PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
At the point where Italy meets Switzerland and Austria are the Dolomites. A dramatic, UNESCO-protected chain of peaks and valleys, the region is interspersed with vivid green fields and the most atmospheric towns Italy has to offer.
South Tyrol is the region’s most accessible section. Sitting on the Talfer River beneath some of Tyrol’s biggest peaks, is the capital, Bolzano. The town combines the cultures of Italy and Austria to form somewhere entirely unique. Road signs feature both languages, and the food is a fusion of the two nations’ cuisines.
In nearby Merano, more than half the population speak German, and the Alpine setting couldn’t be further from Tuscany’s rolling hills or Amalfi’s dramatic coastline. But with the famed Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens and sophisticated thermal baths, it’s definitely a highlight of the region. Thanks to the spectacular geology, there’s also a well-established wine industry in the Dolomites, and there are plenty of vineyards and wineries dotted around. The spectacular landscape has helped the region become one of Italy’s prime ski locations, with two main resorts – Dolomiti Superski and Skirama Dolomiti – providing hundreds of ski runs and lifts.
The Dolomites are a unique blend of Alpine splendour and rural Italian charm. Top pick for most is the glorious Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano, where the spectacular landscaped gardens play centre stage. The town’s thermal baths come a close second, boasting dozens of temperature-controlled pools surrounded by peaceful gardens.
The closest airport to the Dolomites is Verona airport, with transfers taking approximately one and a half hours. Direct flights to Verona airport (VRN) are available from Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton and take approximately 2 hours.
Although a year-round destination, and perhaps most well known for skiing, the towns in South Tyrol are an ideal summer destination. Merano and Bolzano are nestled at the foot of the mountains in valleys which means a pleasant climate can be found throughout summer - temperatures can reach 30 degrees in July and August. Both towns are also known for their Christmas markets, usually held from the end of November to the beginning of January.
Foodies are spoilt for choice in South Tyrol. Local cuisine is a mix of Eastern European and Mediterranean cuisine, with a huge German and Italian influence. It's a mix of cuisines that at first may not seem to get those taste buds going, however it does - proven so by the small area's 19 Michelin-star restaurants. Visitors can expect to see menus with ravioli and wild mushroom risotto, followed by the well-loved apple strudel.
What's to drink? The Mediterranean climate lends itself perfectly to winemaking. Native grapes to the area are Vernatsch, Lagrein and Gewurztraminer. There are plenty of wine tours and tasting opportunities in the area.