Every summer when we visit my in-laws back in Germany, we always take a trip within the trip and drive to some hidden gem in Europe for vacation.
So last summer we drove to Merano, Italy. Dubbed “The City of Flowers”, Merano is in the northern tip of Italy in the South Tyrol region – one of the wealthiest regions in Italy. Interestingly, Merano was part of Austria-Hungary up until 1918 so the majority of the people are German-speaking. As a result, all public signs are in two languages: German and Italian.
What makes Merano so magnificent are the alps and scenery. Nestled in the valley of the Dolomite mountains within the Italian Alps whose peaks reach up to 11,000 feet, it definitely makes for a hiker’s paradise.
Along the mountainside sits tiny, quaint villages. We stayed in Dorf Tirol (translation: Tyrol Village). The family-owned hotel where we stayed, Hotel Garni Herz, was the most hospitable and enjoyable hotel stay of my lifetime.
Hotel Garni Herz is nestled at the top of Dorf Tirol. Daily homemade food, playground for the kids, indoor pool, outdoor pool with scenic views and nightly wine-drinking gatherings on the terrace with the guests are just a few of the highlights of this hotel.
Highlights from our vacation:
There are hiking trails in every direction in Merano. Some are more treacherous than others.
This is the most popular hiking path and also the most kid-friendly. Merano 2000 has gondolas to take you up 3/4 of the alps. Then it is a relatively easy walk/hike to the top. There is a lovely restaurant at the top of the mountain where you can eat, drink and rest.
Where the gondola stops, there is an amazing bobsled that zips down the mountain for more than a mile. And a lift will bring you back to the top. Well worth the long lines!
Smack dab in the city-center is the historic castle Tirolo Castle. Alongside the castle and up the mountain is another terrific hiking trail. It is also partly shaded so a good pick on hot days.
Oh my goodness, bring this to America!! After a long hike and sore body, nothing feels better than a day at Terme Merano. Terme, “the place of peave and tranquility”, includes 25 pools indoors and outdoors, various saunas, a 14,000 square foot spa park, the Spa & Vital area, Medical Spa, Fitness Center and Bistro.
Directly across the bridge in front of Terma Merano is the shopping district. Some of the best clothes, purses, gelato and even fingernail polish in the world is found here!
Italy is known for its divine dishes. Merano is no different. However, due to the Austrian influence, it’s easier to find schnitzel than fettuccini in the South Tyrol region.
The popular dish in the South Tyrol region is ‘tris knudeln’ which translates to ‘three dumplings’ – a popular Austrian dish.
Forst Beer Garden
Braugarten Forst is actually located in Lagundo – a 5 minute drive from Merano. But if you are driving from Germany, Switzerland or Austria south to town, you will drive by Braugarten Forst on your way into town.
Either way, this is a fun, bustling hangout with delicious food and homemade craft beer.
If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Italy, Austria or Switzerland, try to take a train over to Merano. The spectacular scenery, historic architecture and castles, food, hiking, hot baths and friendly people won’t disappoint.
What is your favorite best kept secret in Europe? Share below?
Photo of bridge by My Vintage Journey, photo of city center by Trip Advisor, photo of Terme by Italy Magazine, photo of Tris Knudeln by BergWelten)