Expert travel consultant Pippa recently travelled to South Tyrol on a holiday with Inghams. The trip started at Lake Levico and was twinned with a journey to Merano…read on to find out what Pippa made of this stunning part of the Italian Alps.
Levico is lovely! It’s not Garda or Como but that makes it less well-known and quieter. A drive of only an hour or so north of Verona and one alights in the beautiful spa resort, situated on the shores of Lake Levico, one of the cleanest lakes in Italy. It is surrounded by mountains on a crossroads of the Dolomites and South Tyrol Alps.
We were ten, half from the south and half from Scotland and all hosted generously by the gorgeous Julie from Inghams. We checked in to the Hotel Ambassador, a three-star hotel, just a stone’s throw from the lake and headed off to the Restaurant Du Lac for dinner. This would be the 5-star hotel option for Ingham’s guests and the lake fish we enjoyed overlooking the lake was fresh and delicious.
I rose early the next morning for the 2.8km walk around the circumference of the lake with another keen stroller. The reflecting colours of the fauna and flora on the lake were stunning and the nature was untouched. After breakfast, we headed off to the Artesella which is an innovative project to mix art with nature. It focuses on livability in its multiple expressions. It is an integrated program of educational initiatives aimed at young people, adults and professionals.
Lunch was prepared for us outside in the beautifully rustic restaurant, with trellised vines adorning an archway above us as we enjoyed pasta – in the inimitable Italian style.
We drove for over an hour in pouring rain and thunder through narrow tortuous roads and finally arrived at the Rifugio Crucolo which translates as top of the mountain. In fact, it is in a valley between two mountains and two centuries ago was a place to meet and play cards for woodcutters, herdsmen and shepherds. As a restaurant today it has a cellar full of wine, cheese, salami and Prosciutto. The food was heavy and rich and arrived over 10 courses!
It was time to head on to Merano at the foot of the Dolomites, protected from the cold winds from the north and enjoying a lovely Mediterranean climate from the south. Merano is an Alpine town in Italy’s South Tyrol region full of hiking trails and ski resorts, good for summer and winter. It’s known for its spas and art nouveau buildings. It is a stunning place and used to be part of Austria before the WW1 as did this whole area. Everyone is bilingual (trilingual if you count English) with German being the predominant language. This part of Italy is the richest and, economically speaking, the most successful part of Italy.
We stayed at the Parc Hotel Mignon which I would highly recommend. Lots of character and family-run, it is one of the nicest places to stay in Merano. We took a guided walking tour and visited two churches, one for the Italians and one for the Germans, St Nicholas’s where my great aunt’s birth was registered. The architecture is beautiful and much of it reminiscent of the Austro-Hapsburg empire as this was one of their seats and became the home of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, affectionately known as Sissi.
Later that day we went to Therme Merano and spent the afternoon at this lovely spa with over 20 pools. I enjoyed the Olympic Pool which I shared with just two other lappers! Dinner that day was at the Hotel Adria, the sister hotel the Mignon. Another gastronomic feast was enjoyed in the hotel’s famous Trattoria and was hosted by the father and son owners.
Today was the highlight! We took the cable car to Meran2000 and took an easy ascending hike of about 2 hours to the hut Waidmann Alm where we enjoyed an aperitif and lunch – wild mountain mushrooms and mountain goat, responsibly farmed of course. Cows and horses grazed in the dappled morning sunlight and the scenery was picture-postcard perfect.
Alpine Bob is Italy’s longest Alpine coaster located in the skiing and hiking area. You just fasten your safety belt and speed along the tracks in the open air, operating the controls to go as fast as you want! The day was deliciously rounded off with wine tasting and dinner at Restaurant Miil set amongst the gardens at Kranzelhof. We sat in the grounds of a 13th-century castle, sipping wines grown along the Tappeinerweg trail in the wonderful sub-tropical climate which produces such fertile soil. I loved the local Sauvignons and Merlots.
The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle are beautiful. They are a one-of-a-kind botanical garden and are surrounded by the snow-capped Gruppo di Tessa Mountains. The gardens were initially laid out circa 1850 by Count Trauttmansdorff during the castle’s restoration. Empress Elisabeth of Austria was a frequent visitor to Meran and the gardens. A bronze bust in her memory was placed in the gardens after her assassination in Geneva in 1898. Today the castle grounds contain about 80 dedicated gardens with local and exotic plants, organized by region of origin, including typical landscapes of South Tyrol.
This was a truly wonderful trip and a part of Italy I didn’t know. With its trails, hikes, alpine resorts, lakes, mountains and cultural towns it is a treasure-trove of history and activity and would make a lovely holiday year-round.