Lana, Italy is a beaming bouquet of South Tyrol’s most beloved qualities. Here is your guide to adventure and enchantment in this lustrous hidden gem.
NO MATTER HOW many adventures you embark on in South Tyrol, the land never fails to surprise you. This rings especially true when visiting Lana.
A lively town tucked in the middle of orchards and vineyards between Bolzano and Merano, Lana makes a wonderful base during your trip to South Tyrol, especially in autumn when chestnuts, wine and Törggelen summon a festive spirit.
It teems with historic sights caught in the enthralling tango of Alpine and Mediterranean scenery. Wondrous castles and tiny chapels spellbind amid arcades of grapevines, neat rows of fruit trees and wild stands of mountain pine.
As we show you below, Lana is as bountiful in producing moments of awe as it is in some of the most prized grapes and apples in Europe.
What to See & Do in Lana
All of South Tyrol’s splendor from the majestic peaks of the Dolomites to the cosmopolitan allure of Bolzano and Merano are within easy reach of Lana. But the town itself abounds with so many swoon-worthy views, riveting hiking trails and cultural wonders that it is a must experience all its own.
If you only have a few days to visit, here are the top things to see and do in the “California of the Alps”.
1. Explore Mount Vigiljoch
A trip to South Tyrol is not complete without enjoying the sweeping panoramas from the skyscraping heights of a mountain. And there is perhaps no better mountain to ascend than Vigiljoch (also known as San Vigilio). A 6,200+ foot giant, the mountain careens to the heavens from the foot of Lana.
This forest-clad massif lets you peer deep to the east to spy some of the most iconic peaks of the Dolomites. But the theater of the sky does not end there. To the west, rise the magnificent Ortler Alps where the king of South Tyrol’s peaks, Ortler, commands reverence. Turn your eyes to the north and the Ötztal Alps thunder before you. These peaks were the glacial home to Ötzi the Iceman for 5,300 years.
The San Vigilio Cable Car from Lana whisks you partway up the mountain in a matter of minutes. Built in 1912, it is the second oldest cable car in Europe.
At the end of the ride, you can continue the sweat-free ascent by hopping on a lift chair. It will drop you below a hill crowned by the San Vigilio Church. This small stone chapel rises from the ruins of a prehistoric shrine. Since the Medieval Age, the San Vigilio Church has welcomed patrons.
Taking the chairlift no doubt stuns above the treetops, but it robs you of one of the most serene hikes in South Tyrol. After departing the cable car, we recommend hiking trail no. 1, which leads you through ancient larch forests where the silence greets you like a long lost friend.
From trail no. 1 you will take trail 34A up a boulder-riddled slope that opens into a bright meadow with a mountain stream pouring its heart out. The mineral-rich water of Vigiljoch is revered for its healing properties. In fact, the spa Terme Merano fills its thermal pools with water pumped directly from the mountain.
Trail no. 34A eventually connects with trail no. 34B. We recommend hopping on 34B to ramble your way up to the Bärenbadalm. Here, you can enjoy a hearty South Tyrolean meal while naming each peak of the Dolomites beautifying the horizon.
When ready continue hiking on trail no. 2. Within 20 minutes you will reach San Vigilio Church. A stone path snakes off the trail guiding you to the church entrance.
First mentioned in 1278, locals still refer to the church as the “weather church” as it is said to protect people from thunderstorms. It is not open to guests, but the gated doorway allows you to peek inside and ponder faded frescoes from the 14th century.
After admiring the church, shuffle down the slope to begin your return to the San Vigilio Cable Car. Follow trail no. 4 to the chairlift station and then veer off to trail no. 8. A short walk leads to an outlook platform jutting out above the tips of pines. Here, you will survey a grand checkerboard of vineyards and orchards, far-off villages and an even clearer picture of the Dolomites.
Trek back to trail no. 4 and follow it down the mountain to trail no. 34. Once on trail no. 34, it is only another 20 minutes to the cable car station. Before floating back to Lana, consider relaxing with a refreshment on the sun terrace of the Vigilius Mountain Resort — a 5-star resort that seemingly disappears into the mountainside.
2. Trek the Marlinger Waalweg
If you have never hiked along a Waalweg in South Tyrol, the Marlinger Waalweg (also known as Marlengo) is a picturesque introduction to the magic these trails offer hikers. Waalwegs are ancient waterways that run throughout the countryside of Merano and Val Venosta.
