Cycling with wine and apples – on the South Tyrol Wine Road

Let’s imagine a perfect Sunday afternoon in South Tyrol. The sun’s shining and we’re having lunch on the terrace restaurant beside the sparkling water of Lake Kaltern, where families are sunbathing and enjoying a turn on the pedalos. It would be fun to have a swim but we’re off on our bikes to follow the small lanes above the lake that take us through the vineyards where ripe grapes are dripping from the vines and rosy apples are waiting to be harvested.

At the end of our cycle around the lake, we’ll stop to taste of some of the local wines from the small vineyards we just passed to round off the afternoon. Sounds inviting doesn’t it? This was my experience recently on a visit to South Tyrol, where in early September the summer crowds are heading for home and the weather is settled and sunny. It’s the ideal time to enjoy the fresh air and gorgeous landscapes combined with the gastronomic pleasures that this region has to offer, so let’s head off and enjoy the afternoon together!

Cycling the wine road in South Tyrol above Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cycling the wine road in South Tyrol above Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol

Let’s start with lunch by the lake

Beside Lake Caldaro / Kalterersee (everywhere in this region has an Italian and German name) is the lido and restaurant at Gretl am See where it seems that the whole population of Bolzano / Bozen is out to enjoy the last weekend of the school holidays. The sun loungers are laid out on the grass around the swimming pool but the sun-worshippers have laid their towels out on the slatted wooden piers that overhang the lake. This is the warmest lake in the Alps, being relatively shallow and blessed with long days of sunshine, making it perfect for bathing late into the summer. There are pedalos for hire and we’ll be sure to keep an eye on the flag flying from the ruined fortress on the hill, so we know when the wind from Lake Garda will be strong enough to go windsurfing.

Lunch at Gretl am See with a view of Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch at Gretl am See with a view of Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol

Our table has been reserved on the terrace overlooking the lake and today I’m trying the grilled trout, but you can have pasta or risotto if you prefer. We are in Italy after all, although this part of South Tyrol has a more Germanic feel. The restaurant is running a “fish week” menu with seafood dishes, since we’re not so far from the Adriatic, but I’m sticking with the trout from the Alps rather than the prawns or scallops from the Mediterannean.

If you go:
Gretl am See: Restaurant by the lake with a summer terrace, open from Easter to October.
Lake swimming at Kalterersee: Swimming is possible from May to October. In addition to the Lido at Gretl am See there are a couple of other places to bathe around the lake for a fee at Seegarten and Campi al Largo.
Camping at Gretl am See: There is a campsite right by the lake next to the restaurant as well as a number of hotels and self-catering accommodation around the lake.

At Gretl am See by Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sunday at Gretl am See by Lake Caldaro / Kaltern – doesn’t the water look inviting?

Cycling on the wine road

It would be relaxing to spend the rest of the afternoon beside the lake, but I’m keen to explore more of the “Wine Road” that threads through South Tyrol. This well-mapped route for driving or cycling joins up the vineyards and wine producing villages where you can stop and taste the local wines and we’re planning to cycle a small section of it this afternoon. Let’s pick up our rental bikes in the village of Kaltern, on the hill above the lake and meet Roland, our guide for this afternoon. Roland is lean and tanned with spray-on lycra shorts and when he’s not leading cycling tours he works as a fitness instructor. Although we may not match Roland in fitness we have a secret weapon to help us keep up with him on the hilly stretches of our cycle route around the lake – our e-bikes. At the press of a button on the handlebars the electric motor cuts in and Hey Presto! suddenly the steep bits seem quite effortless.

View of the vineyards by Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of the vineyards by Lake Caldaro / Kaltern in South Tyrol

We’ll follow Roland out of Kaltern and onto small lanes with hardly any traffic that run through the vineyards above the lake. The vines are neatly trained on wires with bunches of luscious, ripe grapes dangling at the bottom where the leaves have been trimmed away to give them maximum sunshine. Some of the bunches are plump and glossy black, others almost as small as raisins and others green and golden brown. I’m quite tempted to eat a few but I don’t quite dare, having read how one grape pulled carelessly off the bunch can lead to rot and spoil the whole bunch – enough to ruin a farmer’s day! Every so often there’s a large crucifix beside the road or a water trough at the edge of the vineyard planted with a rose bush or clump of lavender. In the shade of the vine we can spot a bench with a table and sense the good life, a place to rest from the sun in the shade of your own vines. Down in the valley is the blue water of Lake Kaltern and on top of the wooded hill the flag is now flying in the wind beside the ruined turret.

