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Rieneck, Germany

August 20, 2022

I have visited some of the largest of places and the smallest of places all over the world. One of the smallest and most delightful of these was Rieneck, Germany. But where is Rieneck?

Rieneck is a small town (somewhat bigger than a village – 2,000 residents) located in the Spessart hills, in the Main-Spessart district of Bavaria, about 80 km east of Frankfurt. Its economy is lumber based and the town is without much tourism, owing to its off the beaten path location in the Sinn Valley.

Rieneck was also home to my great-grandmother, Franziska Trost. My great-grandfather Giorgio Rizzi left his native Cloz, Austria to work in Rieneck as one of the many eisemponieri, building railroad tunnels. This was a common practice for many young Tiroleans as local work was rarely available in his native Val di Non. It was there that he met the mayor’s daughter, Franziska. The mayor was the  owner of a local inn, the Johannes Wirt, where Franziska worked as a waitress. One thing led to another (Don’t they always?). After the young Franziska became pregnant, the couple went off to Giorgio’s hometown in Austria and were married in Cloz. This caused quite an uproar with Franziska’s family and she left her home never to return again. Interestingly, the priest who recorded their marriage wrote in the margins of the parish marriage register that the bride was 8 months pregnant.😲 I have often mused as to how he knew the exact number of months.

The Train Tunnel That My Great-grandfather Helped Build.

When I visited Rieneck, I was able to locate, with the help of a dear cousin, the railroad tunnel that my great-grandfather helped build. It was completed in 1873 with almost all of the labor coming in the form of other eisemponieri from Cloz and other parts of the Val di Non in what was then Austria. A local bed and breakfast owner even located a very important photo for me. It was taken when the work for the railroad tunnel in Rieneck was started. In the center of the photo, my great-grandfather is there holding a sledge hammer near several others from his village of Cloz including his half-brother Fortunato Rauzi.

Giorgio Rizzi (On Rock) With Sledge Hammer circa 1872

In visiting Rieneck, I found far more than some great additions to my genealogy. I found it charming and noticeably lacking in tourist trap shops. I had to actually go to a local garage sale just to find a souvenir featuring the town’s famous castle. What I found on Rieneck’s streets was genuine and unassuming. This is an old fashioned town that has changed little in the last century.

The local white wine is great and most comes in unusually shaped bottles (Bocksbeutel). This is is a type of wine bottle with the form of a flattened ellipsoid. It is commonly used for wines from Franconia in Germany. I loaded several cases of the “good stuff” into my car before returning to Italy.


If you plan to visit, at least a little knowledge of the German language is strongly advised. People here don’t speak any English with very. very few exceptions. Also, the dominate dialect of German spoken here is Frankish (Low Franconian) which will surprise even the seasoned German Hochdeutsch speaker. I had more than a little trouble making myself understood even though I speak fluent German in three dialects. Fortunately the Bürgermeisterin (female mayor) spoke some English and even arranged for the local newspapers from Frankfurt to cover our visit. It seems that we were the only Americans to ever visit the town and stay for any length of time. The fact that my great-grandmother was from Rieneck turned out to be big news.

There is a lot to do here: Hiking, bicycling, dining, sightseeing, etc. The town even has its own castle which is home to a youth hostel. The entire Sinn Valley is full of delights, all of which are found in small, heartwarming settings. However the real joy to be found is the people who live in Rieneck. They are all very hospitable and helpful. Das ist Deutschland von seiner besten Seite! If you find yourself heading toward the Frankfurt vicinity, by all means put Rieneck on your itinerary. Here is a good starting point for exploring Rieneck:

Viel Glück und viel Spaß!

A little PS for those who love genealogy. Giorgio Rizzi died very young (40 years old), the victim of appendicitis. His young widowed wife could not find work in Cloz and moved to Innsbruck where she found a job, a boyfriend and later bore a little girl named Maria. Maria died after only 3 days. The name of the father is unknown. Franziska returned to Cloz and lived unmarried in the Rizzi House until her death in 1921. She was the last Rizzi resident of this house that was continually occupied by my Rizzi family since 1456.

The Rizzi House In Cloz

Franziska Trost Circa 1872

Funeral Notice For Franziska (Francesa Trost Rizzi – 1921

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One Comment
  1. Great family history, Allen.

    Liked by 1 person

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