Note: if you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.
Nature and Outdoors
South Tyrol is quite literally an outdoor lover’s paradise, and the hillsides and valleys of its wine region are no exception. The opportunities for walking, hiking and mountain or road biking are top notch in Spring through Autumn, and in summertime swimming and watersports including windsurfing in the large (and warm!) Kalterer See are also popular.
Outdoor activities are possible year-round, but winter is low season in the valley due to colder temperatures and shorter days. That said, the peace and quiet, relatively mild weather, beautiful mountain views and easy access to mountain ski areas can make Winter a great time to visit. And don’t forget about Christmastime! Advent season brings Christmas markets to almost every village, and although I haven’t yet visited during this time, from photographs it seems the atmosphere is as cozy and quaint as it gets.
I should also mention the stunningly beautiful Gardens of Trautmannsdorff Castle in Merano/Meran. Even if you aren’t an avid gardener, you can’t help but be impressed by the beauty of these hillside gardens and their surroundings.
Whatever your preference for outdoor activities, there is a season for you in the wine valleys of South Tyrol!
Getting There and Getting Around
The South Tyrol wine region does not currently have a commercial airport, but nonetheless is easily accessed by either rail (frequent rail connections are available to Verona, Venice and Milan to the south, and Innsbruck and Munich to the north) or by road, specifically the Brenner Autobahn that runs from Modena in the south to Innsbruck in the north.
There are various ways to get around the region; the most convenient for freedom of mobility is of course an automobile, but buses are readily available in many communities as well, and the regional train network helps with covering greater distances. There are also a number of gondolas taking visitors from the valley up to higher elevations, and there’s a narrow-gauge railway going from Bolzano to the villages of the Renon plateau above. Given the natural beauty and rural atmosphere of the region, bicycling and walking can also be great ways to get around, so by no means is having your own car a must. Just be aware that many towns, castles and other sites are often located on hillsides, so it’s always good to check if there’s a significant uphill climb involved in any excursion before taking off on foot or bicycle.
Where to Stay
This is a very difficult question to answer, as individual preferences of surroundings and activities play a significant role in the choice of location, as does one’s budget and desired amenities.
Those who prefer to base themselves in a slightly more urban environment (though keep in mind this is a relative term, as there are no big cities in this region!) should consider either Bolzano/Bozen or Merano/Meran. Both have lovely and walkable city centers, plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, and good transport connections. A fairly wide selection of medium-sized hotels, as well as smaller inns, guesthouses and holiday apartment rentals are available in both locations. Merano is also known as a spa town, so for those with an interest in wellness activites it would be a great choice.
Travelers seeking a slightly more rural experience, but still desiring the possibility to walk to shopping and restaurants, should consider the villages of Kaltern/Caldaro and Eppan/Appiano. Both are of a reasonable size with good tourist infrastructure, but offer more of a village atmosphere than Bolzano or Merano. These two are just examples, of course; there are many charming towns and villages offering a similar combination.
Finally, for those travelers really looking for peace and quiet, various small inns, farmstays and holiday rentals are scattered throughout the area. Some are located in small villages, others amongst the vineyards and on the hillsides above the valley. Almost anything is available, whether you want to experience a working farm or winery, indulge in the luxury of high-end amenities in a rural hotel atmosphere, or find your own little cottage in the hills or amongst the vines. The possibilities are almost endless!
South Tyrol’s wine valleys offer more than enough options to keep visitors satisfied for a week or more, but those who also wish to venture a bit further afield will be spoiled for choice of possibilities. Beautiful Lake Garda and the cities of Trento and Verona are easy daytrips to the south, and Innsbruck to the north is also easily reached. The surrounding Dolomite mountains also offer many possibilities if you’re craving a real alpine experience, and in both summer and winter this region is a veritable playground of scenery and outdoor adventure.
Feeling tempted yet? I hope so! 😉