As early as the 12th century, farmers carved them into the mountainsides to channel snowmelt from the summits. Capturing the pure elixir flowing from the peaks was the surest way to satisfy the thirst of the area’s orchards and vineyards. Paths followed the canals allowing farmers to keep them free of debris.
The Marlinger Waalweg was built nearly 300 years ago and stretches 7+ miles high above the Etschtal valley (Val d’Adige) from Lana to the small hamlet of Töll. Hiking it takes 4-5 hours gently weaving you through a wealth of natural beauty.
A handful of mountainside restaurants such as the Gasthaus Leitenschenke sit right on the trail pairing sumptuous dishes with even more sumptuous views. If you dine at Gasthaus Leitenschenke in autumn, be sure to order the South Tyrolean Chestnut Hearts dessert. It is a delectable dream of chocolate, chestnuts and cream not to miss.
As you walk along the trail, the calming melody of babbling water remains your companion. You’ll pass through orchards dappled with apples, plums and other fruits and dart underneath arches of vines basking their bulbous jewels in the sun.
The sweet aromas enveloping the trail are enough alone to impart a smile on even the most haggard hiker.
Eventually, the path bends through deciduous forests and groves of old chestnut trees. These elders of the waalweg welcome you with ample amounts of shade and a bit of mischief as you may have to dodge the occasional falling chestnut.
3. Storm the Lebenberg Castle
The most striking historic sight you will encounter on the Marlinger Waalweg is the Lebenberg Castle (also known as Castel Monteleone). It salutes you from high above a steep avalanche of vineyards tumbling to the valley floor.
The Lords of Marling adorned the mountainside with Lebenberg Castle in the 13th century. While it is a sight worthy of lengthy admiration from a distance, the real pleasure comes from walking among its illustrious walls.
Inside, the sprawling fortress reveals the romantic and brutal realities of medieval life. The tour begins in a courtyard bedecked with grapevines and proceeds to the castle’s Gothic chapel of St. Stephan. Adjoined to Lebenberg in the 14th century, the chapel is awash in religious artwork of the time.
After visiting the chapel, the tour continues to another courtyard and to a room holding a collection of arms and torture contraptions. Studying the room one can’t help but wonder what history remains hidden behind each blade and musket.
Before concluding the tour, it also brings you to a Hall of Mirrors, Hall of Knights and another courtyard showcasing French Rococo gardens ornamented with a 200-year old mulberry tree. The vast view of the Etschtal valley through the battlements lining the courtyard paints a vivid picture of why the Lords of Marling chose this mountainside perch.
Reaching Lebenberg castle from the Marlinger Waalweg is a bit of a climb. However, you can also drive to the castle if you wish. Tours are available daily for 8€.
4. Experience the Brandis Waterfall
From the remote crags of the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies to the forested wilds of North America, we have encountered many roaring waterfalls during our hiking adventures, but the tireless plunge of the Brandis waterfall above Lana is among the most eye-catching.
Crashing over cliffs on the edge of the Brandis Waalweg like a pot of gold spilling at the end of a rainbow, the Brandis waterfall is not the grandest we have ever seen. However, its accessible setting gives you something most waterfalls do not: the opportunity to intimately experience its breathless rush. If careful, you can hike nearly beneath the thundering downpour and let its misty splash tickle your face.
Reaching the waterfall involves a 2+ mile hike along the Brandis Waalweg. Forged by the Lord of Brandis in the 1800s, the water of this waalweg runs beneath the trail instead of by its side.
The Brandis Waalweg leads you on a pleasant, flat ground walk through vineyards and orchards bearing everything from apples to kiwi. As it is set into the mountainside, the trail boasts sweeping views of Lana including historical gems such as the St. Margherita Chapel, the crumbling ruins of Brandis Castle and the Parish Church of Maria Himmelfarht, celebrated for its winged altar carved out of chestnut in the early 1500s.
About halfway through the hike, an old chestnut forest receives you with shade and alarm. Branches gnarled with age lurch over the trail as if they could snatch you at any moment.
Beyond the forest lies a few farmsteads where you may have to negotiate the trail with a loose chicken or three while trying to ignore the laughter of llamas below. Eventually, you will pass intriguing works of art dotting the trail before entering the Brandis Gaul. From here, you will trot over a wooden bridge following the Brandis stream all the way to the waterfall.
On the return hike, the Waalrast restaurant offers a chance to drink and eat under the guard of the Brandis Castle before venturing back to the trail’s starting point. Round trip the hike takes roughly 2 hours.
