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Six reasons why South Tyrol will absolutely blow your mind

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Six reasons why South Tyrol will absolutely blow your mind
Photo: Luigi Alesi/Flickr
08:12 CET+01:00
With valleys, lakes and forests nestled among the summits of the Dolomites, South Tyrol is a breathtaking wonderland.

The northern Italian region is an adventure holiday-seekers' paradise: you can hike, bike and ski until your heart’s content.

Alpe di Siusi . Photo: Maurizio/Flickr

But if that all sounds like too much activity, don't worry. You can simply sit outside a mountain hut, while away the time with a glass of (tasty) local wine, and marvel at the pristine landscape.

Photo: The Local Italy

But the northern region is well worth a visit, however you're planning to spend the time there. Here are six reasons it's guaranteed to blow you away.

1) The German-Italian cultural hodge-podge

Photo: The Local Italy

The moment you cross into the region of South Tyrol from another part of Italy, you immediately feel disoriented. Will you be greeted with a 'morgen' or a 'buongiorno'?

The region may have been part of Italy for almost a century, having been ceded by Austria’s North Tyrol at the end of the First World War. But it still feels more Austrian than Italian. German is the main language spoken, and some people aren't comfortable conversing in Italian.

Switch on the TV or radio, and German-language channels dominate, while the newspapers provided in hotels cater mostly for German-speaking guests.

Speck, a type of ham, and schnitzel, are more prevalent on menus than pizza, and the so-called Hugo, a cocktail made up of sparkling wine, elderflower syrup and mint leaves, is the favoured drink at aperitivo time over Aperol Spritz.

The people are, on the whole, friendly and welcoming, but don't expect them to be as exuberant as those in other parts of Italy. South Tyrol is basically a little piece of Austria in Italy. The political history is complex, but this adds to the region’s intrigue.

2) Mountains. Lots of mountains

Photo: Jeff Krause

For those who like to explore the great outdoors, this is paradise. The dramatic peaks of the Dolomites offer some of the best skiing and hiking in Europe. As for snap-happy travellers, get ready for the Instagram likes to come rolling in.

And it's often easy to reach the peaks: from the city of Bolzano, for example, you can take a cable car up to Renon, a plateau made up of 17 villages which offers some of the best hiking trails (and locally-produced wine) in the region. The well-marked trails, as with elsewhere in the region, cater to all levels of fitness so you don’t need to be a hiking pro.

The plateau of Renon. Photo: The Local Italy

3) Take a dip

Whether you want to bathe in the cool, crystal waters of Lake Braies or marvel at the emerald green Lake Carezza, South Tyrol has some of the most stunning lakes in Italy.

Just take a look...

Lake Braies. Photo: Trinchetto/Flickr

Lake Carezza. Photo: Umberto Salvagnini/Flickr


Monteggler See. Photo: Imaginum Faber

4) A famous submerged village

Photo: daninho_ibk

If you're into quirky, bizarre or mysterious sights, what could be better than an underwater village?

The only thing that remains of the once thriving village of Graun, located near the border with Austria and Switzerland, is its bell tower, which stands partially submerged in a lake.

How come? In the mid-19th century, the village was sacrificed to create a new dam so that electricity production could be increased. And so a local power firm joined two small natural lakes to create a larger, artificial one, known today as Lake Resia.

5) Meet Ötzi 

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Bolzano’s South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is home to the Iceman, also known as Ötzi, a 5,300-year-old mummy found frozen in a European glacier in 1991.

The man was killed by an arrow when he was between 40 and 50 years old and hiking across the Otztal Alps between what is now Italy and Austria. The body was found by German tourists Erika and Helmut Simons while out hiking on September 19th 1991. His exhibition occupies three floors of the building.

6) Unique towns to explore

Whether it’s the cities of Bolzano or Vipiteno, or the smallest village in the region, Glorenza, there are plenty of enchanting towns to explore, each with their own traditions, curiosities and sights to discover.

Vipiteno. Photo: Gianluca Papaccio

But once you’re done with all the activity and are looking for somewhere to wind down, the spa town of Merano is the place to be.  

Merano terme. Photo: Paolo Mazzoleni

A version of this article was first published in June 2016.

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