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South Tyrol ‘Südtirol’, Italy

Südtirol, Italy (English: South Tyrol, German: Südtirol, Italian: Sudtirolo/Alto Adige) is an autonomous province in the north of Italy. The population of Südtirol, Italy is mostly Austro-Bavarian heritage hence speaking mostly German. Yes! In the north of Italy, German is the language of choice although most will speak Italian as a second language. The province is considered one of the wealthiest in Italy and the European Union. I was fortunate to have discovered this area while joining “BASIRAIR” to Europe for three months last summer.

Basir is a paragliding instructor and tandem pilot certified by the DHV (German Paragliding Association) and FAI (International Federation of Aerodynamics). He has spent the last 3 European summers teaching at Papillon Paragliding headquartered on top of the Wasserkuppe, a mountain within the German state of Hessen with other facilities within Europe including Lüsen (Italian: Luson) in Südtirol, Italy.

I had just spent a week in Berlin and had plans to catch-up with friends in London thereafter. Needless to say I never made it to London. Instead I took a midnight train from Berlin to Frankfurt to Munich and then another train from Munich to Brixen, Italy (Italien: Bressanone). I then proceeded to take a bus to Lüsen up 962m. Here I waited by the side of the road where Basir had assured me I could catch a lift with the Papillon Paragliding Van commuting the paragliders back up the mountain. Sure enough within 15 minutes the silver van drove past and I hailed it down. 20 minutes later and a further 650+ meters up, we arrived at the Gasthof-Albergo Tulperhof the Südtirol, Italy location for Papillon Paragliding. And thus began my introduction to Südtirol.

The surrounding skyline of the Dolomites mountain range with the area’s dynamic weather combinations of mist, fog, clouds, thunder, rain and wind will just captivate and enrapture you. I enjoyed my daily morning ritual hike among the thick pine forests and colourful sunsets reflected on the carbonate rocks of the Dolmites. The Gasthof-Albergo Tuperhof’s outdoor café sitting area was the perfect place to sit back and watch the paragliders plunge 1620m. With a reliable Internet connection and spectacular views this café became my daily office. Working remotely sure has its benefits! With Lüsen as the nearest “town” the highlights there were the bakery and the natural swimming pool. Aside from this there is not much on unless of course you’re willing to venture out a bit. Here were my top three findings and absolute gems in the area:

Kircherhof Restaurant located in Albeins just a 10-minute car ride outside of Brixen (Bressanone), was by far my favorite restaurant in the entire area. Even though you’re spoiled for choice in central Brixen (Bressanone) with its dime a dozen venues, Kircherhof is miles apart when it comes to the quality and authenticity of the food and service. The small restaurant in a tiny village has a lavishly sophisticated menu and magnificent personal service. The restaurant itself feels quaint and cozy without any airs of pretentiousness. The semi-outdoor seating overlooks their organic garden from which they source a huge part of the ingredients served in the restaurant. The menu changes every month in accordance to what is seasonally available from their own garden and the handpicked local farmers from whom they source the cheeses and meats. There is a certain pride by the entire staff in the quality of the restaurant’s carefully selected local ingredients nurtured from garden to table and you can taste it with every bite. The only downside about this restaurant is that it closes Sunday night and all day on Monday. If you’re in the area while its open for dinner or lunch then drop in (we always did) and don't be afraid to venture. The venison if on the menu is a divine must.

HerolerHof Hotel. This place found me. I was on one of my usual morning hikes when a few riders trotted past me. I immediately called out to them since naturally I was keen to ride too and began to inquire about the possibilities. Nataly the groups’ leader informed me that this could be arranged at the nearby HerolerHof Hotel. The next day I was on their morning hack with sweet and attentive Nataly. I left südtirol the next day but many weeks after this initial visit we would end up in the area again and with the Gasthof-Albergo Tuperhof completely booked we ended up staying at the HerolerHof Hotel. And what a lovely unexpected treat that was. The family-run three star hotel has class and taste. The rooms are countryside minimalist chic with just the right amount of understated luxury and quality. Like the thick 100% wool bed cover for the chillier nights unlike the synthetic versions on offer at your average B&B. But the real secret gem of this hotel is its Sauna with panoramic views of the Dolmites and the perfect ambiance between modern and earthy. A zen place to lounge and melt your stress away. There is easy access to the garden from the Sauna so you can easily go from sweating to the chilly outdoors. Highly recommend stepping out from the Sauna and then jumping on the ground level trampoline, as it's a surreal experience not to be missed. The family (mom, dad and daughters) will go above and beyond to please. In my case I needed a birthday chocolate cake on less than a 24 hours notice and not only did they deliver but they exceeded my expectations.

Almgasthof Ütia de Börz. We found this place out of desperation. After hiking to the top of Peitlerkofel, 2875m, we were tired, hungry and most importantly in a big hurry. The Almgasthof Ütia de Börz sits at the start of the hike with a pristine and impressive view of the Peitlerkofel. Given its location I had written it off as a possible tourist trap but I have never been so pleasantly surprised. With the kitchen about to close (They close their kitchen at 8pm and this became a recurring theme for us, always arriving just minutes before) we quickly glanced through the menu. Our waiter, the eldest son of the owner, was immediately on it! I tossed my usual questions at him such as; Is the beef local from Südtirol or flown half way around the world? How are the cows raised? ... on a farm or a factory? ... Are the cows grass fed? He whizzed through the questions with such authoritative ease, pride and passion that I instantly knew we had struck gold. The family-run restaurant (Mother, father and sons) had the expected local items on the menu Speck (smoked cured pork) and Knödel (bread dumplings) but they also had a mean entrecote (rib-eye) steak with fries, a Penne a la Diavola and an Apple Strudel to send you into food porn orbit. Stick to these items and you’ll be uber satisfied. The combination is just scrumptious, the view exceptional and the service stellar!

I would transport myself to any of these places in a heartbeat so if you’re so fortunate to find yourself in Südtirol, Italy drop in for me.

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