Speckfest is a rollicking spectacle in the Dolomites where the age-old craft of curing pork is celebrated against a backdrop of sweeping Alpine vistas. The festival offers a feast for the senses inviting you to revel in the traditions, flavors, and stunning scenery of South Tyrol.
Before your eyes, grassy hills jounce jovially from one idyllic scene to the next. They swell like a sea; cresting into rustic farmsteads dotted with carefree cattle, serene stands of evergreens and thatches of larches afire in autumn’s gold.
If you were one prone to suddenly frolic whimsically it would be here. In this Shire-like land of undulating merry. But then your eyes stretch further. They reach the horizon…where all hell breaks loose. Erupting from the earth thunders a mountain like no other. Its spearhead peaks stab the heavens like a knife thrusting a pillow.
Your heart trembles. Palms sweat. What unseen force could will these goliaths of crag and stone into being?
You ponder this lofty thought for a moment. And then just as quickly as it arose, it comes crashing down to the only question that really matters at this time: where is the bacon? Well, speck to be exact. After all, you’re here for South Tyrol’s Speckfest. The Alpine grandeur bounding all around is simply the cherry on top.
⇒ Speckfest 2023 will be at Mt. Kronplatz. Click here to learn more.
Welcome to Speck Festival
Sure, we admit your arrival at Speckfest may not unfold exactly as above, but we bet it will be pretty close…even despite the fact the event is taking place this year at a different mountain marvel, Mt. Kronplatz (Plan de Corones) near Brunico (Bruneck). Speckfest has traditionally been held every year in Val di Funes (also known as Villnöss), but for 2023 the Südtiroler Speck Consortium has decided to spice up the event with new alpine flavor.
Mt. Krontplatz is surrounded by a grandstand of mountains. It flaunts a 360-degree view of the Dolomites on one side and the Alps on the other. These eye-popping vistas promise an experience equal, if not greater, than Val di Funes.
So, while the venue may have changed, the celebration of this smoky, savory delight continues unabated. The festival will still be held the first weekend of October. You can count on a symphony of senses remaining on the menu. As the golden hues of October grace the sky, the slopes of Mt. Krontplatz will come alive, echoing with music, merriment, and mouthfuls of speck. It is more than an event, it’s a celebration of life, South Tyrolean style. Read on to discover why this is one culinary tradition you won’t want to miss.
A Little Bit About Speck
Before we carve into the details of Speckfest and why you should attend, here is a quick 101 on speck if you’re not familiar with this mountain-smoked ham of South Tyrol.
Speck’s roots go as far back as at least the 13th century when Tyrolean royal records first made reference to the ham. Centuries ago, ensuring a lasting food supply required our ancestors to salt and smoke meat.
South Tyroleans’ method of preservation arose from combining traditional Northern European smoking methods with the outdoor curing practices of the Mediterranean. Today, making speck continues following these age-old principles of using “a little salt, a little smoke and lots of fresh mountain air”.
Prior to smoking, farmers add their individual touch to the specialty by rubbing a mix of various Alpine herbs on the pork. After roughly three weeks of smoking, the slab of ham is dried and hung to age for four to five months where it inhales deep breaths of fresh mountain air.
The result of this long process and tender care is ham unlike anything you tasted before. Speck is delicately sweet with pleasing hints of smoke and salt. We find the texture and flavor of speck far superior to prosciutto. And contrary to its southern cousin, it is easier to enjoy as it can be cut with a knife.
Speck is savored on its own as a snack with wine and as a tasty addition to many traditional South Tyrolean dishes such as Speckknödelsuppe. We often have speck shipped to our home and enjoy it as an appetizer.
South Tyrol recognizes speck as a treasure worth protecting. To guarantee the authenticity and quality of speck, farmers must follow strict production regulations to earn the designation “Speck Alto Adige PGI”. This certifies the speck you purchase is the real deal.
A Whole Lot About Speckfest
Speckfest is a two-day celebration that serves as a wonderful excuse to feast on speck, drink local beer and wine and carouse with fun-loving folks while experiencing genuine Alpine traditions. If you are a fan of autumn festivals like Oktoberfest, you will adore every minute at Speckfest.
The festival begins Saturday by honoring South Tyrol’s rural heritage. You can witness demonstrations of the region’s customs, as well as the time-honored practices of its local farmers.
