A few weeks ago I spent four days in South Tyrol in the very north of Italy. It is home to the beautiful Dolomites, a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2009, a region rich in naturalistic treasures and cultural diversity, where the Austrian-Italian traditions blend. I was happy to go back after my hiking trip in 2013 to explore new places and revisit old ones. So, here is what I did in four days of adventure in the Northern Dolomites.
How to visit South Tyrol in the Dolomites
South Tyrol it’s only 3.5 hours train ride from the North East and 2.5 hours from Venice. While I sit on the Frecce Train, from Verona to Bolzano, I cannot stop looking out of the window, gawping at the perfectly terraced farm fields covered with fruit trees and vineyards. For one sec I realise I’ve forgotten how beautiful Trentino South Tyrol is.
Bolzano – The getaway to the Dolomites
When I reach Bolzano, I soon feel at home. This charming town is the hub and getaway to all Dolomites tours. As I walk through the lively Walther Square, I marvel at the beautiful cathedral and stroll along the laneways to the Piazza Delle Erbe. With its colourful buildings and the smell of the fresh products, it welcomes me to the heart of South Tyrol.
Bolzano, Italy’s northernmost city is the place where to stay for day-hikes and day trips in the surrounding mountains. Thanks to the excellent bus service, you don’t need a car here. Buses take you anywhere you want. It is one of the most efficient public bus-networks of Italy, and a fantastic one for a mountain region. Also a huge benefit for those who travel solo and don’t want to hire a car when visiting Bolzano and the Dolomites.
Where to stay in Bolzano
There are many different types of accommodation from budget B&B to average and luxury hotels. If you are looking for a classy hotel, centrally located in a fully refurbished palace with all amenities and a gorgeous garden, Hotel Laurin is a top-notch choice. A superb continental breakfast is included in the room rate.
Day 1. Wine-tasting in Tramin
On my first day, I discovered picturesque villages in the southern region of Bolzano. On our way, we first stop at Lake Caldaro, with a relaxing terrace and restaurant overlooking the calm emerald waters. Here vineyards grow between 200 and 1000 meters altitude. Thanks to the sandy, calcareous soil, rich in minerals, wines fully embody those characteristics to make South Tyrol Wines truly special. Gerürztraminer, – white wine – and Lagrein – red wine – are two of the premium wines of South Tyrol, to name a few. Our next stop is at the ancient cellar Elena Walch, a mother-and-daughters-run winery nestled in the hills of Tramin, a.ka. Termeno.
After visiting their remarkable cellar with antique wooden casks featuring legends and characters of the past, the wine tasting is a discovery of new flavours, fragrances, and the distinct mineralisation characteristics. I can highly recommend going on a wine tasting tour when in Bolzano.
Day. 2. E-bike Tour of Alpe di Siusi
I had been to Alpe di Siusi in 2015 on a hiking trip to Mount Sciliar (Schlern), one of my favourite places, so it was a pleasure to come back and explore more. We reach the Alpe di Siusi by a ten-min cable car ride. Here a self-guided e-bike tour awaits me. It is my first e-bike experience, and I’m excited. 🙂
E-bikes are battery-powered mountain bikes with pedal aid. Pretty much like a regular bike but with full control of how much pedal-aid you want. It was good fun and the boost for pedalling uphill a relief! The ride takes us through deep valleys and high pastures covered by yellow flowers and pink mountain roses. While we sweep past groups of hikers, we make our way up to the Sanon Hut. Here is time for lunch: Röstkartoffeln (roasted potatoes) and Frittata Soup and a home-made Marillenstrudel as dessert. That’s my delicious South Tyrolean meal to fill up with energy and complete my bike tour of Alpe di Siusi.
Day 3. A day trip to Mount San Vigilio, Lana
Located North West of Bolzano, Lana is a lovely picturesque village worth visiting. Only 20 minutes drive by car or train ride, it makes to a fabulous day-trip from Bolzano. From Lana, we take a thrilling cable car ride up to the San Vigilio, a.k.a: Vigiljoch, the starting point to 5 circular hiking trails. The view from the cable car is just breathtaking. At San Vigilio Station there is a chairlift to the hilltop. We took the chairlift and then descended through the path downhill.
The embracing peace and silence that reigns there is something impressive. When we get back to the base, we stop at Hotel Vigilius, a gorgeous mountain resort that hosted a music and food event of the South Tyrol Jazz Festival.
Here I have the pleasure to listen to Kadri Voorand, an artist and musician from Estonia. And yes, it’s time for a second wine tasting with some top red wines from the latest Vernatsch Contest in South Tyrol. I don’t manage all six wine tastings though, but I’m good to have three to match the tasty food, local cheeses and one of my favourite dishes the “Spinat-Knödel! (dumplings made with bread and spinach). It’s tough to leave this place on a warm sunny afternoon with a good vibe and nature at its best!
Day 4. Discovering The Passo Delle Erbe in the Val Badia
This place is another hit from my South Tyrol Trip. For the first time, I visited Passo Delle Erbe a.k.a. Würzjoch. Early on Sunday morning, we get to the 2000 meter high pass, ready to enjoy another fun day of Jazz & Food 2018. A deep blue sky and sunny makes it to a perfect start of the circular hiking trail that takes us through stunning green meadows of the Puez Geisler Nature Reserve.
The view of the massive Sass de Putia mountain that stands out with its peaks is just astounding. It is one of the most picturesque spots in the Dolomites of a geological significance. It is one of the very few places in the Dolomites where you can see the stratification in the rock layers of the mountains so that you know how the Dolomites were born out of the sea.
Why visit South Tyrol during the Jazz Festival
I went to Bolzano on purpose at the end of June because of Südtirol Jazz Festival. The festival hosts over 150 musicians from all over the world to perform and entertain people anywhere: from towns and urban spaces on the streets, in the squares, at lakes, rivers, castles and in mountain huts and mountain resorts. The festival starts on the last Friday of June and ends ten days later.
This year’s theme was the Northern European Musicians who gathered in South Tyrol to play together with Euregio Collective, a local association of musicians. With over 50 concerts throughout the region, it is an excellent event for all music lovers. If you can, plan your Dolomites trip when the Jazz Festival is on.
I loved the Jazz & Food experience. This event is an occasion to experience these places more differently and authentically, not only by walking or cycling in the beautiful landscapes but also by learning about its rich cultural and culinary traditions.
South Tyrol in the Dolomites is the perfect place for nature lovers as well as epicurean travellers.
Because I love this region so much, I will be running two hiking tours in the Dolomites in June 2019, during the South Tyrol Jazz Festival.
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