I have never been to the mountains. I’ve seen mountains before, but they hadn’t been intimidating or massive and they didn’t take over the whole sky. Maybe I’m getting old, but I didn’t want to see yet another city, I’ve had enough of cities. I wanted to get out. At the prospect of going to the Italian Alps, me and Nico were very excited.
Alto Adige, the sovereign part of Northern Italy, is a fantastic mix of Italian “Dolce Vita” and German technicalities. The mountains, as I learned, have their own cultural heritage. I finally understood what people were talking about when they mentioned the “Alpine Charm”. It’s a lifestyle that draws you in.
The best way to get to South Tyrol
We flew in to Munich, then made our way South by rental car. It’s not as convenient as going by train, but a nice road-trip. It takes about three hours to get to South Tyrol, in bad traffic maybe 4 to 5. Once the Brenner Pass becomes visible on the horizon you’ll feel the first tingle of humility under your skin; you feel small, tiny even, facing the Alps. It’s a completely new visual experience.
Our first stop: Franzensfeste Fortezza, an old fortress built by the Austrians, which is now used as an event space and general venue. At the time of our visit, the 50x50x50 Art Südtirol exhibition was on display in the many chambers of the fortress. Fifty artists from or living in South Tyrol contributed their works to the exhibition.
Alpine Cuisine in South Tyrol
In Brixen we made our first contact with the beauty of South Tyrols nature and the wonderful regional cuisine. South Tyrol is famous for its wines and a unique mix of rustic yet elegant cuisine. At the so called “Buschenschank” we dined out. Buschenschanks are taverns, small restaurants, usually owned by wine growers, and usually sell limited regional foods. Expect Schüttelbrot, fresh apple juice, intense cheeses and a decadent assortment of sweet desserts. But most importantly: expect them to be cozy and comfy.
We went paragliding! I know, insanity. We also went mountain-biking if you ignore the fact that I pushed my vehicle up more than I rode it, but the paragliding sure wins my heart.
I’d never felt such a rush before. The whole world beneath my feet, and me, screaming, feeling like a complete idiot but having the time of my life. There were pictures of me during the flight, but sometimes it’s better to stick with your own memory rather than that distorted, ugly image of your scared face.
Schatzerhütte auf der Plose
Arriving at the Schatzerhütte – just as the sun set – was probably the most rewarding experience of my life. That mountain bike ride really got the best of us. We were hungry, almost starved, and completely exhausted. It had rained in the meantime and we felt that the air we were breathing didn’t contain enough oxygen to keep us alive. But all that combined made us feel more alive than ever. The view onto the Dolomiten is breath-taking, right literally as we were running low anyway.
The Schatzerhütte is a simple hut for refuge – hosted entirely by a Michelin-star chef. The basic menu of the Schatzerhütte is homegrown and organic. While other places that sell their hospitality as “authentic” tend to be kitchy, or lean into a luxurious “glamping” kind of experience, Schatzerhütte is basic, but with class.
The homemade bread and jams, the freshly brewed coffee – everything is simple, but to the point. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to beam myself back. A thunderstorm and a big full moon opposite our hut accompanied us through the night. The Schatzerhütte taught us a different kind of basic luxury for a very affordable price per night. I highly recommend visiting this place if you ever get close to South Tyrol.
We spent the rest of our stay in Bozen, where we rented out E-Bikes, visited a nearby lake, jumped into the ice cold stream of the wonderful little city and ate some of the best ice cream to be found in Italy.
Nico and I originally had some plans to discover the old industrial architecture of Bozen and ended up just lazying around on the grass, really not even willing to talk to another. The charm of the little towns in the valleys that tend to heat up in the summer, the fresh produce and that ever confusing mix of Austrian-German and Italian culture… I don’t even want to imagine how wonderful it must be in the winter. South Tyrol is famous for its ski regions and range of winter sports areas.
Nico and I were captivated by the movement and the exhaustion that would then be compensated by the view, the cool drinks and the wonderful, wonderful food.