I never knew what the buzz was all about. Katja and Kathi have been hooked on South Tyrol for a while and I refused to believe it would be all that different from the “other Italy” that I have been to so many times: Venice, Rome, Garda, Trieste, Milan, you name it.
Turns out, South Tyrol really is different. There is something particularly stunning about Bolzano’s little alleys, colorful houses and the ever-present Alpine backdrop. In one word: the area is full of natural beauty. And because that argument lacks some substance, here is a four-course menu that will hopefully convince even the last skeptic. Take a seat and be my guest…
Course 1: Street Life and Riverside
Bolzano’s street life, riverside and architecture makes for an adorable setting for a mini-break or the kick-off of an active holiday in the mountains. You can easily walk through the entire town by foot, squeeze yourself and five scoops of Italian ice cream through its churches and museums and then dip your feet into the rather freezing river 30 minutes later. The combination of shops (ya know, Italian handbags and heels) and hints of mountains everywhere really is unique – for once, you don’t even have to decide between the two.
You can also easily spend two hours walking/cycling/running next to the river, once you get out of the centre with all its museums and people, it’ll feel peaceful beyond measure! Just make sure not to take photos of the prison. It’s a very shabby-looking, kinda pretty building a stone’s throw from Museion. I had the real smart idea of snapping an inmate who was waving at me (don’t get that every day!) which led an officer to furiously shout and swear at me two seconds later. Never mind, at least I’ve made a new, rather unconventional friend!
Course 2: Culture
Speaking of museums and culture (if you can call prisons that), Bolzano is particularly famous for its Museum of Architecture, mainly because a certain Otzi “lives” there. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the story, but that guy is quite the celebrity in South Tyrol, he appears on chocolate, dish towels, t-shirts…
In 1991, the dead body of man from another time was found in the mountains, his body was almost fully preserved. Scientists then found out that he had been around for much longer… 6,000 years in fact. Today, the entire museum is built to unravel the secret’s of Otzi’s life, health and death. It’s weird, gross and very, very fascinating so do pop by if you get a chance!
The Museion is great for all things modern art, but it’s also the building itself that’s quite the eye candy. Depending on how the sun stands, you can see the whole sky (along with some mountains!) reflect in its glass. But the art inside isn’t all that bad either.
I’ve also seen the world’s most beautiful ceiling and no, I won’t ever change my mind about that. The inside of Cappella San Giovanni looks like a starry night sky and makes me want to turn Catholic just so that I can justify hanging out there all the time… No, not really. But oh the romance!
Course 3: Food and beer
South Tyrol’s bi-annual food festival was the initial reason for my visit to Bolzano, so you’ll forgive me if can’t stop raving about the wine, the beer and lovely local dishes that went with it. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much mindblowing food as in the course of these five days, my tastebuds were terribly disappointed when they had to go back to frozen pizza and cheese on toast at home.
What I’ve loved in particular was the combination of craft beer and alpine cheese. I had no clue the two would go down so well when I tried some of the most exotic and original cheeses with matching beer at the Craft Beer Festival. And although I’m more of a white wine kinda gal, there clearly is something to having a pint or two before lunch… Although I shouldn’t get used to that. As for other foods, local dumplings and Speck (south Tyrolean bacon) are absolutely essential. Somehow the local cuisine manages to squeeze in a slice of bacon into almost any dish (except from the desert maybe).
But with all the food talk, it’s important to remember the setting you’re in after all! Parkhotel Laurin has the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t only make for some pretty #shoefies, you can also sip an Aperol or two whilst surrounded by roses and wild, old houses. I came back twice because I couldn’t get enough. The garden is open to the public, so even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you’re most welcome to take a stroll and be inspired.
Course 4: The mountains
For desert we’ll have what is perhaps my main course: dwelling in my #mountainlove. Although the Alps here aren’t quite as high as in other parts of South Tyrol, it’s well possible to go for day trips in the mountains and enjoy and a stunning view or two.
The hike I chose was up mountain Kohlern. If you use the Bolzano card, you’ve got access to all museums and public transport, plus you can just hop on a cable car from the city center and up you go! That is particularly handy if you haven’t got a full day for the adventure. The cottages up there are absolutely dreamy and the air feels somewhat fresher than down in the valley.
This is the view from Hotel Eberle where we stayed at,
so the breakfast (and pool!) view clearly could have been worse!
After a two-hour and rather steep way up I had found my personal absolute highlight: a “mountain winery” without the actual winery but with three different bottles of wine. If that’s not totally up our street, I don’t know what is! I’m so gonna pack a bottle of wine in my backpack on dat next hiking trip (which will be this weekend, eeeek)! Thank you South Tyrol for inspiring me in all kinds of ways, I shall be back for sure.
All photographs taken by Caroline Schmitt
A massive thank you to the Tourism Board Bolzano
and Hotel Eberle for spoiling my tastebuds!