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Beautiful valleys, ice-blue waters surrounded by majestic mountain ranges and endless vibrant hues of green washing over a picturesque landscape. North Italy is a true dream for those who love the outdoors.
In fact, some of the country’s most scenic mountainscapes be found right here in South Tyrol (also known as Trentino-Alto Adige), an autonomous region located in the North of Italy – right on the border with Austria. Due to its geographical location, the language that is predominantly spoken is German, and many of the towns appear to reflect mostly traditional Austrian culture. Although the area was taken over by Italy at the end of the First World War, it was previously Austro-Hungarian territory.
The region offers countless outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the year. In the summer season, you can venture out into the mountains for a hike, learn to horse ride, explore the rivers while white-water rafting or even experience some paragliding. During the colder seasons, winter sports range from skiing, to ice-skating and ice climbing.
Traditional foods include speck (a type of cured meat), a variety of high quality cheeses, polenta, and some delicious traditional homemade desserts such as apple strudel. Like the rest of Italy, food is an integral part of the region’s culture.
South Tyrol holds a very environmentally conscious attitude and the local government subsidizes green initiatives. Tourists are encouraged to use the efficient integrated public transport system which includes regional trains and local bus lines that link the various towns and villages. Some of the accommodations available also integrate some form of sustainable system. These include Bio Hotels and eco-sustainable farms.
It is not uncommon in South Tyrol for the town cemetery to be located right on the church grounds. The entire region is filled with pleasant little towns to explore – from historic places like Vipiteno, to San Candido and Brunico. Some of the towns are particularly stunning; the streets are lined with houses painted in a range of tones. You can easily find restaurants serving excellent traditional dishes and shops offering a variety of artisanal products.
Hikes vary in length and in level of difficulty, and therefore are accessible to most people. Cozy little inns and Alpine huts can be found scattered along most of the popular paths, and people are invited to stop and take a rest while admiring the surrounding mountains and indulging in some traditional dishes or local wine. Along the path you are bound to come across herds of cows lazily grazing in the fields or horses and ponies resting on the side of the road.
Lake Braies (also known as Lake Prags), is one of the many stunning attractions in the area. A path that winds around the entire lake allows for visitors to get a full view of the breathtaking scenery. It is also possible to rent a small boat and venture out onto the water.
Vetta D’Italia is considered the northernmost point of Italy. From Casere, walking along the trail towards Vetta D’Italia you can stop to admire the historical little Church of Santo Spirito. Having been built in 1455, it is one of the oldest churches in the area. From this point onwards, the path branches out into numerous trails which are a little more challenging.
Located at the edge of the Rieserferner-Ahrn Nature Park, Lake Anterselva is one of the largest lakes in South Tyrol. A simple footpath snakes its way around the lake; the pleasant walk can take about an hour or so to complete. The surrounding forest is dense with rich flora and fauna which can identified with the help of informative boards. During the winter, when the lake waters freeze over, people often indulge in a spot of ice-skating.
At around 2,000 metres of elevation, 16 kilometres away from Lake Braies, lies the dreamy landscape of Prato Piazza. Here you’ll find an accessible hiking trail leading through the vast valleys and fields that lie at the foot of two mountains –Picco di Vallandro and Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo.
The earth pyramids of Platten are an interesting natural rock formation that gradually took shape over decades of erosion. These peculiar structures can be found in various locations around South Tyrol.
Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure or time spent exploring traditional ways of life in Italy, South Tyrol is an destination you shouldn’t miss.