A long weekend in South Tyrol / Northern Italy
South Tyrol is worth the trip during any time of the year. Coming from Munich we can enjoy the luxury to drive down there in a few hours (well, as long as our beloved Autobahn is free and not hundreds of other people had the same spontaneous idea) and enjoy a long weekend surrounded by picturesque mountains, colorful nature and enjoying great food and some of the best wines. I really love going there during autumn (best South Tyrol weather in my opinion) when the trees are changing their colors to red and the farmers are harvesting their grapes - that is the time of the year where you can participate in the famous "Toerggelen" - a kind of wine hopping from wine estate to wine estate and trying out their new wines and indulge in the hearty food of this region.
However this time we chose to come in spring - which is another beautiful season over there and the time of the apple blossom. Usually this happens around April and there are some differences in the blossom time between the north and the south region. But if you can catch them in full bloom, it is a spectacular experience.
South Tyrol's hotels are really nice and they have quite few unique options, we for instance were staying at the village of Dorf Tirol (www.dorftirol.com), which has a beautiful location up on the mountains over Meran. There is a couple of bigger hotels over there, but we chose a small family runned Bed & Breakfast called Villa Maria (www.villamariadorftirol.com). It is located in a beautiful classical Villa and might be in some parts a bit old fashioned as for example the rooms - but together with the care of the charming owner family that is exactly what makes you so relaxed and cosy in this place. And you have great views from the balcony!
In some parts they also did some nice investments for modernity and thus have an outdoor garden and pool plus a small Spa area inside for colder days with a Jacuzzi and Sauna. Breakfast is made with love and has all classic items of an Italian breakfast and you can enjoy the wonderful mountain views outside the window. A charming place to be highly recommended.
As I said you have quite a big choice of B&B's and hotels around there and even some extraordinary ones as for example Hotel Mair am Ort (www.mairamort.com), which is a hotel for dogs and their owners. So everything there is designed to please your four pawed friend - non-dog owners or lovers better stay away from there as it might be a bit too much for you.
Also around in the village you have a wide selection of great restaurants serving South Tyrol's food or international food. We ate twice at the Restaurant Sonne (www.sonne.it) that serves excellent cuisine and has a nice panorama terrace as well as a beer garden in the summer.
The choice of Hiking Routes in South Tyrol is cheer endless and you really need to make your decisions here. A nice alternative for some easy hiking is to follow one of the so called Waalwege - which are following the route of ancient water canals that were used to irrigate the harvest around. On these routes you have amazing views on the mountain panorama around, you cross through wine and apple tree plantations and can spot castles (like the impressive Schloss Tirol / www.schlosstriorl.it) and churches on the way. You can completely do that in your own pace and stop by at the many restaurants en route. Usually the routes are easy with only a view steeper passages, like for example the Ochsensteig passage.
You can find info and suggestions for the routing on www.merano-suedtirol.it
And I was very happy when I found my own street in Dorf Tirol........
In the mountains so high......
If the easy hikes are not enough challenge for you and you look for serious mountain hikes and trekking this region has also a lot to offer for any taste. Information on all the trails you will find on above mentioned websites from Meran and Dorf Tirol. If you belong to the lazier kind like us you appreciate the comfort of a funicular to bring you up without any efforts.......yesssss, I know - let's say we just had not enough time that day to walk :-) One nice funicular is the Hochmuth Bahn (www.seilbahn-hochmuth.it) that brings you up on 1400 m - right beside the mountain station you have two restaurant options or you take a short walk further up for another gastronomical place. The views over the valley and opposite mountain range and glaciers are in any case spectacular. From here you can also depart on various hiking trails.
Meran is a beautiful small city surrounded by a great panorama and with Mediterranean vegetation. In the spring time the city is showing its best side with a flower festival and you can indulge in amazing colors and the smell of fresh blossoms. Have a walk along the Adige river promenade and relax in one of the many cafes and ice cream shops.
Also shopping deserves a serious consideration in Meran as the small pedestrian street with its arcades has some real nice Italian designs and footwear to offer, so not always the common and boring mainstream shops.
If all that created some hunger pass by the Roemerkeller (www.roemerkeller.it) in the pedestrian street for the best Pizza's in town.
In and around Meran you also have various walking trails like the Sissitrail (named after the famous Austrian Empress Elisabeth - who used to spend a lot of time in the region; that walk passes by her favorite places), Gilf Promenade Trail or Tappeinertrail. The trails vary in length, but are all quite easy to follow - in all of them you have great perspectives of the city, beautiful flowers and trees plus some good options for a pit stop and great food like the Saxifraga Stub'n (www.saxifraga.it) at the Tappeinerweg.
The gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle or Trauttmansdorff Castello (www.trauttmansdorff.it) have meanwhile gained worldwide recognition and admiration. Depending on which time of the year you are visiting the gardens always have different flowers in bloom - to see all attractions requires some walking also up on the hill behind the castle. Also the castle itself is a museum and open for visits. However we preferred to spend all our time in the beautiful gardens and landscape. You really can find all kind of flowers and vegetation around here plus some cool viewing platforms and installations. Take also a rest at the tranquil lakeside cafe - well, tranquil I think only applies to week days outside of the holiday season. We have chosen a good time as there were not too many people around, but judging on the huge car park outside it can get crowded over here.
Kaltern am See
Kaltern am See (www.kaltern.com) is another nice small village approximately half an hour drive away from Meran. It is located in the middle of a famous wine region and therefore ideal for a visit during autumn time. In summer you can refresh in the nearby lake.
If you are up for some city vibes, great selection of restaurants or a stroll on a market head over to Bolzano (www.bolzano-bozen.it) that has it all. The newer suburbs around Bolzano might miss on charm, but in the old city center it is a beautiful small town with picturesque houses. The main square and pedestrian streets around can get very lively and similar as in Meran you can find some real nice Italian clothing shops over here. La Dolce Vita.......
So we had a real nice weekend and thanks to the great weather came even back with some tan.
Arrivederci Suedtirol - I will be back for your wines in autumn!