5. Summit the Hill of St. Hippolyt Church
Like the ancient stone chapel on Mount Vigiljoch, the Church of St. Hippolyt near Lana is not among the most arresting churches one could adore, but the scenery from its rocky hilltop transcends any cathedral.
Once atop, your eyes will sweep over 20 villages and 40 some odd castles strewn across the lush valley.
This small Romanesque church from the 1200s honors a relatively unknown patron whose past is largely born of legend. Fitting in a way, as the hill the Church of St. Hippolyt sits upon has religious roots dating back 4,000 years. Since ancient times, it was thought to be a source of mystical energy.
Trails around Lana lead to St. Hippolyt, but the quickest way to reach the church is to start from a parking lot located at the foot of its hill. From here, it is a 10-15 minute hike through woodland to the summit. The hike is relatively easy with only a few steep stretches.
6. Contemplate the Gardens & Wine of Kränzelhof Winery
When a town is crowned the largest fruit-growing community in South Tyrol, it is not difficult to happen upon a thriving garden. However, you will not find any more captivating than the seven gardens of the Kränzelhof Estate.
Beyond producing wines of exceptional esteem, this 800-year-old winery also seduces your mind, body and soul with seven gardens embellishing nearly 5 acres at the foot of Mount Vigiljoch. Sculptures and works of art spanning classical to contemporary decorate the immaculately manicured gardens encouraging you to pause and ponder their meaning.
Not all of the sculptures are in obvious places and poses. This imparts a whimsical spirit to the gardens as some will pleasantly surprise you from their hidden nooks.
In the heart of the grounds, tempts an immense labyrinth made from an entanglement of evergreen hedges and grapevines. As we visited the estate near sunset, we gave up puzzling our way through the verdurous maze shortly after entering. We were certain continuing meant some other lost soul would one day stumble over our bones deep within.
After strolling the gardens, we recommend continuing your contemplative journey by tasting the wines of Kränzelhof in the splendid timber house located at the entrance to the gardens. Even if you do not want to sip wine, be sure to walk through the structure. It is beautifully crafted from larch trees found nearby.
The Kränzelhof Estate and its gardens are open Tuesday-Saturday. You are free to walk the gardens on your own, but guided tours of the entire estate are also available for those interested in consuming the winery’s remarkable history in addition to its wines.
We suggest planning on at least two hours to fully enjoy the Kränzelhof experience. The cost to tour the winery’s gardens and sample its wines is 21€. If you wish to only discover the gardens, the cost is 8€.
Where to Stay in Lana
Hotels and resorts teem around Lana, but our recommendation is to delight in this timeless town like a local. Experiencing Lana in such a way gives you a greater appreciation for its authentic charms, soulful spirit and historical beauty.
The studio apartments of Landhaus am Gries are ideally located in the old world heart of Lana along the Falschauer river. Gorgeously decorated and furnished with exquisite craftsmanship throughout, the apartments possess a simple-yet-stylish Alpine interior aesthetic with warm wood tones that make you feel at home. Ours was cozy and spotless, with a dramatic view of autumn afire beneath the mountain crests.
The apartments’ location below the gaze of the 13th-century Braunsberg Castle places you within walking distance of all of Lana’s spectacular sights, restaurants and shops. In addition, a small grocery store, wine bar, butcher shop and specialty gourmet store sit nearby allowing you to easily pick up any items you may want in your apartment.
Owned and operated by the Donà family of South Tyrol, the heart-warming hospitality we received during our stay went above and beyond in every manner. Franziska Donà ensures your time in Lana is filled with the idyllic mix of adventure and relaxation.
She will pinpoint how to reach the destinations mentioned above as well as share insights on special events like Lana’s weekly and seasonal markets. In addition, you will receive a MeranCard that provides special discounts to guests of Lana at certain venues such as the San Vigilio Cable Car station.
Each of the twelve apartments includes a modern kitchenette, spacious bathroom and a balcony where you can relax with a complimentary bottle from the family’s own boutique winery — Weingut Donà. This lovely winery in Eppan along the South Tyrolean Wine Road is a must-see if your South Tyrol travel wish list includes a genuine peek into the region’s wine culture.
When wishing to soak in the sun or get lost in a good book, a Mediterranean-inspired terrace facing the Falschauer river and Texel Mountain Group welcomes you with lounge chairs, olive trees and palms. Its lofty position above a leafy riverside promenade is a soul-mending way to spend a morning or afternoon.
