Adventure Ideas: Italian South Tyrol
The Italian South Tyrol is a riot of primary colours and in the summer offers a rainbow of options for the outdoor family. We biked through here as part of a longer trip from Amsterdam to Venice, and figured it would make a great base for a week hiking or biking in the Dolomites. In this edition of Adventure Ideas, brought to you in collaboration with Sud Tyrol tourism, we share a little about the region and some of the action on offer there.
Sensory South Tyrol
The sun is a ripe yellow and each blade of grass is a luminous green. It’s like a children’s painting, or an Instagram picture that has been filtered over and over. Yet this picture hasn’t been touched up. And it’s not just one dimensional. There are smells; of forest and flower and fruit. There are senses; of freedom and happiness and heat. There are sounds; of cow bell and church bell and the wind. And there is touch; of water from irrigation sprays, of sweat on my handlebars, of the breeze on my parched lips.
This is how it was, and how it still is in my memory.
Part of a bigger picture
I had been expecting something different. It was summer 2009 and we were on a family bike ride from Amsterdam to Venice. We were a little behind schedule as we climbed up and over the Alps on a low pass crossing taking us from Austria, via Switzerland into Italy’s South Tyrol. I had been warned of temperatures getting unbearable for cycling as we crossed over into Italy and biked towards Merano and Bolzano; of the thermometer shooting up to 40 degrees and beyond. I’m not a big fan of slogging up mountains on a bike, and even less keen in the burning sun so this was playing on my mind. And I felt many miles away from our end point of Venice.
But the climb was short and sharp and cool. A long evening’s ride, finishing long after sunset. We camped on a football pitch and got up early to spin our wheels a little in South Tyrol. The cows came forward to welcome us. The snowcapped mountains in the distance drew us into the postcard. We pedalled and then freewheeled through long stretches of orchard and vineyard. We pushed on into historic town and holiday resort.
Buzzing with activity
The South Tyrol proved one of the most beautiful and unexpectedly rewarding parts of our long journey. The most northern province of Italy; the region is a seductive mix of Mediterranean and Alpine. The landscape has an Austrian feel yet the character of the place is unreservedly Italian. The Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the villages are historic and pleasing on the eye. We swam in the public pool in Bolzano and ate pizza in the shade to take the edge of the heat. We caught our breath as we viewed the spectacular steeple of Alt-Graun at Reschensee; climbing as if by magic out of the artificial lake. We stayed near the gothic Trento Cathedral and pedalled down its surrounding narrow streets like locals. And in between, we played with fallen red and green apples from beneath laden trees serviced by little apple tractors. We rose and fell over sun kissed kilometres on dirt track and we took impromptu showers in the farmer’s sprays. We soon learnt this was a big mistake!
It was Dolomighty pretty
It was mighty pretty, or even Dolomighty pretty as one website might put it. Dolomighty is the name of Sud Tyrol tourism’s new online magazine which is all about spreading the word about active holidays in South Tyrol. I spent a while reading it the other day. It took me right back to that happy place. There are picture maps pointing out the best coffee shops and the best thrill stops. There are first hand articles on walking one of the 13,000 mountain trails with expansive views of peaks like Cinque Torri and Averau, on biking the Stelvio Pass and the architecture of classic buildings such as the wineries. There is also a skiing issue should you be looking at next years ski holiday right now. It made me want to return. And that’s before I started reading about South Tyrol’s wines!
Read about it or get involved
If you are interested in unspoilt mountainous beauty, food and wine and active family travel and of course sunshine (South Tyrol has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year unlike my country which seems to only have three) then you should take a read. You could soon be hiking or biking in technicolour and find out for yourself what I mean…
Disclosure Note: This is a sponsored article brought to you in collaboration with Sud Tyrol. The opinions and experience described are, as ever, entirely our own.