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 talk about “Alpine Charm”. I’d never seen the Alps before.
Traveling to South Tyrol
We flew in to Munich from Berlin, 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 3 hours to get to the region of 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 experience for me, despite living all my life in the south of Germany (not that far south, in my defense).
Our first stop on the way to Brixen was the 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.
South Tyrolean cuisine
South Tyrol is the outlier of the Alps when it comes to food. Inspired both by Italian as well as the hearty, Austrian cultures, most typical meals are both satisfying yet elegant. As we arrived 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 but that’s something I never want to think of again. In the wintertime, you can obviously ski down the many (family-friendly) slopes, but don’t estimate the plentiful activities on offer in the summer. There are so many hiking trails, lakes, restaurants and cabins, sports or spas to choose from, it’s impossible to discover all of it in one lifetime.
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 and completely exhausted. That’s exactly the state in which one should arrive at this beautiful, family-run cabin. (Update 2019: I’ve since returned more than 6 times to Schatzerhütte. It is still one of my favorite retreats in the world).
It had rained in the meantime, thinning the amount of oxygen available at 2000 meters. But all that combined made us feel more alive than ever. The view towards the Dolomiten is absolutely unique and worth the trek or ride, whichever way you mean to come up here.
The Schatzerhütte is a simple hut for refuge – hosted by a Michelin-star chef. The humble menu is homegrown organically and scarce, but absolutely in line with the contemporary “regional and local” philosophy of many chefs around the world. While other places that sell their hospitality as authentic tend to be kitsch, or lean into a luxurious “glamping” experience, Schatzerhütte balances the very fine line of modest elegance.
The homemade bread and jams and the freshly brewed coffee for breakfast simply extend into this mantra. I am wishing myself back to this easy moment of my life, unspoiled by choices, and yet utterly content. A thunderstorm and a big full moon opposite our cabin accompanied us through that magical night. Our stay at Schatzerhütte taught us a different kind of basic luxury for a very affordable price per night. I highly recommend booking this accommodation if you ever visit South Tyrol.
We spent the rest of our stay in Bozen, the capitol of South Tyrol. Although the biggest city in the region, it is absolutely tiny and lovely. We ate ice cream, enjoyed drinks and hopped onto e-bikes to explore the nearby vinyards and hills. To round up our trip, we had a fantastic dinner at the Haselburg, an old fortress above the city.
All in all, I feel lucky to have experienced this roadtrip and will certainly return to this part of the world soon.