A mix of Italian and Austrian culture, South Tyrol is a magical place. It is part of the Trentino-Alto Aldige/Südtirol autonomous region. The Alps, the beautiful towns, the food and wine, just everything about this place was great, even though the first two days it was raining. Since I’m learning German, the fact that we could use and hear it everywhere was great for me. Overall, this place is all about making tourism as easy as possible and therefore you have to try to not find something you like. You can start exploring online here: https://www.suedtirol.info/en. But really, we rolled into town with very little in the way of a concrete plan beyond the place we were staying. We stumbled onto great cuisine, sightseeing and hiking. As our friends say, “Italy does not have bad espresso.”
The main city in the area is Bolzano, and it has a small airport. There are also train stations in many of the villages. Via car, it should take about 5.5 hours from Stuttgart or 6.5 hours from Frankfurt Airport, barring traffic, of which there is PLENTY.
Just wandering Merano is a treat. Flowers, cafes, bridges, the river – it’s all easily accessible from the city center. The Tappeiner Weg is a famous walkway and has great views of the alpine palm trees along the edge. It also leads to the Powder Tower, another good vantage point to survey the valley below. You can see a Roman bridge and the stunning rushing river.
The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle (14 Euros per adult) just a mile outside the city center of Merano, is a must-see. No matter the time of year, this place is stunning. (https://www.trauttmansdorff.it/en/the-gardens/virtual-tour.html)
If it’s raining heavily, you can take refuge in the famous thermal bath resort, Terme Merano. It’s not cheap, but everyone says it’s worth it. (https://www.termemerano.it/en) Because it was only lightly raining or fully sunny when we were there, and we were only there for a couple days, we decided to opt for exploring on foot.
Hiking is the main draw of tourism in this area, and everything is geared towards making the great outdoors as accessible as possible. A wonderful network of clearly marked hiking and biking trails is just the start. There are bus lines and even funicular lines to make anything from a trek on foot to wine tasting on bikes in the various villages a snap.
We wandered upon Pizzeria Gaston and it had a huge selection of pizzas and they were delicious. (Via Portici 242). A good place to stock up on all the local wines we sampled, including my favorite variety, Lagrein, was Meraner Weinhaus. (www.meranerweinhaus.com)
We stayed about a half hour outside of Merano and Bolzano because we had our car. We choose to stay at a family farmhouse in Verano, Untersteinhof. Our simple but clean room had the best features of all, a balcony with a view of the snowy alps and the sound of the creek just below.
One particular hike I recommend if you are in the Verano area is the Knottnkino route. It’s a rather steep half hour up the mountain, but the panoramic views are well worth the effort. There are lounge chairs at the top so you can rest and feast your eyes on the unbelievable view.
Hungry after your hikes? Definitely head to Hotel Oberwirt. All the food is handmade with local ingredients and it’s the best meal we had on the trip. Fresh spelt ravioli filled with savoy cabbage, regional Knoedel dumplings, apple strudel, cherry tiramisu, the local Lagrein red wine and a house-brewed beer – it’s all a delicious example of the mingling of Italian and Austrian food culture in this region. (https://www.hotel-oberwirt.com/)
Overall, we wished we could’ve stayed longer, but we’re glad we got to have at least these few days to explore this lovely region.