It has been two years since my first encounter with Alto Adige, and I’m so glad to be back! This region is not only famous for its amazing wine culture, but also for the beauty of its peaks and the specialized spa towns. In this article, I would like to share some absolute must-do’s with you. Even if you are only spending a few days in Alto Adige, these tips will help you make the most out of your visit for a unique experience!
Alto Adige region
But first, a quick recap for those who are not familiar at all with the region. Alto Adige is situated in the very north of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland. Only 3% of this 7400 km2 is inhabited (510.000 inhabitants); 80% is mountainous (with Mount Ortles as highest peak at 3905m). The Dolomites is the characteristic rock of the Pale Mountains, formed of fossilized algae and coral reefs. In 2009, UNESCO designated the Dolomites as World Natural Heritage Site. The main language in Alto Adige is German (70%) and the region enjoys 300 sunny days per year (!).
The highlights of this region? Magnificent snow-capped mountaintops, woods, wide valleys, streams, lakes, the enchanting play of light between the spires of the Dolomites, typical villages with soaring bell towers, and the myriad shades of unadulterated nature. Oh, did I forget to mention the exquisite wines? Hundreds of miles of ski slopes make this region a cutting-edge tourist destination. Everyone knows the picturesque Lake Garda: it narrows in Trentino, appearing as a fiord between the high mountains.
Hiking in the mountains
The question is, where to start? First, let’s explore the mountains! More than 13,000 km of natural, marked hiking trails lead through South Tyrol. While hiking in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, expect fantastic views of magnificent peaks, rock pinnacles and craggy towers in the Dolomites. There are trails along historic irrigation canals and also diverse themed trails with information about local products, legends, and nature. While hiking in the vineyards and in vast plateaux like the Seiser Alm, treat yourself to a gentle stroll with a stop by cozy Alpine huts, inns, and wineries. Multi-day tours, like the Merano High Mountain Trail or the Dolomite Alpine Ridgeway, which leads through several Italian provinces, are the right choice for those who want to experience nature over a longer period of time.
- Several hikes are worth doing around Merano: you can hike to the Gompm alpine hut in Scena/Schenna, you can explore the Vigiljoch mountain (Monte San Vigilio) near Lana, or hike to Wurzeralm Hafling close to Avelengo.
- We took the cable car Merano 2000 to the Panorama Bistro, where we decided to go for a 1-hour hike up to Kuhleiten. The panoramic (yet steep) route led us to the Alphine Hut at 2361m!
- 2 tickets for the cable car Merano 2000 cost us 37 EUR.
- Make sure you bring good shoes and warm clothes, as temperatures can drop significantly in the mountains.
Skiing on all levels
However, let’s not forget the main reason why Alto Adige’s inhabitants are so happy to live here. There are around 30 ski areas spread throughout South Tyrol, the majority of which belong to either the Dolomiti Superski association, the world’s largest ski circuit, or to the Ortler Skiarena, with their family-friendly ski areas located in the western area of the province. The Dolomiti Superski area, which extends across numerous Italian provinces, allows holidaymakers to ski a cumulative 1,200 km of slopes amidst the spectacular backdrop of the Dolomites, all with a single ski pass.
Sommelier on the slopes
I have good news for all the wine lovers that also love skiing! Every winter, Alto Adige organizes an event called “Sommelier on the Slopes”, where groups led by an expert ski guide and sommelier, combine ski itineraries with wine tastings of some of South Tyrol’s best wines. Furthermore, “A Taste for Skiing” is a related event, with 14 Michelin-starred chefs each creating a dish for one of the mountain huts on the slopes. In 2016, the event’s theme was “South Sweet South”, with participating chefs such as Norbert Niederkofler, Matteo Metullio and Nicola Laera.
- When: 21.12.2017 – 22.03.2018 from 01:30 PM to 04:00 PM
- Price: 28 EUR, excluding skipass
Spa & wellness
Alto Adige is also renowned for its spa and wellness centers. A number of spa towns offer treatments and therapies, of which Merano, Lèvico Terme, Peio, Rabbi and Comano Terme are the most famous. We had the opportunity to visit Merano and its spa complex. Since its opening in 2005, it has been an attractive eye-catcher and it has elegantly integrated itself in the cityscape. The wonderful glass and steel cube, designed by the star-architect Matteo Thun, is the heart of this spa complex on the south bank of the River Passer. The Terme Merano is opened 365 days a year, it included 25 indoor and outdoor pools, multiple saunas, a 52,000 m² spa park, a medical spa, a fitness center and a bistro. Did you know that they even have a free crèche where kids can play while their parents are going for a treatment in the spa? What I particularly love is the spacious and beautiful park surrounding the spa. It is divided into two sections, with one reserved for the exclusive use of visitors to the thermal baths, while the rest is open to the public. Just perfect to catch some fresh air after spending hours in the sauna!
- Opening Hours: every day 9 a.m. – 10 p.m
- Tickets: an adult pays 13/15 EUR for 2 hours (weekdays/weekend)
- Address: Piazza Terme 9 39012 Merano
- Did you know that the same architect Matteo Thun designed the luxury spa hotel Terme Merano? In April 2017, this 4-star hotel opened its Sky Spa: an excellent spa of 3200 m2 offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the alpine landscape above Merano’s rooftops. An absolute must if you prefer a more private spa experience with a unique view!
- Address: Hotel Terme Merano, Piazza Terme 1, 39012 Merano