Located in the far north of Italy on the border with Austria, South Tyrol–Alto Adige in Italian– is among the most interesting territories in the Alpine region. A centuries-old meeting point between the Latin and Germanic cultures (it is no coincidence that German is along with Italian the official language of the area), today South Tyrol is a territory that offers visitors a whole range of attractions, not only for scenic mountains and valleys, but also for castles and villages with a fairy-tale atmosphere, enriched by the presence of internationally renowned ski resorts. What’s more, it also surprises with its first-rate cultural offerings.
An ideal starting point is Bolzano, the regional capital. A town with a Central European atmosphere, homey yet sophisticated, with arcaded boulevards that boasts two must-see museums among its attractions. The first is the town’s Archaeological Museum, which houses the world-famous mummy of Otzi the Iceman, who owes its notoriety to its perfect state of preservation after more than 4,000 years, and is a fundamental testimony to understanding the daily life of a man in an era so remote from ours.
The other is the Messner Mountain Museum located inside Castel Firmiano, a medieval castle overlooking Bolzano that is among the most important in South Tyrol. Founded by Italian mountaineer, explorer and author Reinhold Messner, the exhibition route located within it houses hundreds of objects from all over the world, with the aim of thoroughly investigating the age-old relationship between the mountains and the man.
The other important town of South Tyrol, a stone’s throw from the Austrian border, is Merano. Sitting at the foot of three mountains, it has been a renowned spa location for more than two hundred years. Its botanical garden is unique in its floral and tree diversity.
And in the midst of it we have Trauttmandorff Castle, which also had among its guests the Austrian Empress Elizabeth, famous dynamic beauty known as Sissi, whose presence contributed greatly to promoting Merano internationally.
A few kilometers from Merano we find Tyrol Castle, the first ever residence of the Counts of Tyrol, who ruled the area from the Middle Ages onward. Today it is among the most evocative and best-preserved in all of South Tyrol, even housing a cultural museum that helps to enrich its touristic appeal.
Everywhere in this territory nature puts on a dazzling show, with mountains, lakes and forests constituting fairy-tale landscapes. Don’t miss the scenic Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the most famous mountains in the Dolomites considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a favorite of mountaineers and a historic destination for professional cycling.
Another surprising sight is the sunken bell tower of Lake Resia. This might suggest an intriguing mystery, but the truth is simply that in 1950 the government allowed the Montecatini energy company to merge two natural lakes into one vast artificial lake in order to support a hydroelectric plant. Beauty was born out of utility.
Other sights not to miss: the Stanghe waterfalls, which cross the gorge of the same name in a magical landscape; and finally the Pyramids of Terra di Perca, extravagant chimneys enclosed in their tops by rocks.
But South Tyrol is also a land of great wines, boasting as many as twenty different grape varieties despite being a circumscribed area, with most of the vineyards and wineries concentrated in the south zone of the territory. Among the best known varieties we have Gewürztraminer and Lagrein, excellent wines with fruity aromas.
The area is served superbly by the Italian railroad system that makes it easy and convenient to get around.
Discussion about this post