South Tyrol: Day 4

Wait! I didn’t finish telling you about Day 3!
We left the peace and quiet of the countryside and headed for Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol. City life here, however, isn’t what you’d expect.
South Tyrol A quaint town with an outstanding quality of life, ranked highly amongst all of Italy, with a combination of youthfulness from the University and cultural influence from the older generations. South Tyrol South TyrolAlthough there is a busy atmosphere amongst the presence of mingling locals and striking architecture, nature still has an influence as you look up beyond the buildings to find you are completely surrounded by lush, green terrain.
South TyrolWalking the shaded streets, the Italian-Germanic mix of architecture is everpresent, with Roman and Bavarian influence lending a medieval look.
South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol We retired our city explorations and headed for dinner. I’m devastated to admit that I absolutely can’t remember where this was – so if anyone recognises the dishes, please pop the name in the comments! (Lighting was difficult, apologies for the low budget foodporn)
South TyrolI started with the interestingly named millefoglie (Italian for mille-feuille) of calf saddle with truffle and endive salad. South Tyrol A neighbouring dish of risotto was too beautiful not to snap, and too cheesy to resist trying. South TyrolA very modern take on deer fillet was sous-vide and served with a soufflé of polenta, parsnip cream and Tahitian-vanilla oil. Overall, we enjoyed a beautiful take on traditional dishes, served in a warm atmosphere with friendly service. But, my sweet tooth had yet to be satisfied, and when in Rome Bolzano…
South Tyrol I bullied everyone into joining me for some gelato – my favourite way to end any evening spent in Italy. (It didn’t require full use of my persuasive powers if I’m honest)

-Intermission- Now I can tell you about my fourth and final day spent in South Tyrol. You probably need something sweet after that fine bit of foodporn – go grab a snack and we’ll continue. South TyrolOne of the favourite autumnal activities South Tyroleans enjoy is chestnut picking. The “Keschtnweg” or Sweet Chestnut Trail runs along a line of chestnut groves, providing views of the Asarco Valley.   South Tyrol We ventured the trail, admiring rustic inns and farms in the shadows of the Dolomites. South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol I loved this: tree turned fence.South Tyrol South Tyrol The hike is mild and scenery is beautiful, traversing through vibrant green meadows and shaded forests, past bountiful chestnut trees and even vineyards.South Tyrol There’s also incredible apple orchards lining the trail, providing colourful South Tyrolean apples ready to be pressed into fresh juice. South TyrolWe walked through the forest, where I was lucky to have watched where I stepped, as I very nearly flattened this guy. South TyrolHe was about the size of my hand, and is obviously now named Chestnut.
South Tyrol The trail opened onto farmland, with ears of corn bursting from their stalks, to the delight of the crows. South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol We made our way back to Radoar, a farm turned vineyard, with a variety of products on sale. We sat down in the sunshine and enjoyed a glass of the freshest apple juice I’ve ever tasted.
South TyrolTell me your mouth doesn’t water imagining the sweet-sour taste when you scroll down.
South TyrolHaving worked up an appetite from our afternoon stroll, we were ready for a truly South Tyrolean feast. There’s an old custom in South Tyrol called Töggelen. As autumn approaches, winegrowers open their cosy parlous and cellars for visitors to sample their home-grown wine and home-cooked local fare, including the beloved roasted chestnuts. We cosied up at a table in Glangerhof, 1,000 meters above sea level with a stunning open-air view of the Dolomites, and prepared for a memorable feast. 
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Local breads, including the traditional Schüttelbrot, were served with a cheesy chive spread and fresh butter.  South TyrolSoon came local cheeses, meats and boiled potatoes, begging to be loaded with butter and salt.
South Tyrol Tirtlen, or savoury fried pastries, were a fast favourite. We shared and teared the hot, fluffy pasty and piled each bite high with tart, cooked sauerkraut. Our eyes may have been bigger than our stomachs, and we soon regretted the fervour with which we devoured these deceitful pastries. South Tyrol More meats, onions and potatoes arrived as we groaned with concern at our tightening trousers. South Tyrol The arrival of our much-anticipated roasted chestnuts soon alleviated any memories of overeating. We greedily peeled back their warm, flaky shells to devour the sweet meat hiding inside; a true taste of autumn in Italy. South TyrolAs the krapfen were placed on the table, we almost wept in surrender. I had to at least try the deep-fried pastry pockets stuffed with tart cherry jam, and I can tell you, it was worth my near-demise.  South TyrolA delicious memory to end such a soul-indulgent trip in South Tyrol. If you’re thinking of giving the area a visit, I would highly recommend visiting during Autumn. Although the Dolomites are popular for their snow-covered offerings, an autumnal visit is beyond pleasurable.