Let’s follow the road downhill as it leads us back down to the valley and the road beside the lake. The shady road through the woods is cool as we pass a few local houses where the ducks and chickens are pecking in between the vines. Outside one of the houses (website here) is a wine kiosk with bottles hanging up ready for a wine tasting, a small farm and wine producer which also offers accommodation under the Red Rooster organisation offering farm holidays in South Tyrol. We could have stopped to taste some but Sunday is a day of rest here in South Tyrol with most of the wineries being closed so we’ll press on past another larger guesthouse and winery Weinhof am See Ferienwohnungen a little further down the hill.

Exploring the small vineyards of the wine road in South Tyrol near Lake Caldaro / Kaltern Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Exploring the small vineyards of the wine road in South Tyrol near Lake Caldaro / Kaltern

Apple time in South Tyrol

Now we’ve reached the road that runs along by the lake and cross over onto the SeeWanderWeg path that runs around the southern side of the lake. The land here is naturally marshy, too wet for vines and in between the apple orchards are drainage channels with wooden walkways leading into the Biotope area that’s been created among the reeds as a wildlife habitat. The apples look so appetising, some green, some yellow, some rosy red or plum coloured. I ask Roland where I might find the reddest apples to stop for a photograph and he tells me “there’s a place near my house in Kaltern where the apples are so red you can’t imagine, every time I pass them I want to pick one”.

Apple time in South Tyrol cycling through the orchards at Lake Caldaro / Kaltern Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Apple time in South Tyrol cycling through the orchards at Lake Caldaro / Kaltern

Time is getting on so we’d better speed up along the far side of the lake with the wood rising up above us. Luckily the e-bike comes helps us keep up the pace as we pedal along, past a couple of hotels that have swimming places. The small paths thread through vineyards where the grapes are dripping below the pergolas and the land rises up towards the village of Kaltern. You’re probably getting thirsty on the upward stretch but let’s keep pedalling a little longer and we’ll get up to the main road where we can stop at the Wine Center run by the Kellerei Kaltern wine co-operative.

If you go:
Bike Hire: We hired our bikes from Piazza Rottenburger in Caldaro / Kaltern from €21 per day for an adult bike or €30 per day for an e-bike (worth every penny). You can also buy a BikeMobil card  for 1, 3 or 7 days from €24 for 1 day which entitles you to use South Tyrol’s integrated Public Transport Network with Bike Rental for 1 day during the period from any of the stations or cycle hire places in the Sudtirol Rad / Bici Alto Adige network. More information on the SudTirol Rad Website

Time for some wine tasting

Phew we’ve made it! I think by now that we’ve earned a taste of some of the local wines after our ride around the lake, so let’s stop at the spacious modern Wine Center beside the road that runs from Bolzano. Like many of the wineries in this area the architecture is striking with glass walls and open spaces, contrasting with the older buildings nearby. Most of the wine makers in these parts farm small plots of land of a hectare or less so they go for quality rather than quantity and rely on the expertise of the wine co-operatives in the wine villages like Kaltern to produce and market their top quality wines.

Wine tasting at the Wine Center at Kaltern in South Tyrol  Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Wine tasting at the Wine Center at Kaltern in South Tyrol

You’ll notice that the staff are all wearing their dark blue aprons with pride, it’s a mark of an artizan food producer in South Tyrol. Before the Wine Center closes we’ve just got time to taste our way through a few of the many local wines on offer. There’s a Vial Weissburgunder Pinot Bianco which is fresh and fruity, a light wine for an aperitif, to drink with fish, risotto or pasta. Here’s the Premslaver Sauvignon 2013 and I’m tasting lemon and citrus flavours in this full-bodied wine which has been matured in oak for drinking with food. I’ve been looking forward to trying the Campaner Gewürztraminer although this grape is more typically grown around the village of Tramin which give the wine its name. The spicy flavours go well with Asian food and I’m tasting roses, lychee and mangos, although the style is not as floral as the Gewürztraminer that we tasted when we were in Alsace.

