Wine lovers, foodies and beer buffs will uncover plenty to savor among South Tyrol’s majestic peaks and deep valleys. With more castles than any other part of Europe, South Tyrol undoubtedly draws from centuries of serving royalty to wow you at the plate and glass. In fact, the region is the culinary star of Italy — boasting more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else.
South Tyrol entices your tastes buds with a tantalizing fusion of Italian, Tyrolean and German flavors. Many establishments offer options to suit your cravings of the moment. However, you’ll also encounter a fair number specializing in traditional fare.
Where Farm to Table is a Way of Life Not a Movement
Thanks to the fusion of cultures and climates, South Tyrol launches your palate on a journey through a myriad of influences. You can dine on authentic Italian pasta dishes, zesty pizza and and sweet desserts such as gelato and tiramisu that will no doubt impress.
But a trip to South Tyrol would not be complete without also devouring hearty Alpine culinary delights like smoked speck and South Tyrolean dumplings, called canederli or knödel. Combined they make a savory dish known as speckknödel, which promises to satisfy any hunger after a lengthy hike.
Speck is one of South Tyrol’s most revered foods and is integral to countless Alpine recipes not to mention a favorite companion to pizza. So what the heck is speck? Speck is a smoked, cured ham that is born from blending traditional Northern European smoking methods with the outdoor curing practices of the Mediterranean.
Of course no vacation abroad is complete until you have treated yourself to a popular local dessert. A tasty one you’ll want try on your visit is called Buchteln. It’s a traditional South Tyrolean dessert that is a marmalade-filled pastries served in vanilla cream.
A decidedly rural region, South Tyrol cuisine is strongly rooted in a farm-to-table mindset that is much more a way of life than a movement. The people of this region cherish the land. Many farms engage in sustainable practices and follow strict organic guidelines.
Several mountain farms offer accommodations allowing you to get a real sense for how South Tyroleans work in harmony with nature. These farm-stays can be full of leisure or farming adventure. You decide.
Numerous farmers’ markets take place throughout South Tyrol offering the ideal introduction to local delights direct from the farm. Taking the time to browse these markets is a must. You’ll discover a variety of homemade breads and rolls, fragrant herbs, decadent pastries, honeys, jams and more.
Pleasing your appetite is not the only reason to visit South Tyrol’s farmers markets. They are also a great way to see first hand the craftsmanship of the area with unique items such as hand-woven baskets, wood carvings, traditional attire, religious artifacts and holiday decor.
Get Lost on the Südtiroler Weinstrasse – South Tyrolean Wine Road
South Tyrol, known by many as the “land of wines”, could also be known for turning the practice of making wine into a celebrated art. Over the last 3,000 years South Tyrol’s wine artisans refined and perfected techniques to grow and tend to vines on steep terraced slopes. The result? World-class vineyards that cascade along sun-kissed hills and mountainsides producing fine wine and scenery that is nothing short of a living and breathing masterpiece.
The best way to immerse yourself in the region’s wine heritage is to meander down the South Tyrolean Wine Road. It starts in the village of Nals/Nalles and weaves through Überetsch/Upper-Adige and Unterland/Lower-Adige to its final destination of Salurn/Salorno.
The road links together 16 wine villages and four wine hiking trails with over 100 wine growers. You can give your taste buds a brief recess by learning about the history of winemaking at the South Tyrolean Wine Museum in the village of Kaltern/Caldaro.
Sixty percent of the wine grown in South Tyrol is with white grape varieties. Three prominent grapes originate from the area:
- Gewürztraminer, originally from Tramin/Termeno, produces a dry white wine with a fruity bouquet, aromatic and full-bodied
- “Kalterersee” comes from the Vernatsch grape. This mild wine has low acid content and is a vibrant red with a dry, fruity finish
- Lagrein is a deep pomegranate-red with a dry, strong, full-bodied taste
If you don’t make it a point to venture along the South Tyrolean Wine Road, you’ll still discover remarkable wine tasting experiences no matter where you go. The region is divided into 7 wine growing zones. More than enough to fully indulge your senses.
A Craft Brewing Tradition 1,000 Years in the Making
If wine isn’t your go-to beverage when you’re dining or unwinding, do not fret. South Tyrol has a craft brewing tradition that goes back more than 1,000 years. Alpine water fresh from mountain springs serves as the foundation for producing beers with distinct character and flavor, making them an ideal companion to any meal or thirst-induced adventure.
Beer lovers can enjoy a variety of beers spanning from light to dark along with unique herb and spice beers that harken back to the flavors of medieval times. Several cozy taverns and lively biergartens populate the region offering travelers a great place to relax with a cold one or four.
Dining Under Vines, Peaks, Castles and Steeples
While you’ll certainly love the beer and wine in South Tyrol, the outdoor dining at the restaurants, cafes and huts sitting along hiking paths also give you a chance to sample the wild side with locally made fruit juices and Schnapps. A fine way to take out the chill after a cool trek. But be warned. Sipping the local flavors under drapes of grape vines while inhaling Alpine and Mediterranean views from every angle is enough to make you forget your appetite.