Italy’s Alto Adige, A region for nature, food and wine Lovers

Italy's Alto Adige Region

The Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige is different from the rest of Italy, it’s a bit of Austria, Germany and Italy combined. Popular with tourists who visit in the summer for hiking and in the winter for skiing, it also attracts foodies and wine lovers for its gastronomic reputation.

The Alto Adige Is Planted With Vineyards As Far As The Eye Can See

Bordering Austria and Switzerland to the north and the Italian regions of Veneto and Lombardy to the south, the Trentino-Alto Adige (Sudtirol) region is split into two distinctly different provinces. The southern province of Trentino is Italian in both language and culture. However, the northern province of Alto Adige, also referred to as Sudtirol or South Tyrol, used to be part of Austria. Only becoming part of Italy in 1919, the people living there identify more with their Austrian heritage including their German language. Also living in the Val Gardena in the Dolomites, are the Ladin people, who have their own language, culture and traditions. Germans, Italians and the Ladins have managed to live harmoniously in this northernmost region of Italy while keeping the different aspects of their cultures through language, traditions, folklore and their way of life that truly makes this area of Italy unique.

Some years back, my husband and I drove from St. Margherita Ligure in the southern part of Italy all the way to the Dolomite Mountains of the Alto Adige/South Tyrol as part of a long road trip across France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The Alto Adige or South Tyrol, as it is often called, is a beautiful and interesting region of Italy that is off the beaten tourist path and yet offers so much to see and do that it should be on your list of new places to visit in Italy.

Ladin Citizens Celebrating At The Gröden in Tracht Festival In The Val Gardena

If you are lucky to be in the Val Gardena on the first Sunday in August, you will get a chance to experience, “Gröden in Tracht“, which means dressed to the nines. It is an important festival day where the local Ladin citizens wear “Cneidl and Bagana“, a black hat with a black cape. The traditional garment isn’t part of their everyday wardrobe and is only worn for special occasions and celebrations. The traditional costumes indicate whether a woman is married or not by wearing specific headdresses and men wear green or red vests to indicate if they are married or single.

It has mild, dry climate and over 300 days of sunshine a year and has a unique landscape that is both Mediterranean and Alpine. In its most northern part, it’s dominated by the wild and rugged Dolomite Mountains. In 2009, the Dolomites were added to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List for their unique geology and rare flora and fauna. Between Bolzano and Bressanone, there is easy access to one of the most beautiful sections of the Dolomites known as the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) and the Val Gardena (Gröden). This section of the Italian Alps offers summer hiking on well established routes with stunning scenery that is within average capabilities as well as good facilities for exhilarating skiing in the winter.

summer hiking in the Dolomites
The Dolomites Offers Summer Hiking With Outstanding Scenery

The region’s valleys are planted with fruit orchards and vineyards as far as the eye can see on the sunny hillsides and mountain slopes. There are hundreds of medieval castles, charming towns with onion domed churches and beautiful scenery everywhere. There are wine estates and cooperatives where you can taste some of Italy’s best white wines. The region has many Michelins starred restaurants as well as simpler restaurants in mountain chalets and inns where you can taste the varied food options where Germanic and Italian cultures merge to create a cuisine that is very special.

Botanical Gardens Of The Trauttmansdorff Castle

The food is not what you might think of as typical Italian food. Yes, you can eat delicious pizza with different toppings that are absolutely scrumptious as well as stuffed pasta and polenta served with cheese, meat, sausages or mushrooms. You can also eat local dishes such as schnitzels, dumplings with sauerkraut and dishes made with ham, cheese and apples alongside more modern dishes in line with todays food trends. In the fall you see apples showing up in main courses and in delicious strudels for dessert. Speck, smoked and dry cured ham from Alto Adige is famous throughout Italy. The region also has some of the best pastures anywhere in Italy. Cows and sheep graze on grasses, herbs and wild flowers and their milk is made into over 200 different types of cheese that will certainly please the cheese connoisseurs. 

