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Alto Adige

December 01, 2006
Olivier Chow

Alto Adige or South Tyrol, depending on your cultural standpoint, is a less visited and often overlooked region of Italy, possibly because it is less Italian than, say, Sicily or Tuscany. Formerly part of Austria, this superb bilingual region — Italian and German — located on the border of Austria and Switzerland has much to offer visitors: castles, neo-classical villas and the beautiful Dolomites. It is also home to Oetzi, the oldest mummy, now in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano that devotes half of its space to the material culture of this unfortunate little man.

One of the main tourist destinations is the thermal resort of Merano, first popularised by trendy Austrian imperial sensation Sissi (still a popular name in the region). If you walk up and down the winter promenade you’ll understand why. Merano is still catering to jet-setters from all over Europe thanks to diet and anti-aging guru Henri Chenot’s well-being center at the hotel Palace Merano, which has recently welcomed Pavarotti, Princess Caroline of Monaco and Zidane, the recently retired French soccer star. Concomitantly, the newly designed Merano Thermal Baths attracts the beautiful people living in Northern Italy and beyond.

The region also boasts fantastic architecture, food, beer and wine, all of which reflect Italian and Austrian influences — a winning mix if you ask me. In December, don’t miss the beautiful Christmas markets of Alto Adige, very popular with the Milanese who dress up like Eskimos when they venture to Tyrol. Art from Tyrol is also of interest, especially if you like “tribal baroque,” a sort of weird genre where horns of mountain goats feature prominently (think Marie Antoinette meets Alpine mountain folks).

Atmosphere A. Roher

Located on the beautiful mountain road between Merano and Bolzano, this unusual establishment is a traditional Tyrolean farm managed by Frau Rohrer that caters mainly to the local vacationers. It is best reached by car although there are buses going to Verano from Merano. The farm is located on a meadow complete with cows and forest — clearly... full article

Hausbier B. Braustuberl Forst

Located in Algund, or Lagundo if you have an Italian guidebook, — a suburb of Merano on the road to Switzerland — this extraordinary fantasy of a brewery (think medieval version of  Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory) is a must for any traveller visting the region. This sort of neo-Gothic brewery/castle with wooden bridges defies architectural... full article

Seasonal Menu C. Carleto

Secret location, somewhere around Merano

For initiates only (you will need a local “contact” to get you in). This is one of the strangest places in the region but well worth it. This “restaurant” is actually a private club and one needs a code and password to get into the restaurant. From the moment you step inside, you cross into a... full article

Green Apple Delight D. Restaurant St. Hubertus

Alto Adige — This was our pre or post desert at Restaurant St. Hubertus at Rosa Alpina. The refreshing, palate-cleansing dish is named the green apple delight. Delightful it was, as were my Alto Adige days.