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Merano Italy – Italy’s Best Kept Secret

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.

Merano Italy

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.

Herz Hotel Dorf Tirol Italy

Mom vs Bodie in a serious game of badminton at the Herz Hotel

Garni Herz Hotel Dorf Tirol Merano Italy

Pool at Garni Herz Hotel with panoramic views

Highlights from our vacation:

HIKING

There are hiking trails in every direction in Merano. Some are more treacherous than others.

Merano 2000

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!

merano 2000 bobsled italy

Bobsledding down the Italian Alps

merano 2000 hiking

At the top of the Italian Alps

Hiking Merano 2000 Italy

Bodie walking with his cousin Ben at the top of the Alps

hiking merano 2000

Sweaty family photo at the top of the Italian Alps

Tirolo Castle

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.

Tirolo castle Merano Italy

Family hike near Tirolo Castle

TERMA MERANO

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.

Terma Merano hot baths

Terma Merano

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!

merano italy terma gelato

Italian gelato after a long hike

Merano Italy

Merano bridge at city center

THE FOOD

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.

three dumplings Merano Italy

“Three Dumplings” – my favorite dish in Merano

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?

merano italy

 

 

 

 

 

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)

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