Greetings from a place where it’s currently about 12°C and rain is just waiting behind the next corner. But I’ll stay positive! I know the good times are coming (like they always do) when I can sit on my new balcony, enjoy the sun and everything that goes hand in hand with it. Maybe I’ll even set up a pool in the garden! So I’ll see this short period of lousy weather as a motivation, and since I have experienced such a beautiful time last week this doesn’t prove to be too difficult at all.
Well, South Tyrol. Ever heard of it? If so, you lucky bastard, if not, read carefully:
South Tyrol (or also called Alto Adige) is an autonomous province in the north of Italy, right at the heart of a beautiful mountain landscape. What is so special about this place is that technically it belongs to Italy while it is granted a considerable level of self-government in form of a range of exclusive legislative and executive powers. Because of its right to keep a large part of most levied taxes, while nevertheless remaining a net contributor to the national budget it is among one of the wealthiest regions of Italy.
There is a rather troublesome history to the fact that South Tyrol is now autonomous, and because it belonged to the Austro-Hungarian princely county of Tyrol until 1918 most of the population speaks German (although we’re in Italy!). After a long period of several annexations to Italy and Germany causing among others the banning of the German language during the time of fascism and even terrorist acts against a still strong Italian influence on the region of South Tyrol, autonomy was finally gained in 1992. I’m leaving out a large part here guys, but I didn’t want to bore you with an extended history lesson, although it’s really interesting to know the place you’ve been travelling to for the previous 20 years.
Now to the most important part: The atmosphere! South Tyrol for me is a perfect combination of the Austrian rural way of life (farms, fields, garbs), a stunningly interesting mountain landscape and some strong Italian influences. The air there is fantastic! My mother calls South Tyrol the fruit basket of Europe, and it’s no wonder since apple, plum and cherry trees (I’m sure I’m forgetting some) are ubiquitous, even exceeded by the number of grapevines. And that means, wine! There are several excellent wine cellars and wine press houses in this region, so you can basically try a different one each day. The food is excellent (for me), there are always traditional local (peasant) dishes served alongside classic Italian ones, or a mixture of both!
Where to stay:
I’ve been staying in the beautiful small village of Tramin as long as I can think; it’s a cluster of houses, wine cellars, cute hotels and local shops (real cute and a bit rural). They even have a larger supermarket in the next town and a small one in the city centre, a miniature golf course, some pretty good restaurants and an abundance of places to stay (90% of them with an amazing view into the valley). Tramin is located south of Bolzano and north of Trento and so a perfect starting point for everything there can be done! Since Tramin and all the other small villages nearby are very rural there a bunch of local festivities like wine and family festivals almost every weekend. Just check their calendar!
Apartments to stay (we never stay at a hotel):
- Sonnhof (http://www.sonnhof.it)
- Feldhof (http://www.feldhof-tramin.com)
- Weinberghof (http://www.weinberg-hof.it)
- G’Würzerhof (http://www.gwuerzerkeller.com)
That’s just a short list and of course the hotels are good as well (wellness is also a thing in South Tyrol), so look around a bit and you’ll find something.
What to do:
It’s best to rent a car or a motorbike so you can get everywhere and make day trips.
- Go for a hike almost everywhere (especially the ones starting from Tramin are wonderful and the one to Überetscher Hütte, http://www.rifugioroen.it/html/rifugio_de.html)
- Go swimming in Kalterer See (right next to Tramin, http://www.kalterersee.com/en/), Montiggler See (http://www.eppan.com/de/erlebnisse-aktivitäten/großer-montiggler-see/14-1118.html) or in one of their nearby swimming baths
- Rent a bike and make a tour through the valley (or even up the mountains)
- Make trips to see Bolzano, Merano, Trento (shopping!)
- Make a day trip to Lake Garda and see Malcesine, Peschiera, Sirmione
- Make a day trip to Verona (Romeo and Juliet!) or even Venice
Where to eat:
There is as always the golden rule: Eat where locals eat (or follow personal recommendations)!
- Pizzeria Schießstand, according to an Italy expert probably the best pizza of Italy (http://www.schiessstand.it/de/index.php)
- Gwürzerkeller (http://www.gwuerzerkeller.com)
- Pernhof (http://www.pernhof.com)
- Al Terrazzo in Tignale above the Lake Garda, with the most stunning view you can imagine (Best steaks! https://www.tripadvisor.de/Restaurant_Review-g664155-d3654296-Reviews-Ristorante_Al_Terrazzo-Tignale_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html)
- Ice cream in Sirmione!
Have I forgotten something? This has probably been the longest post I have every written, and I could write so much more about this beautiful part of the world, but I have to stop somewhere. I am sure to be going there again, even when I have children (in a far far away future), so my basic message here is this: GO THERE! Honestly, it’ll be worth it.