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

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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

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

An adventure in Slovenia – Bled and the Triglav National Park

In this article our guest author Nathan Moore takes us to Slovenia, the outdoor adventure capital of Europe, tastes raw squid and swims in the crystal clear waters of Lake Bled. Nathan and Jim are two friends on an epic adventure through Europe in a self built campervan, with the aim of seeing new cultures, having a whole load of fun and raising money for the Teenage cancer trust and Challenge Worldwide.

Slovenia has been dubbed many things over the years; the adult’s playground and the adventure capital of the world. It was both mine and my buddies first time in Slovenia and as a great lover of the outdoor adventure I was personally very excited. As soon as we crossed the border in our campervan it was clear to see what all the fuss was about. Landscapes like I had never seen before lay before us. The steep peaks rose up all around us as far as the eye could see, covered in thick green forest with huge pines lining the sides of the roads. When driving in Slovenia there is a onetime toll payment of fifteen euros. It’s important that you don’t forget as the penalty fines are huge.

The turquoise waters of the Soca River in Slovenia

The turquoise waters of the Soca River in Slovenia

An abundance of outdoor activities

After less than half an hour we made it to the Triglav National Park a UNESCO protected area. Home to the turquoise waters of the Soca River. Perfect for kayaking, rafting, hiking, mountain climbing and almost any other adventure sport you can imagine. We spent a couple of hours walking around the park mainly along the river, it was surprisingly quiet for the time of year and we saw no more people than I can count on my fingers and toes. Time permitting we would have spent more time walking and maybe took on some of the more challenging trails, like the ascent of Triglav the largest mountain in the park. Some walkers we stopped for a chat told us the views are spectacular. Unfortunately we were on limited time having to travel down to the capital Ljubljana in just a couple of days. After lunch we made our way to the lake, night had fell by the time we arrived so we setup camp for the night.

Try canyoning for an adventure

In the morning we made our way down to the 3glav adventure centre. We had booked a trip for the morning to go canyoning. They also offer bike trips, tours of the Emerald River, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, rafting and even sky diving if you’re feeling super brave. We had booked on their online site and they even gave us a discount due to our charity aspect. All the staff were very helpful and introduced us to our guide canyoning Bob. With fifteen years’ experience he boasted the best resume in town. Canyoning basically involves following the natural path which the water has carved out of the rock on its journey down the mountain and in to the river. It includes abseiling, jumping into the pools and some swimming. It sounds pretty wild, but was lot less dangerous than I expected. Bob was there to talk you through anything and if you didn’t want to make the jump he would lower you down. They provide all the equipment and no experience necessary. After navigating down the canyon it’s a twenty minute ride on the river back to the van. Floating along on your back taking in the scenery and local wildlife with the rest of your team, Bob leading the way. The highest jump was six metres and neither of us was going to miss the opportunity to throw ourselves of a cliff. It cost around fifty euros each and lasts 2 two to three hours. In our opinion it was worth every penny and more.

Spectacular scenery in Slovenia

Spectacular scenery in Slovenia

Enjoy local cuisine

In the evening we had a challenge to complete set to us by our viewers. For a twenty pound sponsor we had to eat raw squid. Neither of us had been looking forwards to it and rightly so. I won’t go in to, too much graphic detail in case any of you have a weak stomach, but the video is on our website if you would like to watch us grimace and gag take a look here. Afterwards we decided it was only fair that we should treat ourselves to some Balkan specialities, and after a quick walk around the lake we settled on a small pub restaurant named Gostilna Pri Planincu just up from the main street. Everything was freshly prepared and overall the food was very tasty.

This Slovenian dish was better than eating raw squid

This Slovenian dish was better than eating raw squid

After a good night’s sleep we rose early and swam to the island on the lake and the sun climbed up over the mountains. The water is crystal clear and calm. It was a good five hundred metres to the island. Those who don’t want to get their feet wet can hire a boat with driver for around twelve euros per person. There is a church on the island but it was five euros to enter and we didn’t have any money with us or the energy to swim back and fetch some. Instead we sat on the steps and soaked up the scenery before heading back a drying off.

Lake Bled in Slovenia

Lake Bled in Slovenia

Unfortunately our time was up in Bled and we had to get back on the road towards Ljubljana the capital. I could have happily stayed for a lot longer if it were possible, and would certainly go back if the opportunity presents itself. I would only recommend it to those who enjoy the outdoors as it’s only a small town and still fairly rural.

florence75x75Many thanks for this article to Jim and Nathan of jimandnathansbigadventure.com – two friends on an epic adventure through Europe in a self built campervan, with the aim of seeing new cultures, experiencing the unexperienced and having a whole load of fun. As they travel they are raising money for the Teenage cancer trust and Challenge Worldwide – two amazing causes changing the lives of young people.

For more adventures in Eastern Europe:

Visiting the hill-towns of Grožnjan and Motovun in Istria, Croatia
48 Hours in Budapest – video
Lake Ballaton days at Hullám Hostel in Hungary

Photo Credits : All Photo originally from Jim and Nathan.

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

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

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