South Tyrol: Day 2

There’s an energising effect about fresh mountain air that awakens the soul. A morning spent on the balcony, filling your lungs whilst taking in the view of vast mountains is more stimulating than any cup of coffee.South Tyrol South Tyrol

After a quick fill of the extensive offering of the breakfast bar, including goats milk yoghurts, mountain cheese, meats, cereals and omelettes, we were ready for an adventure.

This is the first time I’ve spent my days in Italy without being slathered in sun cream, running around in bikinis and sundresses, diving into bodies of water to escape the adored Italian sun. Instead, I was snuggled up in thermalwear, absolutely frozen. South Tyrol

We were off on a mountain bike ride across the normally snow-coated landscape of Alpe di Suisi for a thrilling start to the day. We raced and rode up and down sloping hills, speeding past dotted lines of hikers enjoying the luscious greenery, stopping to snap postcard-like pictures.
South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol Each mountain in the Dolomiti mountain range has a name, this one being Marmolada. It’s the highest in the range, and on a clear day, you can spot Venice in the distance. At the time, it looked to be home of a villain, with an evil cloud looming overhead.South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol See the brown buildings in the middle? That’s Adler Mountain Lodge, the hidden oasis of luxury. South Tyrol We stopped to make friends with those responsible for the endless tinkling sounded in the distance, caused by their cowbells. Tell me these aren’t the happiest looking cows you’ve ever seen?! Note the one on the right is smiling at me.
South Tyrol We carried on through the forest, with a strong scent of pine filling the air. South Tyrol Having had our fill of adventure for the day, we said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts at Adler Lodge, and made our way to Bad Schörgau. Named South Tyrol’s hidden gem, this is a much more rustic experience, proudly nestled into nature with a cosy atmosphere.

We headed to the spa for a treatment unlike any I’d ever experienced, a wellness ritual of ancient German farmers. Wooden baths were filled with steaming water, sea salt and natural oils.

I want you to imagine the hottest bath or hot tub you’ve ever submerged yourself in. Now double that temperature, and imagine having to lie in there for 20 minutes. A bag of soaking Sarentino pine needles is rested on your chest in order to aid the respiratory system.
South Tyrol A bag of soaking Sarentino pine needles is rested on your chest in order to aid the respiratory system, and after 10 minutes, a spa attendant brings natural, local honey for you to slather onto your open pores, before returning to your cauldron bath.
South Tyrol Squirming in the excessive heat and steam, your only relief is a tall jug of cold water, which I sipped greedily to keep from completely melting. After our 20 minutes were up, I leapt from the steaming tub, considering streaking through the mountainside to cool down, but instead, was asked to lay on a bed of hay.  South Tyrol I was tucked in with a sheet, expecting lingering stress to release from the body as it returned to its natural temperature. Instead, I mulled over medieval decisions of hay-filled mattresses and how long it took for this practice to be questioned and improved, whilst my heart pounded working to keep my body from spontaneously combusting.

If you’re one of those extreme temperature (torture-inclined) kind of people, go for it. You’ll love it. Regardless, my skin felt incredibly soft and my aches from the morning’s bike ride had melted away. But, I was ready for a more pleasurable experience: dinner at Gourmet Restaurant Alpes.

Here Chef Egon Heiss makes mountain meet Michelin. The menu takes elements of nature, elevates them with experimentation and finesse, and serves in a rustic dining room. The lighting was terrible and the pictures didn’t come out, but I want to share the pine risotto with you. South Tyrol An oversized white plate was sprinkled with speck dust, pine powder, pine nuts and a few drops of dwarf pine essential oil. South Tyrol Our server then appeared with a rustic, wooden pot holding a vibrant, lime-coloured pine risotto, which was spooned theatrically onto each plate. We were then asked to take the little spray bottles nestled into pieces of branch on the table (scroll up to the first picture) and spray the risotto with speck oil for a salty, meaty finish.South Tyrol Don’t tell anyone, but I may have sprayed this directly into my mouth… repeatedly. What?! Wouldn’t you? South Tyrol Following dinner, we were served an incredible bowl of pastry for dessert. I can’t remember what they were called, but they were fluffy, cakey bites with a crunchy, sweet glaze, served with strawberries, fresh cream and berry compote to top each bite. South Tyrol A sweet ending to another day in South Tyrol, an eclectic province slowly seducing me with its charm.

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South Tyrol: Day 1

Over the past year+, I’ve been on a collection of life changing, memory making trips around the world. But, I’ve been too busy to properly tell you about them. I know I’ve shared tidbits and some of them are published, but I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea and share some of these adventures with you.

We left at the crack of dawn. I awoke at the sort of ungodly hour which makes you question where you are, and possibly even who you are. I crawled into the awaiting cab with a driver far too spritely for this time of morning. However, I sort of love being awake and out at this time. The city is sleeping, calm, with uninterrupted streets and the faintest hope of sunrise teasing the sky. We drove down the abandoned motorway towards an infamously distant Gatwick, discussing food, of course, in between intermittent gazes out the window. It’s at this time I find I contemplate deep, boundless ideas and notions, my mind too tired to process realistic limitations.

