Pitztal Valley, St. Leonhard is one of the largest municipalities in Austria and home to the Wildspitze, the highest mountain in North Tirol at 3,768m.
Visitors wishing to go to “St. Leonhard” should remember to add the words “im Pitztal” in order to avoid ending up somewhere unexpected. After all, there are numerous villages throughout the Alps named after this saint from the Early Middle Ages. Leonhard of Limoges was born into a noble family and educated to assume high office, yet he declined the chance to become a bishop and instead withdrew to a hermitage to dedicate his works and prayers to those excluded from and on the edges of society. At this time, people excluded from everyday life struggled day in day out to survive and make ends meet – a situation with which many generations of farmers in the Pitztal Valley can identify.
Unable in this harsh alpine environment to produce enough food to feed their families, farmers were forced to send their children away to work in wealthier regions. This practice continued well into the 19th century until the first alpinists arrived in the Pitztal Valley. These adventurers saw the mountains not as land to be worked but as a blank canvas for realizing their romantic dreams of untouched nature and alpine adventure.
The tourists brought with them work, prosperity and a long-term perspective. Today the village of St. Leonhard at the end of the Pitztal Valley is a growing community which still makes visitors’ dreams come true.