Land of flavours
Alpine charm and Mediterranean flair - this clever contrast between two cultures, present everywhere in South Tyrol, is also apparent in the region’s cuisine. Mediterranean joie de vivre is evident throughout in the sociable aperitif, mouth-watering antipasti and rich coffee, whilst the traditional Alpine fare of dumplings, strudels and noodles warms both the heart and the stomach during those cold days on the slopes. Variety is the spice of life, and South Tyrolean cuisine thrives on its diversity, with its unique blend of Italian, South Tyrolean and Ladin influences resulting in a gourmet offering that has seen the region awarded a staggering 26 Michelin stars for 19 restaurants.
These plaudits are not reserved solely for the food. Each delicious dish is paired with a glass of exquisite South Tyrolean wine, with the region famous throughout the world for its vineyards and wineries. From the rich reds of Schiava and Lagrein to the complex whites of Gewürztraminer, vineyard in the region has a different delight to offer, all linked by the South Tyrolean Wine Road, creating a dream route by foot, bike or car for any wine connoisseur.
Such delights can be found not only in South Tyrol’s star-laden restaurants: from elegant haute cuisine to down-to-earth farmhouse cooking, there is a place to suit everyone’s taste. Alpine huts and roadside inns offer authentic native cuisine and the finest local wines, all served with the warm South Tyrol welcome.
Every year from October to the start of the Advent season, locals and guests take part in one South Tyrol’s most beloved traditions: Törggelen. Törggelen has a long and storied history. Long ago in autumn, South Tyrolean farmers and wine merchants met to sample the young wines. Today, Törggelen unites culinary delights with autumn hikes in the colourful landscape. After hiking through the pr istine nature, guests arrive at traditional Buschenschank farmhouse inns to eat Schlutzkrapfen, dumplings, salted meats and homemade sausages and sauerkraut. This feast is complemented by new wine followed by roasted chestnuts and sweet Krapfen pastries for dessert.
Food worthy of the stars
Despite a population of a mere 500,000, South Tyrol has been awarded a stunning 26 Michelin stars, more than any other region in Italy. Among the exceptional addresses are Chef Norbert Niederkofler’s three-star St. Hubertus and Chef Matteo Mettulio’s two-star La Siriola, both in the Alta Badia valley, and Chef Heinrich Schneider’s Terra restaurant high in the Val Sarentino/Sarntal valley. All offer glorious gourmet meals that display the best of South Tyrol’s unique fusion cuisine. This is owed to the quality of the region’s ingredients as well as to the refinement of their preparation. Perched at 1622 metres, the Terra is Italy’s highest altitude starred restaurant, where Schneider delights the taste buds with sophisticated plates made from wild herbs that he picks himself in the early morning in the mountains surrounding his establishment. Likewise, in the St. Hubertus at Hotel Rosa Alpina, Chef Niederkofler is legendary for his ‘Cook the Mountains’ approach to his food, using only ingredients direct from South Tyrol. Niederkofler is a master of cooking the ingredients he grew up with in innovative ways, such as his spectacular beetroot gnocchi or pine needle infused marshmallow. Both are supplied by Harald Gasser, a young farmer who provides most of the region’s starred chefs with their ingredients. Gasser produces over 500 varieties of vegetables, experimenting with old and rare varieties that few know exist - purple carrots anyone?
Away from the spotlight there remain a range of restaurants equally worthy of applause. The South Tyrolean Restaurants and Inns initiative is an alliance of 32 restaurants across the region, and fosters local specialities, genuine hospitality and a fine sense of tradition, to ensure a gourmet experience wherever you dine. Traditional farmhouse inns and Alpine lodges are dotted across the mountains and meadows, and offer a range of authentic native cuisine, from Schlutzkrapfen (pasta pockets) to Kasnocken (cheese dumplings), washed down with exquisite local wines.
A vintage experience
South Tyrol is Italy's smallest wine-producing area (5,300ha), yet it still surprises with the indisputable quality of its wines, which rank among the most awarded at the national level. Every 12th award-winning Italian wine comes from South Tyrol, and impressive feat for a region that represents just 0.7% of national production. The famous diversity of South Tyrol again plays a factor, with distinct climatic zones and very different soils creating particular microclimates that contribute to the huge number of grape varieties.
The South Tyrolean Wine Road is one of the oldest in the world, with the Via Claudia Augusta allowing traders and pilgrims to bring new knowledge and grape cuttings to the region since Roman times. Today, the road and makes an excellent touring route for the budding connoisseur, with picturesque walks punctuated with delicious breaks savouring wines such as the famous Gewürztraminer of Termeno/Tramin and the rich Schiava and Lagrein grown around Bolzano/Bozen, a renowned wine-growing region since the Middle Ages.
For the ultimate experience for any wine lover, stay in one of South Tyrol’s 29 Vinum Hotels. All managed by wine experts, either wine makers or sommeliers, each is a perfect base to learn about the region’s famous wine culture, and even offer the chance to visit their cellars for tastings! For more information