The following blur of dragging suitcase, queuing at check-in, creeping through security and hunting for nourishment is far too familiar for me to recount. We made our way to the gate, boarded the plane, and then it hit me: I was on my way to Italy.

Italy is special for most people. The culture, the scenery, the people, the wine, the history and most of all, the food, is all intoxicating. But for me, I feel attached, enamoured, indebted and in love. I spent my childhood visiting Tuscany, spending mornings on the beach, afternoons in the pizzeria, late afternoons by the pool, evenings in the Trattoria and night-time walking down the promenade with an overflowing handful of gelato. My late grandfather, my Nonno in Italian, imparted the culture, my heritage and the intense passion for food that runs deep in the country’s veins.

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I was now on my way to South Tyrol, also known as Alto Adige, soaring above the clouds with no knowledge of the region, limited information of my itinerary and fading worries of deadlines drifting away in the jet stream. I had been invited to South Tyrol for the weekend to visit their mountains, eat their food and experience their culture. We entered the airport to a typical Italian affair: curious customs practices and confused baggage claim standards. We successfully managed to gather our cases and meet our driver, ready to begin our trip in Italy’s most northern region.

South TyrolThere’s something about South Tyrol that must preface your preconceptions. Rid your mind of terracotta rooftops, swaying Cyprus trees and the glittering Mediterranean. South Tyrol is an Italian Germanic mix of architecture, culture and language. All signs, ads, menus, instructions and packaging are listed in both German and Italian, and architecture is a curious mix of both, resulting in a feeling reminiscent of medieval times.

We drove for an hour and a half, through valleys, past vineyards, over rivers, through villages, past cities and eventually, up a winding mountainous cliff towards the Dolomites. We raced past descending cars around sharp corners on a terrifyingly narrow road, secretly gripping the seat with white knuckles when an impossibly large truck would careen past. Reaching the top was reminiscent to films portraying a character arriving in heaven, *ahhhhhhhhhhh*.

South Tyrol Doesn’t this look like a Land Rover ad? South Tyrol

The road evened and and we had arrived at an endless plateau of green grass and rolling hills, surrounded by immense, impressive Dolomites. This area is protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing the perfect haven for fervent walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. We pulled into what can only be described as a luxury log cabin.

The Adler Lodge
sits impressively guarding the hillside. We entered the hotel to young, friendly faces, adorably dressed in traditional outfits. Picture innocent beer maids, only instead, wielding room keys rather than bountiful brews. The interior is remarkable, seamlessly syncing traditional with modern. Attractive wood creates a majority of the structure, with modern additions of glass and touch screen technology introduced for convenience and an additional feeling of luxury.

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The rooms were darling, with a separate bathroom, rainfall showerhead and even a heat lamp. Reusable wooden bottles were filled with the most divine smelling shower products, scented with lavender and white musk. This and the three sections of recyclable trash bins furthered the eco-friendly ethos seen throughout the hotel. The room was cosy, but spacious with a Bavarian lodge theme, including a mini bar inside a trunk and plaid chaise lounge.

I stepped out onto the balcony, greeted by the picturesque view of massive, imposing Dolomites. The air was crisp, freezing and noticeably clear – filling my polluted London lungs with fresh oxygen. I could hear the charming sound of tinkling cowbells, and quite literally, nothing else. The stillness of the mountain and breath-taking view is something I’m sure I’ll never forget.South TyrolHaving to peel myself away from my view, I traipsed upstairs to the spa and wellness area. The relaxation room makes for the cosiest of pre-treatment places, with rocking beds by the fireplace, and a glass ceiling trapping sunlight. I enjoyed a thorough sports massage using mountain-inspired elements, before being released into the Alpine Spa for a swim in the heated panorama pool, and steam in the sauna filled with mountain hay, both with spectacular views of rolling hills and rugged mountains.
South Tyrol South Tyrol You’re supposed to rub this ice on your body to cool your core temperature… Where’s the sauna?  South Tyrol South Tyrol Imagine inhaling the smell of heated, sweet hay whilst staring out at The Dolomites. South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolCompletely refreshed and feeling at one with nature, we sat down to dinner at the panoramic restaurant. Tribal designs peeked from the wooden ceiling, and a roaring fireplace enhanced the cosy atmosphere. More than ready for some nourishment, we tucked into an evening of indulgence at Mountain Lodge. Paired with local wines, the specialities of Alto Adige were expertly embodied across a superb six courses. Local meats and herbs provided a fine taste of the area, with polenta dumplings and braised veal cheek serving a heartier representation. Coffee parfait with cooked plums was a sweet pick-me-up before greedily sampling local cheeses.

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South Tyrol South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth Tyrol You’re supposed to ask to sample one of each, right? I didn’t want to be rude.South TyrolThis gourmet experience was an exceptional ending to a day spent relaxing in this mountainous paradise, leaving me more than ready to see what else this region had to offer.