This is a guest post from Rachel Day.
Nestled in the Alpine foothills of South Tyrol, a semi-autonomous area of the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northeast Italy, sits the attractive and historic town of Merano. Often disputed and having changed ownership many times over the years, the town retains evidence of this shared heritage to this day. Austrian/Germanic influences are still visible in the town’s character, cuisine and language (German remains the principal spoken language in the region). All of this contributes to making Merano and the surrounding area of South Tyrol a fascinating and unexpected region of Italy to visit. Especially for walkers, who can enjoy the scenic Tappeinerweg Trail while exploring Merano.
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Promenading The Tappeinerweg Trail
A real highlight of any visit to Merano is walking the network of purpose built trails that spread up the hillside above the old town. These offer up a series of impressive viewpoints looking down to the town below, and across to the surrounding mountains and valleys, all lined with vineyards and apple orchards (the primary exports from the area).
Arguably the finest and most readily accessible of these promenade walks is the Tappeinerweg Trail. Named after its constructor, the famous botanist Tappeiner, the pathway extends along a balcony of hillside directly above the old town, with fabulous views all along its length. The path is paved and largely flat, making it very accessible for all. It was built in days gone by, when promenading was the fashion, to allow the visiting Duke to have a pleasant walk from which he could survey the town laid out below. Tappeiner also created a corridor of botanical gardens along the length of the trail, planted with a variety of unusual flora, making the experience of walking the trail even more special.
For those wanting to extend the walk further, additional trails lead up the hillside to higher mountain and valley viewpoints, eventually leading to the quaint hilltop village of Tirolo.
Accessing The Tappeinerweg Trail
A short (but steep) walk up the winding lanes from the old town brings you to the trail. It can be accessed in several locations along its length, but the conventional starting point is at the eastern end. It is a public path with no access charge. For those not wanting to walk up the hill, regular bus services will bring you to close by. A good spot for lunch is the Chiosco Pulversturm restaurant, serving up freshly made burgers at outdoor tables, close to the imposing Torre delle Polveri tower near to the start of the walk.
Besides the Tappeinerweg Trail and mountain side promenades, Merano has a lot to offer visitors. Descending from the trail leads you through a series of winding streets and alleys, past grand houses that are a nod to the town’s historic prestige and significance. Eventually you reach the attractive riverside that runs through the heart of the old town. There is much to admire architecturally, as well as no shortage of cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy a break and watch the world go by.
A good spot for dinner is the excellent La Smorfia, just outside the centre of town and very popular with locals. This serves up well made Italian classics alongside some interesting local specialties.
Around The South Tyrol
Outside of Merano, the wider South Tyrol is a spectacular mountain region of Italy – one that surprisingly receives fewer foreign visitors than some of the other more popular destinations in the country. There has never been a better time to visit, while it remains relatively undiscovered. As well as boasting spectacular mountain scenery, the region is dotted with interesting and historic towns (such as Trento, the region’s capital), with countless castles to visit, alongside a thriving culinary scene.
The charming nearby town of Bolzano has a historic central square and old town, encircled by attractive parks and gardens. The town is also flanked by castles perched up on the surrounding hillsides, the pick of which is the romantic Castel Roncolo.
Heading the other way and up along the road towards the high Alps brings you to Glorenza, an immaculately preserved small medieval town, boasting a complete medieval wall around its perimeter. In the town’s central square, the historic Grüner Baum restaurant serves up traditional local mountain cuisine, including a delicious dish of spinach dumplings.
How To Get To Merano
The nearest international airport for Merano is at Verona. From Verona, a train ride of approximately 3½ hours brings you through Bolzano and up to Merano. Long distance international trains also run through Trento to the south.
If arriving by car, the drive over the high Alpine pass from Davos in Switzerland is truly spectacular throughout (weather permitting) and should not be missed. It makes for a magical start to any drive through South Tyrol.
Rachel Day writes for Children of Wanderlust, a family travel and lifestyle blog.