Autumn is an especially beautiful time of year no matter where you travel in Europe. Whether trekking old-growth forests ablaze with fall colors or reveling in centuries-old harvest festivals, every turn offers you another enchanting way to savor the season.
However, there is one European destination we think you should etch on your fall travel wish list above all others: South Tyrol.
Why? This mountainous jewel enviably sits in a rare corner of the world where Alpine wonders crash into boundless Mediterranean beauty. Such a surprising contrast of landscapes produces arresting scenery in every season. But the vibrant kiss of autumn elevates the medley from stunning to utterly jaw-dropping.
Scroll on to discover why fall is South Tyrol’s most alluring season.
Of Mountains & Awe – The Dolomites in Autumn
Our photo journey begins with one of the most celebrated mountain ranges in the world: the Dolomites. Comprising 18 peaks and 350,000 heavenly acres, the Dolomites’ jagged peaks storm above unspoiled valleys that sweep from one stone giant to the next. Hiking, biking or simply driving leisurely through this UNESCO World Heritage Site in autumn is a must for every mountain lover.
In this series of photos, we highlight the iconic Geisler peaks from Seceda and Val di Funes, as well as showcase Lake Braies (also known as Pragser Wildsee) and the crescent of massifs crowning Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), Europe’s largest Alpine prairie.
A hike in Alpe di Siusi that is especially bewitching in autumn is to the “Witches’ Benches”. Countless legends tell of a coven of witches performing rituals centuries ago amid the fang-toothed peaks of Schlern mountain.
Adventuring through the Dolomites you will encounter wayside shrines as shown in the last photo. These shrines take on an almost angelic pose in the golden rays of autumn. Take a moment to admire them when they welcome you on a trail.
Val di Funes
Lake Braies (Lago di Braies)
Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
⇒ SEE MORE: Take advantage of our detailed guides to hiking these treasures of the Dolomites by visiting our “Hikes in the Dolomites” section.
Harvesters of Stone – South Tyrol’s Castles Under Autumn’s Light
If there is a rival to the magnificence of the Dolomites, it’s South Tyrol’s castles. 800 lord over the region’s valleys and mountainsides. These medieval monoliths whisk you back to a time when stone was the steel of the world.
Seeing South Tyrol’s castles in any season is picturesque, but autumn casts them in even more enchanting light. Their silent salute of the season’s harvest from the stony steeds of a mountainside is an instruction in majesty.
Below we reveal a handful of our favorite South Tyrolean strongholds including Tirol Castle, Brunnenburg Castle, Trostburg Castle, Schenna Castle and the regal Trauttmansdorff Castle, which beams amid vast gardens that have to be seen to be believed.
⇒ SEE MORE: The Can’t-Miss Castles of South Tyrol
Autumn’s Kindled Gold – The Vineyards & Orchards of South Tyrol
Few things set all your senses afire like the autumnal vineyards and orchards of South Tyrol. The bountiful valleys ignite with golden and crimson hues while the peaks radiate brushes of white hinting of winter’s first lashing.
Grapes, apples and other fruits fragrantly animate every breath as you wander through leafy arcades that are no doubt Bacchus’s most cherished halls.
Voyaging along the South Tyrolean Wine Road in autumn is not to be missed. You can breeze along Italy’s oldest wine road by car or bike, as well as embark on hikes to castle ruins perched high above the fruit-riddled foothills.
Fall into Revelry – South Tyrol’s Festivals & Feasts
Autumn in South Tyrol also brings numerous celebrations such as Törggelen, Almabtrieb, Speckfest and the Merano Grape Festival in the third week of October as shown below. This three-day festival showers Merano with decorative parade floats, traditional South Tyrolean music and locals dressed in ancestral attire. The festival dates back to 1886 and gives thanks to the season’s bountiful grape harvest, which in time results in some of the most celebrated wines in the world.
Törggelen is a celebration spanning much of autumn. The event extols the season’s wine harvest with a hearty trek followed by an even more hearty evening filled with South Tyrolean cuisine at a traditional farmhouse or tavern.
Revelers dine on roasted chestnuts, dumplings, speck, smoked sausages while washing it all down with the new wine and grape must called “Nuier”, “Suser” or “Sauser”.
Make Your Autumn Bountiful with Adventure
Like spring, autumn is a season of unrivaled contrasts. It’s only fitting then that a land born from such opposing forces of nature is where those seasons shine the most.
From wild-hearted treks to soul-mending walks to endearing cultural excursions, experiencing an epic autumn in South Tyrol is as certain as the leaves changing colors.
So if you’re ready to begin planning your fall escape, we’re here to help. Our Travel Resource Library makes South Tyrol trip planning practically as easy as plucking a ripe grape.