Easter weekend my husband and I visited with our daughter in San Luis Obispo, CA. As part of our weekend, we spent most of Saturday in beautiful Avila beach. This beachside community is home to Alapay Cellars where we enjoyed tasting some of their great wines.
One of their red wines, Lagrein, caught my eye because I had never heard of these grapes and it tasted great. Our host told us the grapes are from Italy so I did a little sleuthing and discovered they are grown in the Alto Adigo region or otherwise known as South Tirol.
More sleuthing and I discovered this region is home to the Dolomites, a mountain range I have long wanted to visit. So where is South Tirol and why should you visit?
Alto Adigo or South Tirol is located in the northeast corner of Italy right up against Austria and Switzerland. This area is known for its dramatic scenery, medieval cities, apples, wines, olive orchards, castles, the Dolomites, extreme sports and many winter activities and resorts. The area is Germanic speaking and was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of WWI.
There are many great reasons to visit but here are 4 that looked interesting to me!
Food and Wine: Finding good food in this area should not be an issue since there are 15 restaurants in this one tiny region that have at least one Michelin star. You will find a nice variety of food that includes traditional Alpine cuisine along with foods more thought of as Italian, pizza and pasta! Of course, you will also find local apples, olives and chestnuts. As part of your visit, you might wish to take a drive on the South Tyrolean Wine Road. This road winds its way through picturesque villages full of narrow streets and grand houses. Along the way you can discover romantic medieval castles and maybe even take a dip in the warmest lake in the Alpine area, Lago di Caldaro. All while enjoying great wine!
Castles: If you enjoy castles, then you are in the right place! The South Tirol region is home to more than 400 castles and manor houses. You will see these castles high above the valley floor and nestled in amongst the vineyards. Among the castles is Schloss Tirol Castle. This castle is a fine representation of both Romanesque and Medieval architecture.
Dolomites: The Dolomites have been on my list since the first time I ever saw a picture of them probably 10 years ago. I am a mountain girl and these staggeringly beautiful mountains still call me today. What I didn’t know was they were part of a coral reef from eons ago. The Dolomites are part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage and are among the most impressive mountains you will ever see. You might not know about all the WWI history that is in this area. The Via Ferrata are trails left over from the war and allow everyone access to history and the beautiful views. For more WWI history visit the Museum in the Tre Sassi fortress.
Medieval Villages: From the smallest village in the area, Glorenza, to the largest, Bolzano, the region is full of charming medieval villages. The villages still contain burgher houses, arcades, narrow streets and central squares that are all steeped in history! Glorenza’s 900 residents are surrounded by the intact wall dating back 400 years. Bolzano, the regions capital, is home to a gothic cathedral, medieval town square, Schloss Runkelstein and an archeological museum which houses Otzi, the 5,300 year old man found in the area.
Yes there are many reasons to visit South Tirol but it is the Dolomites that are calling me. In case you aren’t convinced yet, here is a video to watch that will make you pack your bags!