The staggeringly beautiful South Tyrol region – Italy’s most northern, and autonomous, province – perches high up in the Dolomites and while, in winter, it is a ski and snowboarding paradise, in summer, it’s an outdoor playground of an entirely different kind.
Dramatic craggy peaks, lush alpine meadows, endless carpets of pretty wildflowers and lakes so blue they cry out for you to take a dip; discover Rosalind Sack’s pick of the top places to visit during a summer trip to sunny South Tyrol.
Bike and hike in Alta Badia
The ski resort of Alta Badia is just as awe-inspiring in summer as it is swathed in snow. Hikers, cyclists and climbers are in their element here, with magnificent views at every turn. Cable cars can give you a helping hand up the mountains, while electric bikes can be hired at one of the tourist offices or Movimënt Areas in the region – and they are well worth a try! Cycle up to the cosy Piz Arlara mountain hut, with its wonderful accordion-playing proprieter, for a little light afternoon refreshment.
Dine at St Hubertus at the Rosa Alpina hotel
The two-Michelin-starred St Hubertus restaurant in San Cassiano, is under the command of head chef Norbert Niederkofler, who is considered a bit of a celebrity around these parts. Many of the chefs you come across in this region trained under him, yet he remains humble and extremely charming – and rumour has it that a third Michelin star is heading his way. Norbert has been at the helm since 1996 and, to mark the anniversary, I enjoyed an incredible 14-course feast featuring some of the most memorable dishes from his 20-year tenure, with fabulous wine pairings; including herb salad with tomato water, pine needle risotto with smoked guinea fowl and the most incredible tart tatin I have ever tasted.
image: Daniel Töchterle
Play and pamper at Hotel Leitlhof
Built on a sunny mountainside overlooking the town below, the panoramic view from the pretty outdoor heated pool at Hotel Leitlhof in Innichen is rather special, reaching across the Hochpustertal Valley. Baranci ‘adventure mountain’ – which is on the opposite side of the valley from the hotel – boasts year-round activities for all ages and, in summer, has climbing facilities and a fabulous toboggan track. The bob hurtles down the rail track at speeds of up to 10m/sec and it is as much fun to watch as it is to participate.
Marvel at beautiful Lake Braies
This is one of those staggeringly beautiful spots that will be etched in your memory for years to come. Surrounded by mountains lined with emerald fir trees on some sides and in their bare craggy glory on others, this pristine alpine lake is a wonderful spot for a gentle hike. It takes between an hour and an hour-and-a-half to do a full circuit (depending on how many stops you make to take photographs!), or you can hire a boat and row out into the blue. I was reliably informed by a local that the water is extremely cold and only on very hot summer days is it comfortable for swimming in.
Explore pretty Brixen
This pretty baroque town is one of the oldest in Tyrol and was a stop-off point for pilgrims making their way to the Vatican during the Middle Ages. Neustift Abbey with its 9th century cloisters and ornate basilica remains a popular destination for visitors. Foodies will find plenty of places to indulge in Brixen too; the newest addition to the culinary map is Brix 0.1, headed up by chefs Philipp Fallmerayer and Ivo Messner, who draw on influences from top kitchens as far flung as Denmark and Australia where they have previously worked. In fact, they are planning to open a sister restaurant in London next year. Located in the town’s Lido Park, the restaurant perches on the edge of the water in a striking contemporary glass building with a shell constructed from a series of russet leaf-like shapes and a pretty canopy-covered terrace.