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In this episode, we head to the stunning South Tyrol and the Dolomites area of Italy. The Dolomites are some of the most spectacular mountain peaks in the world and although they are very well known in Europe and are popular summer hiking and winter skiing destinations for Europeans, they are relatively unknown outside of the continent. The Dolomites cross a few regions including beautiful South Tyrol, nestled on the border with Austria, soaking up both Italian and Austrian traditions and customs.
We talk to Kate and Vin, who launched Throne & Vine after falling head over heels in love with the area on a side trip to the region on their first trip to Italy. They now love to share all the beauty, adventure, history, and culture South Tyrol offers travelers, not to mention the incredible food and wine (what more could you expect of a region that is home to a castle with the world’s oldest grapevine?) They are seasoned in helping travelers experience moments of jaw-dropping awe in South Tyrol and here they shared many of them with us!
What you’ll learn this episode
- There are 800 castles in the region – more castles than anywhere else in Europe!
- There are 16 wine villages in South Tyrol and there is a route known as the South Tyrol’s Wine Road
- At Castle Katzenzungen, found between Merano and Bolzano, you can find the world’s oldest grapevine – the Versoaln vine not only the oldest but the largest grapevine in the world
- There are lifts in Ortisei which take you all the way up to Seceda popular Dolomite peak or to Alpe di Siusi, which is the largest alpine pasture
- Although incredibly mountainous (the South Tyrol is 80 percent mountains) the region is surprisingly accessible, not only with the lifts but many shorter routes with easier terrains are available alongside the more challenging hikes
- Climate-wise it’s still virtually winter in March/April, though no longer ski season, so lifts will be shut, meaning you won’t be able to access the peaks in that way. So check out those lift schedules ahead of booking your trip
- The South Tyrolean Museum of Archeology in Bolzano is fully dedicated to Ötzi the Iceman – the natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE, discovered locally in 1991
- If you’re short on time to spend in the region, the gorgeous Lake Braies is a great place to head. Not only does it take only a few hours to cover, it really is as beautiful as the many Instagram photos it has inspired. (Top tip – it can get busy so go early)
- South Tyrol has what is regarded as a 5th season – Törggelen is a centuries-old tradition celebrating the harvest’s new wine and involves a hearty hike in the afternoon followed by an even more hearty feast and wine sampling in the evening. Occurring through much of the fall, from mid-September to mid-November – it’s a great time to visit!
- Another great festival is Speckfest – celebrates Speck – the delicious mountain smoked ham of South Tyrol and is held the first weekend of October every year, taking place in Val di Funes (also known as Villnöss)
- Top tip – as an alternative to Lake Braies, head over to Lake Carezza which is also known for its wonderful colors but, not being so famous, doesn’t get anywhere near as busy
About our guests – Kate and Vin
They were several days into their first Italian adventure – like most tourists, they were seeking to explore some of Italy’s most popular destinations and after consuming the wonders of Venice and Verona, they rented a car venturing north into what we then knew only as the “Italian Alps”. And then it happened. Almost instantly. The splendor they encountered in South Tyrol shot an arrow straight through their wanderlust hearts. Travel would never be the same again. Their bucket list of countries to visit became meaningless clutter and the seed for Throne & Vine was planted on that first trip, as they felt like they had stumbled on Italy’s best-kept secret. When family and friends began questioning why they kept returning to the same place in Italy, they knew keeping the lid on South Tyrol forever was just not possible and Throne & Vine was born.
You can find Kate and Vin on these channels:
- Website: www.throneandvine.com
- Overview of South Tyrol region: Discover South Tyrol: Italy’s Best-Kept Secret
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/throneandvine
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/throneandvine
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/throneandvine
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/throneandvine
- Local wines – some wonderful wines from the South Tyrol include Gewürztraminer, a white wine, and Lagrein, a red
- Buchteln – sweet rolls filled with jam
- Speckknödel – bread dumplings made with Speck mountain ham
- Strauben – a local sweet of dough, fried in iron pans and served with cranberry jam
Places to visit mentioned in the show
- Castle Tyrol – was the ancestral seat of the Counts of Tyrol and gave the whole Tyrol region its name
- Murano – the island of Murano, near Venice is renowned for its long tradition of glass-making. Ferry-loads of visitors come to explore the Museo del Vetro, which tells the story of glass through the centuries, and to shop for locally crafted souvenirs
- Bolzano – one of our 35 of the best cities to visit in Italy
- Ortisei – the largest of Val Gardena’s three towns and arguably the prettiest
Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm – a Dolomite plateau and the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe. Located in Italy’s South Tyrol province in the Dolomites mountain range, it is a major tourist attraction, notably for skiing and hiking.
Seceda – one of the most iconic/popular peaks of the Dolomites. located on the sunny side of Val Gardena, at the foot of the Parco Naturale Cisles-Odle nature reserve
Lago di Braies – a bright blue mountain lake in the heart of the Dolomites
- Lake Carezza – a lesser-known small alpine lake, known for its wonderful colors and its view of the Latemar mountain range.
Lana – a town which makes a fantastic base for exploring the area. Situated between Bolzano and Murano and near the wine route
Tramin – a gorgeous village, another great base. The town has lot of character with old churches all around and vineyards covering pretty much every square inch of the town
- Marlengo – a town whose local speciality is apples
- Brixen – the oldest town in Tyrol and home to the baroque-style Cathedral of Brixen
- Villanders – lies on the Villanderer Berg (Mountain of Villanders), at the top of which lies the Totensee (Lake of death)
- Krampus – Each December, the terrifying costumed figures of Krampus paint South Tyrol red with their extravaganza
- Waalweg – these are centuries-old path-lined irrigation channels carved into South Tyrol’s mountainsides
- Autostrade – the freeway/motorway
Resources from Untold Italy
- Listen: to more from Katie and Vin in Episode #085 Hiking the Dolomites and to more on Northern Italy in Episode #055: Picturesque Piedmont – lesser known region of wine and truffles! and Episode #032: A love letter to Brescia for discover more fantastic destinations in Northern Italy and learn more about Murano in Episode #010: Venice highlights
- Find many more interesting new destinations in Hidden gems in Italy – off the beaten path from north to south
- Join our exclusive Untold Italy Insiders to help plan your trips, come together with fellow travelers, to share travel finds and inspiration, and learn more about bella Italia!
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can plan an amazing trip full of memories you’ll cherish forever
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.