This celebration of Alpine tradition continues throughout the festival. Many of its hosts, workers, and entertainers don colorful dirndls and classic lederhosen. In fact, you will even see several guests adding to the folksy vibe by also sporting traditional Tyrolean garb.
In addition to feasting on various speck specialties such as Bauerngröstl mit Speckstreifen (a fried potato dish with speck) and Bandnudeln mit Wildragout und Speckstreifen (venison stew with pasta and speck), delectable desserts are available like apple strudel and the ever popular Strauben, South Tyrol’s take on a funnel cake.
Of course, you don’t have to eat to have a good time at Speckfest. You can simply take a seat at one of the long Oktoberfest-like tables and order a beer from Forst brewing company or a glass of South Tyrolean wine such as Sylvaner, St. Magdalener, Lagrein or Schiava.
We never attend a festival in South Tyrol without partaking in the spirit-lifting libations of the land. But rest assured, you do not have to sip alcohol to refresh your alpine soul while visiting here. The bottled water of the region is an invigorating communion with the very heart of the mountains.
If you do not bring your appetite or thirst to Speckfest, then by all means simply come for the smells. The aroma of bread baking in woodfire ovens is a grand symphony for your nose.
Walking the festival grounds, you catch a tantalizing whisper of warm, yeasty notes that soon wrap themselves all around you, prying open memories you didn’t even know you had. There’s an unassuming magic to it, the kind that seizes you by the nostrils and transports you back to simpler, sun-soaked mornings of an era gone by.
As fun as it is to welcome the smoky kiss of each loaf, it’s equally enjoyable to watch South Tyrolean bakers bring the golden delights to life (albeit a short life it is). No mortal can resist bread fresh from an oven.
No celebration in South Tyrol is complete without music and dancing. A stage on the festival grounds hosts traditional Schuhplattler dances and revs up the crowd with musical acts that sing everything from folk to top 40 hits.
When we attended, the singer of one band decided to make the audience part of his stage. He leapt from table to table never missing a beat…and more importantly, never knocking over a mug of beer or a glass of wine.
Market stalls also pepper the festival grounds allowing attendees to not only sample and purchase speck, but also browse other regional specialties including crafts, Alpine herbs and clothing made from local sheep.
We snapped up a few mountain berry jams and a couple of small, detailed woodcarvings that were perfect for our home office. In addition, we found two traditional blue aprons that we hoped would help bring a bit of Tyrolean inspiration to our kitchen.
Crowning the Speck Queen
Sunday at Speckfest isn’t just any ordinary day. It’s the moment when the festival’s glittering peak is reached, the coronation of the “Speckkönigin” — the Speck Queen. This newly minted royalty is bestowed with a jewel-studded crown, a sash worn with pride, a basket full of blossoms and, one can only hope, a bottomless cache of speck, Schiava, and Strauben for her reign.
Post-coronation, the Speck Queen is no mere spectator; she becomes a living emblem of the festival, bouncing through the crowd in a two-decade-old ritual, spreading joy and posing for endless snaps with the jubilant festival attendees. When we were there, she was a veritable celebrity — we had to nimbly dodge and weave our way through the throng just to snap a selfie with the reigning queen of Speckfest!
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How to Attend Speckfest in 2023
As we noted above, in 2023 Speckfest is going to be held in a new location for the first time. The festival will take place on the majestic Mt. Kronplatz which towers in the heart of Val Pusteria near the historic town of Brunico. Val Pusteria is home to some of the most astounding sights in the Dolomites including Lake Braies and The Three Peaks. In addition, the festival will not be far from some of South Tyrol’s greatest historic wonders including Burg Taufers and Abbazia di Novacella, one of the oldest operating wineries in the world.
The dates of Speckfest are Saturday, September 30 – Sunday, October 1, 2023. Speck festival details such as event hours, parking, public transportation options, musical performances, etc. will be shared once the program has been finalized by the Südtiroler Speck Consortium.
Mt. Kronplatz is a 1.5-hour drive from Bolzano, about 2 hours from Merano and just over an hour from Brixen. In addition to being a famous ski resort, the mountain is known for its striking Messner Mountain Museum Corones. This is no ordinary museum. It is a futuristic portal to the heavens, etched into the mountainside. The museum is devoted to mountain history and mountaineering and provides an eye-popping view of multiple ranges in the Dolomites.
Book Your Hotel for Speckfest 2023
If you would like to attend Speckfest and want to stay near the festival grounds, we recommend staying in Val Pusteria near Brunico or Mt. Kronplatz (Plan de Corones).