Although I prefer white wines, we can’t go without trying some of the reds like the Pfarrhof Kalterersee wine that is named after this area and is produced from the Vernatsch or Schiava grape that we passed on our cycle ride dangling from the pergolas. Then there’s the other typical grape of the region, the Carano Lagrein which is rich ruby red and full-bodied; “this is our Ferrari” says our sommelier. We’ll finish with a sweet desert wine, an award winning Muscat full of peach and apricot flavours, so delicious that I can’t resist buying a bottle to take home.

Wine tasting at the Ritterhof winery at Kaltern in South Tyrol  Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Wine tasting at the Ritterhof winery at Kaltern in South Tyrol

Our afternoon comes to an end as the Wine Center closes and I’ll pack that bottle of Muscat away in my suitcase, ready to open at Christmas and bring back the memories of the vineyards of South Tyrol, the sparkling Lake Kaltern and the 300 days a year of sunshine.

If you go:
Wine tasting: The WineCenter of Kaltern is right on the main road from Bolzano and offers tastings and purchases of a wide range of local wines. You will pay a small amount to taste each wine which is then set against any purchases you make. You can also find more information about wine tasting in Kaltern on the Kellerei Kaltern website and you will find their winery in Kaltern village, as well as the Wein.Kaltern website representing the wine growers of this area.

South Tyrol Wine Route: There are 3 sections of the wine route through the wine regions of South Tyrol, the Northern wine route starting in Bolzano, the Central Wine route from Merano to Lake Kaltern and the Southern wine route from Kurtatch to Salern. The Winepass MobilCard can be purchased in wineries and tourist offices and allows use of the South Tyrol Public Transport Network, combined with wine offers such as winery tours, tastings and entrance to wine museums. The cost is €35 for 3 days or €40 for 7 days. There is also a free South Tyrol Wineroad App to download for iPhone and Android and a free Culturonda Wine App with information about South Tyrol’s wine culture for iPhone and Android.

Information, articles and resources for South Tyrol

For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website and watch videos about the region on their YouTube channel. For updates on things to do in South Tyrol follow the South Tyrol Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram pages

My thanks to South Tyrol Marketing for providing this experience on my visit to South Tyrol in collaboration with Travelator Media

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Join me on a gourmet adventure in South Tyrol

This weekend I’m heading off to South Tyrol in northern Italy (not to be confused with North Tyrol which is in Austria). I’ve heard that the landscapes are stunning in this region which borders Austria and Switzerland and has a fusion of cultures since it was part of Austria until 1919 and also has its own Ladin dialect. German is as widely spoken here as Italian and every town has both a German and an Italian place name so I’m expecting to find a combination of Germanic efficiency and Italian joie-de-vivre.

Join me on a gourmet adventure in South Tyrol

Since I completed the Tour de Mont Blanc last September the Dolomites have been on my wish list and I’m planning to do some hiking with a difference on one of the Via Ferrata routes. These “Iron Roads” are mountain routes joined by sections of wires and ladders which were originally designed for soldiers who needed to traverse difficult terrain. I’ve never done one before so I’m quite excited about the challenge of getting on my boots and helmet and trying out this combination of hiking and climbing – there is plenty of information about hiking and climbing in South Tyrol on the Sentres website

Via Ferrata routes in the Dolomites Photo: Sentres.com

I’ll be trying out one of the Via Ferrata routes in the Dolomites

I’ll also be trying some gentler outdoor activities, exploring some of the wineries and vineyards close to Lake Caldaro or Kalterersee by bike – hopefully I won’t be too wobbly by the end of the day! South Tyrol is well known for vineyards and wineries producing high quality wines so I’m sure there will be plenty of tasting opportunities as I cycle on the South Tyrol Wine Road.

Cycling and wine tasting on the South Tyrol Wine route Photo: suedtirol.info

I’ll be tasting some wines as I cycle on the South Tyrol Wine route

The region is also known for gastronomy, with no less than 20 Michelin star restaurants as well as plenty of farm shops and restaurants serving the produce of the region – I’m expecting dishes using local apples and raspberries, cheeses and speck (cured ham) and the famous Knödel dumplings – check out the video on how to make them below or here on YouTube.