On our trip, we chose to stay in a town called Ortisei, the main village in Val Gardena and just a 20 minute drive from the Brenner Autostrada, at the wellness hotel Gardena Grodnerhof. We have stayed at many famous and fine hotels but I have to say that this hotel was exceptional. The 5 star, family run hotel had impeccable service, excellent food, lovely rooms and a nice spa but it was the friendliness of the owners, Hugo and Cinzia Brernardi and their staff that made it so special. Since our last visit, the hotel has been updated and is now more beautiful than ever. The Anna Stuben, the hotel’s gourmet restaurnat, has a new chef since our visit and he continues the excellent tradition of award winning food and a one Michelin star rating.

During our stay at the hotel, my husband and I joined the two sommeliers from the hotel and ten other guests for a wine tasting along the South Tyrolean Wine Road. The wine route winds along the Adige River valley and is one of Italy’s oldest wine roads. There are many wines made for all palates including some of the best Pinot Grigio in the world. Although Alto Adige produces less than 1% of Italy’s wine, it is well regarded as a high quality region.

We traveled down from the Dolomites to the town of Termeno/Tramin, about 12 miles southwest of Bolzano. The small town’s claim to fame is the grape that originated here, Gewurztraminer, or ‘spicy’ Tramin.  During the day, their vineyards get excellent sun exposure and warm winds that come up from Lake Garda just to the south. When the sun sets, the temperature drops as colder air comes down the mountains and cools the grapes. The contrast of temperatures creates balanced wines that are fresh and aromatic.

 the town of Termeno/Tramin
The Town Of Termeno/Tramin, Italy

The sommeliers planned a wonderful day at Cantina Tramin, one of Italy’s most elite wineries, where we met Willi Sturz, chief winemaker at this leading Alto Adige cooperative. He had the honor of being named Italian Winemaker of the Year in 2004.

You can’t help but notice the ultramodern building as soon as you enter the town. The gorgeous geometric green building, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a view out onto mountainous vineyards, was designed to have the color and pattern of grapevines. Cantina Tramin is best known for their Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. One of our favorite wines at the tasting is called Stoan, an extraordinary blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

After touring the winery and our tasting, Willi and the sommeliers drove the hotel’s two vans up into Cantina Tramin’s most prized vineyard where the best of their Gewürztraminer grapes were growing. While Willi was explaining the harvesting process, our two sommeliers, Franz and Egon, unpacked a lunch of speck (smoked ham), parmesan cheese, bread and more wine. Willi Sturz and sommeliers Franz Lageder and Egon Perathoner and the Hotel Gardena provided us with a memorable experience.

On another evening at the hotel, we joined three other guests and Egon Perathoner, for a wine tasting in the cellars of Hotel Gardena. Their cellars hold from 6,000 to 18,000 bottles of wine depending on the season, winter being the high season. When Egon explained to the other guests that he would be translating for us, the other guests said that they understood English and to please use it throughout our tasting. We munch on cheese and bread while tasting both white and red wines from the area and will always remember the kindness shown to us that evening.

****

Without being hikers or skiers, my husband and I filled our days in the Alto Adige region of Italy with amazing new experiences. Alto Adige is indeed a region for nature, food and wine lovers. We don’t speak Italian or German but were made to feel welcomed everywhere we traveled in the region. Once we all can start traveling once more, you might want to put this scenic, friendly and interesting part of Italy on you list of places you might want to visit. I know that my husband and I would be thrilled if we could once more return to this lovely area of Italy.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

72 thoughts on “Italy’s Alto Adige, A region for nature, food and wine Lovers

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post about the Alto Adige region of Italy Darlene, I know you two would enjoy visiting there. Thank you for your compliment.

    1. We have been very fortunate to have traveled to so many wonderful areas of Europe. Once it is safe to travel again, I hope you will have an opportunity to visit the Alto Adige region of Italy.

