Ciao Italia – Our Last Day In Italy

From the beautiful Mediterranean towns of St. Margherita and Portofino to the Dolomite Mountains of the Alto Adige/South Tyrol, this is our last day in Italy. It has been a wonderful journey through some well known and some not so well known areas in Italy. The days were made perfect by the exceptional weather, beautiful scenery, and great food that we have enjoyed along the way. Today’s journey is all about flowers, wine and a great meal at a Michelin star restaurant.

The drive today was just beautiful, passing many well preserved castles and charming churches with tall bell towers. Vineyards and apple orchards grow right to the outskirts of Merano/Meran which is less than an hour from Ortisei. Merano is called the city of flowers. It is a popular destination because of its wonderful Mediterranean microclimate, over 300 days of sunshine and has been known as a spa resort for centuries. You really don’t expect to see oleander and palm trees this far north in a town that is surrounded by 10,000 foot mountains.

Our destination was the botanical gardens of the Trauttmansdorff Castle.

Botanical Gardens

Our hotel had recommended the castle and the  30 acres of gardens, saying that it is the South Tyrol’s most popular attraction.

Trauttmansdorff Castle

Trauttmansdorff Castle

The castle is now a museum that details Alpine tourism for the last 200 years. Every exhibit has English explanations and tells the story of the risks of early travel through the alps, the age of the Grand Hotels, travel before and after the wars. The top floor is dedicated to the Austrian Empress “Sissi” who used the castle as a holiday resort for several months.

The gardens have received many awards, being named one of Europe’s Top Ten Gardens and The Most Beautiful Botanical Garden in Italy. There are over 700,000 plants growing in a natural amphitheater with a variety of themed gardens.

Mediterranean Gardens With Mountains In The Background

Beautiful Flower Of The Caper Berry

Beautiful Sculptures Throughout the Gardens

From tall cypress, exotic tall cacti and agaves, to Renaissance gardens and an English maze, the gardens are beautiful. The paths keep leading you down to the water garden at the bottom.

Water Gardens Below

We didn’t mind the climb back up because there was just so much to see. We spent about three hours between the gardens and the museum and throughly enjoyed every minute. The only problem we had was the battery on our camera went dead and we have so few photos of the gardens.

After a little time spent relaxing back at the hotel, we joined  three other guests and Egon Perathoner who is one of the sommeliers at the Anna Stuben Restaurant for a wine tasting in the cellars of Hotel Gardena.

Wine Cellar

Their cellars hold from 6,000 to 18,000 bottles of wine depending on the season, winter being the high season. It was an extremely interesting tasting of both white and red wines. We munched on parmesan cheese and bread during the tasting. After more than an hour, we were off to dinner in the Hotel Gardena’s Anna Stuben Restaurant. The restaurant is cozy and charming. It looks like one of the ski huts with its pine paneled walls and ceiling, gingham curtains and majolica stove.

Anna Stuben

Chef Armin Mairhofer has been awarded a Michelin star for his inspired local cuisine. There are a total of 15 restaurants in the Alto Adige that have been awarded Michelin stars, more restaurants than any other region in Italy. Franz Lageder who was the sommelier that accompanied us to Tramin is in charge of the Anna Stuben and is assisted by Egon Perathoner. I have not been to any restaurant where you are served by two sommeliers instead of waiters. That is just part of the incredible service we have had at the Hotel Gardena.

We both enjoyed a multi course meal with a different wine with each course. I’m only including a few of the photos of the meal. The gourmet Tyrolean dishes were prepared with care from local organic products.

Sautéed Scallops with White Truffle

Polenta with Roasted Peppers and Anchovy

Egg, Potato and Caviar

Black Pasta

Dorado with Artichokes and Chanterelles

Our meal was supposed to come with two different desserts but we were stuffed. Franz said not to worry…he knew what we would enjoy. It was the signature dessert of the Anna Stuben. It was called, Cohiba Gold, a play on the famous cigar.

"Cohiba Gold" Dessert

It was a chocolate cigar with Lebanese cedar wood flavored ice cream, with tobacco and rum drizzle. What a way to end our wonderful visit to Italy.

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About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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27 Responses to Ciao Italia – Our Last Day In Italy

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    What a wonderful trip and such a spectacular place in which to end it! Those gardens were so beautiful. Really, Karen, thank you for taking precious vacation time to organize the pictures for inclusion in these blog entries. It has been a very enjoyable, as well as enlightening, series.