There should be time to visit the regional capital of Bolzano or Bozen (all the places have Italian and German names) where I’ll be staying at boutique Hotel More Magdalener and I want to find out how Italian fashion and design has found inspiration in the nature and mountainous landscapes of South Tyrol.

South Tyrol Map

This is where you’ll find South Tyrol – the north-east corner of Italy

I’m be travelling with my blogging friends Abi from Inside the Travel Lab and Zoe from The Quirky Traveller and we’ll be using the hashtag ‪#‎insouthtyrol‬ so you can follow what we’re up to over the weekend. I hope you’ll join us on a virtual tour of South Tyrol – there’s plenty more information too on the Visit South Tyrol – UK website

Follow Heather on her travels’s board South Tyrol on Pinterest.

What Abi and Zoe had to say

Zoe: There’s much more to South Tyrol than the mighty Dolomites
Abi: You won’t believe it’s Italy

Information, articles and resources for South Tyrol

For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website and watch videos about the region on their YouTube channel. For updates on things to do in South Tyrol follow the South Tyrol Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram pages

CheeseWeb Article: Exploring Bolzano in South Tyrol, Italy – Guest post by Lee McIntyre
CheeseWeb Article: Farm Stays, Food and Wine in South Tyrol, Italy
CheeseWeb Article: The Dolomites and Tiefentalhof in South Tyrol, Italy
CheeseWeb Article: Wolfganghof and the South Tyrolean Wine Road in Italy
Amateur Traveler Podcast: Travel to South Tyrol Episode 425 (interview with Alison and Andrew from CheeseWeb)
Kindle Book: Life on a Gelato diet: Everyday expeditions with an American in Bolzano, Italy by Lee McIntyre £2.44
ITB Globetrotter article: Waterfalls, Rasberries and Brotzeit at the Dursterhof in South Tyrol
ITB Globetrotter article: An apple a day – Apple picking in South Tyrol
ITB Glbetrotter article: Meran 2000 – a day hiking in the fog

My thanks to the South Tyrol Tourism Board for their support in this trip in collaboration with Travelator Media

Photos courtesy of South Tyrol except Via Ferrata by Sentres.com

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Roadtrip adventures – see the Mediterranean by car!

If you have holidayed in Europe then the likelihood is that you’ve visited the Mediterranean Coast. Stretching from the south coast of Spain to sun soaked Cyprus, the Mediterranean coastline encompasses some of the most beautiful parts of Europe. But if you only explore it one beach at a time can you really say you’ve seen it in its full glory? With dazzling stretches of shoreline road and cliff top views, why not take to four wheels and explore one of these fantastic routes:

Port of Cassis in France Photo: Vincent Brassine on Flickr

Port of Cassis in France

Cassis to La Ciotat, France

At just 12 miles long, this short but sweet jaunt hugs the shoreline of the southern French Coast. Navigate your way between two of the region’s most unspoilt seaside towns Cassis and La Ciotat and negotiate the high altitude Route des Crêtes over Cap Canaille. Cap Canaille is one of the tallest maritime cliffs in Europe and the views from the top are truly spectacular.

Cassis itself is perhaps one of France’s best kept secrets. Charming, quaint, and picture perfect, it has maintained the appeal of a coastal fishing village whilst succumbing the laid back lifestyle of its Rivera counterparts (minus the crowds). Cassis is full of character so be sure to take a leisurely stroll through the old streets that offer a quintessentially ‘South of France’ experience.

Whilst it may be tempting to fill your camera’s memory card with pictures of Cassis remember to save some space for the drive! Les Route des Crêtes offers panoramic views over some of the most superb scenery in Provence. Whilst the route is only 12 miles long, the roads are steep and winding. They can be narrow in some places, so adopt the laid back Riviera attitude and take your time. The slower pace will give you more opportunity to enjoy the beautiful views of the coast, the mountains and the countryside in between!

Cap Canaille in France Photo: Anse de L'Arene on Flickr

Cap Canaille in France

Hiking trails lead off the road at a number of viewpoints. Why not break up the drive with a short stroll? Stretch your legs and get a closer look at some of the unusual rock formations that make the landscape so striking. Your vantage point up high on Cap Canaille also gives you a chance to experience a different perspective of the coastline and the hidden seaside gems of Cassis and La Ciotat. Rather than seeing things from ground level, your bird’s eye view puts this stunning section of coastline in perspective geographically. It’s an opportunity to experience the area as a whole, in all its natural glory.