In fact, Landhaus am Gries’ riverside setting may just induce your best night’s sleep while in South Tyrol. We relished dozing off to the lullaby of rippling water rushing by our apartment each night with the skylight giving us a window to the stars above South Tyrol.
The moment you walk into Landhaus am Gries the revivifying aroma of fresh-cut stone pine (called Zirbenholz) embraces you. This sought-after pine of the Alps beautifies the building instilling tranquility that endures during your stay. For centuries, the Alpine regions of Europe have harnessed the wellness aspects of stone pine in their homes. Its pleasant fragrance remains in the wood for decades.
The apartment building itself holds a storied past. A farm stable long ago, its rural roots are ennobled by its age-old stone foundation and a historic sculpture gracing a wall near the entrance. A depiction of the patron saint of butchers, the sculpture at one time belonged to a butcher in the family. It once brought good fortune to the butcher shop, but now imparts blessings on all who pause to admire the saint. Dogs included.
If you’re lucky enough to bring your furry friend to South Tyrol, Landhaus am Gries is dog-friendly. A newly opened art promenade running along the river gives your dog plenty to explore just a few steps outside your apartment. Within minutes you can also walk to the imposing Gaul Canyon (“Gaulschlucht”) — a spectacle of steep stone walls, curious rock formations and rainforest-like flora.
If you have a car while in South Tyrol, parking is free and located immediately next to the apartment building.
Where to Eat in Lana
Lana and its surrounding villages offer an abundance of one-of-a-kind dining options, from down-to-earth to opulent. Here are a few of our favorite places to eat during your visit.
Pfefferlechner Tavern & Brewery
Pfefferlechner Tavern & Brewery is an establishment unlike any we have ever been. Not only can you indulge in tasty craft brews, but you also can dine in their beer garden or traditional Buschenschank where windows offer a peek into farm animals frolicking within Pfefferlechner’s stables.
Restaurant Stadele is a romantic gem not to be missed while in Lana. The quaint atmosphere of this candlelit restaurant and its fabulous South Tyrolean dishes and fusion cuisine will make for one of your memorable dining experiences in South Tyrol.
From our first sip to our last bite, the warm hospitality, presentation and flavor were superb. Even better, the menu is affordably priced. For the same experience in the U.S., it would cost us twice as much.
Sometimes after an adventured-filled day on the trails, you just want to unwind with a glass of wine…and pizza. Zur Sonne is the perfect place for such an evening.
This tiny family restaurant located on a shop-filled street of Lana makes some of the best Italian pies in the Alps. Be sure to save room for a homemade dessert or two.
If you cannot decide on South Tyrolean or Italian fare, choose 1477 Reichhalter to savor both. Possessing a simple yet stylish farmhouse feel in a quiet corner of Lana, 1477 Reichhalter is renowned for its high-quality dishes and friendly service.
Dining at 1477 Reichhalter is an intimate experience — almost as if you are eating at the home of your best friend. After our meal, we considered reordering our dishes just to enjoy the delightful flavors all over again. 1477 Reichhalter is definitely a restaurant you will want to return to whenever in South Tyrol.
Like trekking a mountain trail, satisfying your sweet tooth at a bakery while in South Tyrol is a must. Mein Beck is a bustling neighboorhood bakery and cafe sure to brighten your morning with a wide assortment of heavenly pastries, breads, cakes and other celebrated specialties of South Tyrol.
We enjoyed a huge breakfast spread here while in Lana. If you plan to visit Mein Beck, keep your morning schedule light. The bakery is popular with locals and can be quite busy.
When to Visit Lana
Honestly, a trip to Lana is ideal at any time of year. The abundance of outdoor adventure and sights awaiting you means every season will be astounding.
Snow lovers will revel in winter hikes on Mount Vigiljoch and world-class skiing on the surrounding peaks. Not to mention in the Dolomites, which are just 45 minutes away. If you visit during the holiday season, you can also stroll Lana’s boutique Christmas market. It is as enchanting as they come. You will definitely find a local craft or specialty that captures your heart.
During our visit last December, we discovered the restorative powers of South Tyrolean mountain pine oil from Alpine wellness experts: Eschgfellers Alpenecke. This aromatic treasure brings a calming touch of the Alps to our home almost every day.
Our most recent trip to Lana was this past autumn. If you time your visit between September and October, you will be rewarded with some of the most colorful scenery in South Tyrol. Furthermore, autumn in Lana allows you to partake in a variety of harvest celebrations such as Törggelen and Keschtnriggl (Chestnut Festival) as well as the Merano Grape Festival.