Grazie and danke you multicultural delight!

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South Tyrol: Day 3

For a better view of our stunning surroundings, we decided to take a hike. A moderately challenging hike up Alta Pusteria on the Stoneman Trail ascends 120km, and is more than worth the climb for the view from the top.
But we’ll start at the bottom, where we made our first friends. South TyrolFluffy sheep traversed the terrain with ease, stopping to nibble along the way. (my kind of hiking)South Tyrol Once making it more than half way, we spotted the most beautiful Haflingers running free, eyeing us suspiciously as they crossed the mountain. South Tyrol South TyrolTheir golden chestnut fur and blonde locks stood out prominently against the blue sky, patiently playing follow the leader.
South TyrolEven the cows looked on with admiration. South Tyrol Just look at those ears! Don’t you just want to snuggle her?!South Tyrol South Tyrol At random, they turned and came charging across the mountainside, bullying the cows into moving from their slumber. They seemed quite pleased with themselves, like a clique of blonde mean girls harassing the Tyrol Greys. South Tyrol A panoramic view from the top doesn’t do much to help catch your breath as it is beyond breathtaking. South TyrolSouth TyrolSouth TyrolNamed for the stonemen guarding the mountaintop, an eerie display of endless stacked stone piles stand as eternal marks left by those that have journeyed to the top.South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol It’s sights like these that really make you stop and think. A little mental pause button is hit as you inhale the clean air, clear your mind, and try to take it all in. South TyrolSome of the structures were really impressive, considering piling rocks on top of each other sounds much easier than its execution.
South TyrolNote child for scale. South Tyrol South TyrolI think he was trying to choose where to build his StoneDog.
South Tyrol South Tyrol This one was by far my favourite – especially the extra two little ones piled on top, as if the gargantuan rock wasn’t enough.
South Tyrol On our descent, we stopped in a mountain hut we had spotted on the way up. South TyrolBy now we were starving, and happily rested our feet in the sunshine with farm-fresh food and plenty of drinks.
South Tyrol South Tyrol This mezzeluna pasta was thick and stodgy, filled with local goats cheese and topped with Parmigiano, sweet grapes and strawberries – an odd, but delicious combination. South TyrolI quickly made a friend and snuck her grapes under the table when no one was looking.

South Tyrol has a bit of a reputation for the South Tyrolean apple, which, when paired with Austrian-style strudel, is a winner amongst anyone with a sweet tooth… including the bees!
South TyrolWe couldn’t resist a slice of this homemade strudel… South Tyroleven if the bees had other ideas about sharing. South Tyrol South TyrolThis was paired with fluffy, doughnut like balls of pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar, a well-earned treat.

South Tyrol The hut was home to a few other animals, including this large rabbit. (who wouldn’t let me pet himSouth Tyrol And the biggest pig I’ve ever seen, snuggled up with her baby. South Tyrol We finished our decline with full stomachs and wide grins, sad to be leaving the raw elements of nature, but looking forward to discovering Bolzano, the capital city of South Tyrol.

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.

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.

South Tyrol

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.

South Tyrol

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.

South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol South Tyrol
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.