With valleys, lakes and forests nestled among the summits of the Dolomites, South Tyrol is a breathtaking wonderland.
The northern Italian region is an adventure holiday-seekers paradise: you can hike, bike and ski until your heart’s content.
Or you can simply sit outside a mountain hut, with a glass of local wine, and marvel at the pristine landscape.
But there are plenty of other reasons why South Tyrol will blow you away.
Here are just a few.
1) – Well firstly, it will confuse your mind – will it be “morgen” or “buongiorno”?
The moment you cross into the region of South Tyrol from another part of Italy, you immediately feel disoriented.
The region may have been part of Italy for almost 100 years, having been ceded by Austria’s North Tyrol at the end of the First World War. But it still feels more Austrian than Italian. German is the main language spoken, and people seem a little awkward conversing in Italian.
Switch on the TV or radio, and German-language channels dominate, while the newspapers provided in hotels cater mostly for German-speaking guests.
Speck, a type of ham, and schnitzel, are more prevalent on menus than pizza, and the so-called Hugo, a cocktail made up of sparkling wine, elderflower syrup and mint leaves, is the favoured drink at aperitivo time over Aperol Spritz.
While the people are, on the whole, friendly and welcoming, they’re not as exuberant as those in other parts of Italy. South Tyrol is basically a little piece of Austria in Italy. The political history is complex, but this adds to the region’s intrigue.
For those who like to explore the great outdoors, it is paradise. The dramatic peaks of the Dolomites offer some of the best skiing and hiking in Europe.
And you don’t always need a car to reach them either: from the city of Bolzano, for example, you can take a cable car up to Renon, a plateau made up of 17 villages which offers some of the best hiking trails (and locally-produced wine) in the region. The well-marked trails, as with elsewhere in the region, cater to all levels of fitness so you don’t need to be a hiking pro.
South Tyrol is also home to Alpe di Siusi, the largest high altitude Alpine meadow in Europe, and a popular spot for both skiing and hiking.
Whether you want to bathe in the cool, crystal waters of Lake Braies or marvel at the emerald green Lake Carezza, South Tyrol has some of the most stunning lakes in Italy.
4) It’s home to one of the world’s most famous drowned villages
The only thing that remains of the once thriving village of Graun, located near the border with Austria and Switzerland, is its bell tower, which stands partially submerged in a lake.
How come? In the mid-19th century, the village was sacrificed to create a new dam so that electricity production could be increased. And so a local power firm joined two small natural lakes to create a larger, artificial one, known today as Lake Resia.
5) It’s also home to a 5,300-year-old ‘Iceman’
Bolzano’s South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is home to the Iceman, also known as Ötzi, a 5,300-year-old mummy found frozen in a European glacier in 1991.
The man was killed by an arrow when he was between 40 and 50 years old and hiking across the Otztal Alps between modern-day Italy and Austria. The body was found by German tourists Erika and Helmut Simons while out hiking on September 19th 1991. His exhibition occupies three floors of the building.
6) Fascinating towns
Whether it’s the cities of Bolzano or Vipiteno, or the smallest village in the region, Glorenza, there are plenty of enchanting towns to explore, each coming with their own unique history.
But once you’re done with all the activity and are looking for somewhere to wind down, then the spa town of Merano is the place to be.