  1. I’m with Angie — you really have been to a lot of neat places. You help us stay-at-homes satisfy our longing to travel again through your great descriptions and pictures. I wanna go there! But that’s gotta wait alas. 😦

    1. Hi John, We have indeed been lucky in our life to have traveled to so many wonderful places. I appreciate your kind words about my travel posts…thank you so much.

    1. Hi Mad Dog, when we made our plans to visit the vineyard, I had no idea that we would be having a picnic in Cantina Tramin’s most prized vineyard. It is a memory I will never forget.

  2. Thank you Karen for this great article. We Divine Tours have been offering complete winetours & vacations to this wonderful area since 2004, that was the year we brought our group there and it has not changed. It is always Divine. Last year we also offered our Wine & Yoga vacation there during Summer and our clients were amazed. I am glad to re- live those memories again after reading your article. Grazie Danke !! ❤️
    Myriam, Divine Tours

    1. Hi Myriam, it is so very nice to hear from you, I hope all is well with you and your family…I’m thinking that you must be here in Florida instead of Italy with the lockdown. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and it brought back nice memories of your time in Alto Adige. Hopefully we will all be able to start making travel plans in the not to distant future. Stay in touch. 😘

  3. What a nice post Karen. We love the Dolomites and I hope to go there again soon. If we go I will check out all the places you talked about. Thank you!

    1. Hi Gerlinde, aren’t the Dolomites a special part of Italy. I too hope that we will be able to make a return visit. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you.

  4. I didn’t visit that area of Italy when I was there. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit!

    1. Hi Penny, It doesn’t surprise me that you haven’t been in this lovely region. I don’t know why but it doesn’t seem to be visited by Americans very much. If you ever have the opportunity, I know you would enjoy this beautiful part of Italy.

    1. I’m with you Shy, I’m missing being able to travel as well and hopefully we will be able to in the not too distant future. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, we really enjoyed visiting this lovely region of Italy.

  5. What a lovely opportunity to have fun with you on a dour and wet Monday morning here . . . Since I was in Italy most springs for nearly two decades I wish we had had more common sense than we did ! Your photos are wonderfully inviting and the wine glass surely beckons !!! I remember what one could see of the Dolomites from the road twixt Venice which was a yearly ‘love affair’ and Innsbruck . . . both of which my daughters thought were parts of their ‘fairyland’ ! You usually travel in autumn, we did in spring/summer for business . . . am catching up now on what we missed . . .

    1. Yes Eha, we have both traveled to the same parts of Europe but always at different times of the year. We like fall because the weather is usually very nice. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that it brought back memories of your travels with your daughters. Have they gone back to those fairyland regions on their own?

  6. My hubby and I love to hike, we used to ski, but not now. This region looks like we would love it, your photos are wonderful. Thanks so much, Karen. When we can travel again, this needs to be on our list!

  7. So beautiful and brought back such happy memories. My parents were both born in the Veneto region and though I was born and raised in Australia have been back a number of times. It’s a stunning region as is the Dolomites. I also have relatives in Aosta. Thank you for rekindling my love of these mountains in this beautiful country. 💙

    1. I’m happy to know that you not only enjoyed my post about this lovely part of Italy Miriam but that it has brought back memories of your time spent there. Thank you for your nice compliment, it is much appreciated.

  8. Karen, you’ve brightened my morning with your post. We don’t have many places on our travel bucket list, but this area is top of the list. We had planned to make the journey next summer, but have decided to push the journey to 2022 trip. Our plan is to make it into the area via rail from Innsbruck over the Brenner pass. At this point, one can only plan and dream, so your post is a joy.

    1. Hi Ron, It’s nice to know that the Alto Adige region is on your bucket list and that you enjoyed my post…thank you. We always travel by car but traveling by train from Innsbruck to Bolzano or Bressanone, Italy is a great way to go, the scenery is great.

  9. Love this post Karen! Brings back so many memories of our trip to Trentino back in 1992 and again a few years after that. My husband wants to return and take me to the Dolomites when we can start traveling again .

