The Italian Alps
Hiking the wine roads and alpine trails of Alto Adige
DAY 1 – LAKE CALDARO
After a pick-up at the Trento train station, we head immediately to our first wine tasting, just outside Trento: Ferrari. For several generations, this family-run winery has made elegant sparkling wines. Here we’ll see the elaborate champenoise method for putting bubbles in the bottle and taste their excellent sparklers. Then we drive north to Lake Caldaro in Alto Adige. Here we'll have our complementary welcome lunch at a farmhouse restaurant affiliated with the Manicor winery, dining on a mix of Italian and Austrian fare, such as speck (smoked ham), crisp pickles, and dense brown bread. Afterward, we hike to our hotel in Caldaro, walking through a crazy quilt of vineyards and apple groves. At dinner, we’ll get better acquainted with Tyrolean cuisine.
L, D • Hotel Goldener Stern
DAY 2 – THE MENDOLA PASS
Today's loop hike begins with a funicular (cable-car) ride up to the Mendola Pass (4,500'). One hundred years ago, the Passo della Mendola was one of the most popular vacation spots for Austro-Hungarian nobility, and Emperor Franz Joseph inaugurated this funicular to provide a more elegant means of ascent to the alpine pass. Our loop hike begins at the top of the funicular and ascends through the pine forests to a refuge where we’ll stop for a slice of apple strudel. There will be time for a real lunch on the way back to the funicular in the village of Rufre. Post-hike, our afternoon tasting is at J. Hofstätter, a top-notch family-run winery in Tramin that's a consistent prize-winner with a delicious line-up of wines, including some of Italy’s best pinot noir. Dinner is at a cozy restaurant overlooking Lake Caldaro.
B, D • Hotel Goldener Stern
DAY 3 – THE BIRTHPLACE OF GEWÜRTZTRAMINER
Charming alpine villages and a view of the Adige valley are featured on today's point-to-point hike. Walking along wooded paths and paved weinstrasse (wine roads), we stay up on a ridge the parallels and overlooks the valley floor. It’s a day of easy hiking amidst Tyrolean scenery. Post-hike, we end up in Tramin (Termeno in Italian), a picturesque village where the grape gewürztraminer was possibly born. Here we'll visit the esteemed Tieffenbrunner, a family-run winery that consistently garners Tre Bicchieri awards. After looking at their experimental gewürztraminer vineyards, we’ll marvel at their renditions of Alto Adige’s aromatic whites, including pinot grigio, mueller thurgau, and of course gewürztraminer. Dinner is in Caldaro.
B, D • Hotel Goldener Stern
DAY 4 – BOLZANO AND “FROZEN FRITZ”
Today we leave Caldaro and transfer to Merano, further north on the Adige river, and take a break from hiking. En route, we’ll visit the city of Bolzano, dubbed “the Gateway to the Dolomites.” Here one can visit Frozen Fritz, or Utzi, the mummified “cave man” recently discovered in a melting glacier in the Alps. Bolzano also offers outdoor markets, beautiful winding streets, historic churches, and a lively sidewalk café culture. Afterwards, we’ll drive just outside of town to the Castello Reinegg, dubbed “the painted castle.” This vast fortified residence is filled with frescoes—rare secular images from the 13th century showing courtship games, hunting scenes, and legends of Tristan. Back in Merano, we’ll end the afternoon with an optional passeggiata along the Passirio River, then have an informal tasting of regional wines at our hotel. Dinner on your own in Merano.
B • Hotel Europa Splendid
DAY 5 – APPLE ORCHARDS AND ANCIENT CANALS
Today's point-to-point hike follows an old irrigation canal built in the 1700s by local monks. Beginning in the town of Lana, the gently rolling trail follows the narrow chute of water through vineyards and apple orchards, aqueducts, water wheels, and educational signage until our final destination at the Adige River dam in Toll. Lunch is nearby at the Forst Brewery, where dark beer and bratwurst are served by waiters in lederhosen. Prost! Back in Merano, there’s free time in the late afternoon to explore the town, with its scenic river walk, shop-lined porticos, and medieval churches. Dinner is in an alpine lodge in the mountains with a view of Merano.
B, D • Hotel Europa Splendid
DAY 6 – DOLOMITE VISTAS
Our hike today again starts with a funicular ride. Our cable-car will take us 6,000 feet up Mt. Saint Vigilio to our trailhead. Today's loop hike is through thick pine forests, past grazing cows, over spectacular mountain tops, and through Sound of Music alpine meadows. We’ll lunch on canederli, hearty goulash soup and strudel at a rustic mountain resort, then follow the trail through the pine forests and rocky clearings back to the funicular. In the afternoon, we indulge in another exception wine tasting at Cantina Terlano. Founded in 1893, this is one of Alto Adige's oldest cooperatives and one of its best. It offers three lines of wines, with stellar bottlings of gewürtraminer, pinot bianco, lagrein, merlot, and pinot nero. Our farewell dinner is at an upscale restaurant in Merano. B, D • Hotel Europa Splendid
DAY 7 – ARRIVEDERCI!
A shuttle to the Bolzano train station and assistance with your travel plans. B
Please bear in mind that this itinerary is made one year in advance, so details may change due to the winemakers' schedule (especially during harvest), hotel availability, weather, and other unforeseen circumstances. Any substitutions will be with a property of equivalent interest and value.
Dates & fees:
On hiatus until 2012, with The Dolomites scheduled in its place. Next year’s dates announced in August 2011.
Single supplement: $400
Trento train station
Bolzano train station
- 6 nights accommodations (double room) in one 3-star and one 4-star hotel, with breakfast buffet
- 5 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- 1 welcome lunch
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Shuttle at beginning/end of tour, as described
What's not included:
- Air travel
- Train to meeting point (Trento train station)
- 1 dinner on your own and most lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included
The breathtaking beauty of the Alto Adige along with the great wines made The Italian Alps another unforgettable tour. The third time was definitely a charm!– Antoinetta and Erasmo Ciufo, Woodbridge, Ontario