But the beauty doesn’t stop there! La Ciotat is a truly authentic French town, having so far managed to side step the influence of tourism. Home to an array of unique boutiques and a lively market on Sunday mornings it is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two to complement your bursting holiday photo album. Like Cassis the centre is made up of winding streets and shady squares dotted with relaxed cafes and delicious restuarants. Finally, enjoy a day on the beach at L’Ile Verte. Take the ferry from the port and make the short 10 minute crossing to this picture perfect spot. Pack a picnic and admire the breath-taking shoreline from the beach or explore the island and uncover the range of fantastic viewpoints.

Otranto in Puglia, Italy Photo: Paolo Margari on Flickr

Otranto in Puglia, Italy

Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy

The region of Puglia makes up the heel of Italy’s boot. The landscape is characterised by rugged hills dotted with whitewashed buildings and crystal clear waters lapping against the sun scorched coastline. The drive itself meanders between the seaside towns of Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca along a road that has been dubbed the ‘Little Amalfi Coast’. With its jagged coastline and secret beaches this stretch of the Puglia region is perfect for exploring by car and without doubt one of the most beautiful drives in Europe.

Otranto is a harbour town and is as gorgeous as it is historic. Before you embark on your scenic drive along the coast be sure to visit its unusual Cathedral. It is well known for the monumental mosaic which covers the entire floor of the Cathedral and dates back to the 12th century. Despite being hundreds of years old the mosaic has stood the test of time and the mythical illustrations which depict man’s struggle between good and evil can still be clearly deciphered.

Grotta Zinzulusa in Puglia, Italy Photo: Giordano Merenda

Grotta Zinzulusa in Puglia, Italy

If you get the chance take an evening stroll around Otranto. The town’s architecture is particularly impressive at night, especially the castle. Locate the turrets and walls open to the public and make your way to the top for breath taking views of the city. You will likely find yourself struggling to leave this picturesque town. Rest assured there are even better things to come. The drive runs past mile after mile of spectacular ocean views and is one of the most underrated attractions of the area.

The cliffs, grottos, ancients fishing villages and hidden beaches along the way are numerous, offering plenty of opportunity to take breaks, hike, picnic and swim. Don’t miss the ‘Grotta Zinzulusa’ which is famous for its stalagmites and stalactites. Be sure to take the guided tour of this ocean-side cave and hear the fascinating story of the cave’s discovery as you swim in the warm clear waters. As the midday heat beats down on the dramatic limestone cliffs of Puglia’s coastline, stop for a picnic beneath the shade of the abundant olive groves.

Sant'Andrea cliffs in Salento, Italy Photo: Vittorio Ferrari

Sant’Andrea cliffs in Salento, Italy

As you approach Gagliano del Capo you’ll come across a sea inlet spanned by an impressive bridge. Here you have two choices: descend the stone steps to access the water for a leisurely swim, or join the daring divers as they scale the cliffs and jump from heights of up to 50ft! Whichever you decide, the inlet is an idyllic place to cool off in the afternoon sun.

Leuca is framed by the Regional National Park of the Costa Otranto. Before you reach the town, stop and enjoy the view of the wild flower and shrub covered slopes as they cascade down the rocky hillsides. Round of your scenic tour of the Puglian coastline and climb the headland to the lighthouse. Here you will be greeted by a staggering vista where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. As you relax in the Marina with a gelato or sit down to dinner at one of the delicious restaurants in the old town and reflect on the highlights of the drive, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking you had found your own piece of paradise.

This article is brought to you by Economy Car Hire – the largest independent car hire broker in the UK.

Photo Credits: Port of Cassis by Vincent Brassine, Cap Canaille by Anse de l’Arene, Otranto harbour by Paolo Margari , Grotta Zinzulusa by Giordano Merenda, Sant’Andrea by Vittori Ferrari

Other Mediterranean Delights

Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Palazzo and Gelato in Genoa – Day 3 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Dreaming about the Italian Islands of Sardinia and Sicily

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Next Page »