    1. Hi Anna and Liz, I’m glad that my post brought back memories of your trips to the Trentino region and I know you will enjoy visiting the Dolomites when when you can make that trip…hopefully in the not too distant future. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  10. It’s great that you have made travel to Europe a priority and visit some outstanding areas. We actually drove through there many years ago from Austria and stayed at the south end of Lago di Garda. After reading this I wish we could have stayed in the area longer.

    1. Hi Larry, My husband and I love Europe and have been fortunate to have visited so many wonderful places. Lago di Garda is a beautiful part of Italy, I can see why you would have wanted to have stayed longer.

  11. Karen, Alto Adige region is now on our bucket list. October is also a beautiful time to visit as that is harvest season for the grapes and the olives. It’s amazing that you were able to get these gorgeous shots without being a hiker. Those mountains are breath taking. I bet in the new year, you will be traveling again.

    1. Hi Bobbi, If you get a chance to visit the Alto Adige, I know you will definitely enjoy it’s scenic beauty. My husband and I had hopes of travel again next year but the way things are in Europe at the present…who knows?

  12. I bet you can’t wait until it’s safe to travel again. In the meantime it’s wonderful to travel back in time and re-visit some of your beautiful travels. As always, your photos are breathtaking!

  13. Such a beautiful region – we really must get there when we can travel again. The dumplings you show remind me of ones we had in Salzburg, and I imagine there is some similarity. Oh, were they good! Thanks – as always – for sharing!

    1. You are right David, The food from this region of Italy is so very similar to what we’ve had in other parts of Austria. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you.

  14. Fantastic!…So glad that you enjoyed that region of Italy….definitely is an area that I would love to go in our next trip to Italy!…..awesome pictures!!!……..Abrazotes, Marcela

  15. wonderful pictures!….I’m glad that you enjoyed that beautiful region of Italy…..this area is in my bucket list for our next trip to Italy……..Abrazotes, Marcela

  16. The photos are spectacular! You always select the finest hotels and it’s lovely to have personal recommendations. We have been to Italy and Austria but not to this region, but it’s definitely going on our list once this mess is over.

    1. Hi Eva, We were very pleased with the wellness hotel Gardena Grodnerhof and now it has been made even nicer. What we really enjoyed was the person attention shown to us by both the owners and employees, absolutely the best. You two would love this region, it is beautiful. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Lisa, Yes with 300 days of sunshine, the weather really makes you want to stay longer and explore more of the Alto Adige. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, thank you.

    1. Hi Nancy, I’m happy you enjoyed following along on this look back at our visit to this beautiful part of Italy. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  17. My god Karen! Are these all of your photos?!! Wow. You got great weather. Those views. Just stunning. As are the grapes! We’ve been there once but I don’t remember where exactly. The food was wonderful and I enjoyed Riesling and Bruner Veltliner!

    1. Hi Mimi, I’m happy that you have been to this beautiful region and you are right about the food and wine being wonderful. Two meals we had stand out even today as being some of the best we’ve had in our travels.

  18. It looks beautiful! This summer I read A Precautionary Tale, which was a fine read and centered on the Tyrol region. I recommend it if you’re looking for a short, informative but not dry, read.

  19. Karen, I love armchair traveling with you! You always tell me about the things I want to know about a place, and the photos are amazing. This region is one of those that I always say doesn’t look real, it’s so beautiful!

    1. It always makes me happy when my readers let me know how much they enjoy my travel posts Jean. Thank you so much for your kind words, they are much appreciated. 😊

  20. So much beauty and harmonious blend of culture in this region of Italy. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and knowledge, Karen. I’m adding this area to my Italy must see list.

    1. I think you would really enjoy this beautiful region of Italy Thao, I’m glad you are adding the Alto Adige to your bucket list. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. I have to say that we loved this northern part of Italy Amy. The people, the food and wine and most amazing of all, the beautiful scenery. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you.

  21. I actually made bread dumplings like that for the first time from a cookbook last year. They were so homey and delicious tasting. I should make another batch now, and reread your lovely post — so I can feel like I’m actually enjoying them in that picturesque setting.

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