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, I want to thank you for your very nice comment. It does my heart good to know that my readers have enjoyed my posts. One thing though…the trip isn’t over. We are on to Austria and Germany for a few more days. I hope you will enjoy the posts as well.

  2. I think I would have cried if my camera battery turned up its toes in a botannical garden…but that caperberry flower is stunning.
    I want to second John’s comment – thanks so much for including us in your trip! Looking forward to the rest – enjoy the sunshine!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much for you lovely comment. I’m so happy that you have enjoyed following the trip. Needless to say, we weren’t happy about the camera battery. I hope you will enjoy the remainder of the trip.

  3. ceciliag says:

    I love that sculpture in those lovely deeply medi gardens.. how wonderful and it looks like you have some super food. i am very much looking forward to austria.. I am way into traveling vicariously with you! c

  4. The gardens look beautiful and the restaurant sounds like a great way to send your last day in Italy. All of the dishes sound amazing the black pasta sounds great!

  5. kbosin says:

    Awesome trip – thanks for sharing, love it all. I still have distant family in the mountains there, in a town called Ziano di Fiemme – and you totally made me put it at the top of my vacation list! Keep posting!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kathy, Thank you for your comment. We really are having a great trip. I hope you get a chance to visit with your family in the mountains. I know you will enjoy the trip…the region is just wonderful.

  6. Beautiful food and wine. Looks so fun.

  7. Ann says:

    Stunning! I’m sad to see this trip end…I suspect not as much as you are, but it was a GREAT blog series! Thank you SO much for sharing it with us!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann, Thank your for your lovely comment. I’m so happy that you have enjoyed our trip so far. It is coming to a close but we still have a little more time…Austria and Germany before we head home. I hope you will enjoy the posts yet to come.

  8. Tandy says:

    safe journey home! I love the plant of the caper berry which I have never seen before :)

  9. Karen,

    Have so enjoyed the posts from your trip to France and Italy. Thanks so much for sharing all your fabulous experiences. Sorry about your camera battery giving out in the gardens, but love the caper berry flower. Exquisite!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Valerie, So happy to hear that you have enjoyed the posts from France and Italy. The caper berry blossoms were lovely. I wish the plant would live in New England but way to cold. Off to Austria next…hope you will enjoy.

  10. I’ve read about the botanical gardens at Trauttmansdorff Castle many times, so thanks for the lovely photos, it looks a glorious place to be.

    • Karen says:

      Hello Claire, The botanical gardens were beautiful. Every plant was labeled and well taken care of. It is a garden not to be missed by anyone in that area.

  11. Hi Karen. Catching up on my reading at last! Can’t believe I have found your blog when you are leaving Italy. What an amazing meal to finish on. The chocolate cigar looks too good to eat though I’m sure you did! Looking forward to the rest of your travels

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. Our meal was wonderful from start to finish. The chocolate cigar wrapped in gold was a true work of art but I have no trouble finishing every bit of it.

  12. niasunset says:

    Another wonderful photographical journey for me! What a beautiful flower this “Caper Berry”… The white and lilac! Fascinated me. I haven’t seen before. And yes, another fascination in this photograph, “Anna Stuben”… is this a stove or fire place on the right with blue tiles…(or what you call it)… This is so beautiful. Should be so delicious the menu. I wished to visit there… Thank you dear Karen, seems that it would be so nice to watch your travelling posts… I loved it. With my love, nia

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nia, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. The caper berry flower was just beautiful and so delicate. The Majolica stove is a heater. We have seen them in Germany and Austria…the one in the Anna Stuben was especially beautiful. I am so happy that you are enjoying the travel posts.

  13. Charles says:

    Ooooh, that dessert… my oh my. That white truffle too. It looks like it was enormous!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charles, Thank you for your comment. We have certainly enjoyed our share of white truffles on this trip and yes that slice was huge. The dessert was a perfect ending to our meal.

  14. cabinet stew says:

    What a stunning meal but those botanical gardens – 30 acres – what an amazing place!!! I have to also “second” chgoJohn’s comment above – thanks for taking the time to take us along in your travels!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol, Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you and my other readers have enjoyed following along on our journey. The gardens were really beautiful. I can see why it is such a popular destination.

  15. Carolyn Chan says:

    Hey we were in Italy at the same time too! How fantastic was the weather?! Gorgeous post, the food looks mouthwateringly great, especially the white truffle scallop….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carolyn, So nice to know that we are traveling in Italy at the same time. Wish are paths could of crossed. The weather in Italy has been fantastic. We are so lucky to have timed the trip with the white truffle season.

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