Happy Tuesday! It's been another week full of travel adventures (I just made it to Reims, France for a few days of champagne tasting, and I'm so pumped). I'm falling more in love with Europe everyday that I'm here and can't believe how much I've already seen in 3 weeks. But one destination at a time. Today's post is all about my second stop in northern Italy: Merano.
When I first conceptualized this Europe trip, I had a long list of places I knew that I wanted to go- but I also wanted to leave some room open to discover new places that I’d never heard about. In researching the best places to visit in Italy, I stumbled upon a small boutique hotel in Merano. I had never even heard of Merano before, so I started to do a little digging. It didn’t take me long to decide I had to visit.
South Tyrol, the region where Merano sits, didn’t actually become part of Italy until after the first World War- which means not even 100 years ago it was part of Austria. Needless to say, over the years it’s experienced it's fair share of changes: Mussolini tried to impose Italian as the official language, although today, the official languages (yes, two) are Italian AND German. They’ve also separated from the Italian government in Rome and are their own provence with separate leaders.
As if this region wasn’t already compelling enough with such a unique and diverse blend of cultures, did I mention it’s nestled right in the Dolomites- arguably the most scenic mountain range in the Alps?
Merano is not a popular location to visit if you’re from the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a bustling tourist destination. Given it’s geographic positioning, it’s incredibly close to Austria, Switzerland, Germany and obviously other surrounding areas of it’s home country, Italy- so you’ll find lots of visitors from all the above. Travelers flock here because it's a “wellness destination”: lots of hiking, bikers, spa-goers, scenery lovers, etc.
By now it should be obvious why I made arrangements to pay Merano a visit, and why you should make plans to do the same. If you read my last post on Lake Como (another must see), this is a great destination to pair with it. It only took us about 5 hours by train to get there from Lake Como/ Milan, and it was one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken (although be prepared to make a few connections and be aware how much time you have in between each- we ended up missing one and it set us back a few hours). When planning your trip, here's what I recommend:
Imperial Art Hotel was the boutique hotel I stumbled upon that made me ask “Where is Merano?” No two of the 12 elegant rooms are alike. Three South Tyrolean artists created them to be unique in terms of style, materials, colors, features and flair.
We spent 2 nights in the white crystal room, which I loved because it was bright and airy and had an awesome terrace overlooking the street in front the hotel (which was bustling with energy and pretty views of Merano’s unique architecture).
The next two nights we moved upstairs to the Penthouse Thermae room (that had an incredible rooftop view of the mountains and city, along with a hot tub where we loved relaxing). It was great experiencing a variety of rooms and seeing how each one was unique from the other.
The hotel exceeded all the expectations I had. Barbara, the concierge was so helpful and went above and beyond to provide us with directions, bus time tables, dinner recommendations and anything else we needed during our stay. Our rooms came with complimentary breakfast (croissants, yogurt, fruit, eggs, cereal, juices, coffee and plenty of other options) so we were well-fueled and well-served on the quaint terrace every morning.
Rooms are fairly priced (include range), extremely clean, and in an amazing location (4 minute cab or 15 minute walk from the train station and walking distance to just about everything you can do in town.) Staying here made our time in Merano that much more wonderful and I highly recommend them to anyone visiting the area! If you have any questions, send them a note at email@example.com or inquire below:
Boutique & Design Hotel ImperialArt
Freiheitsstraße/Corso della libertà 110 | I-39012 Meran/Merano (BZ) | Italien/Italia
T +39 0473 23 71 72
Castel Fragsburg was easily one of the top moments of my trip so far. If you’re staying in Merano it’s a bit of a drive compared to the other dinner options (15-20 minutes by car) but it is WELL worth the effort to get there. From the moment we arrived, I knew it was going to be an amazing experience. We had an aperitif on the terrace to soak up the view (which was seriously one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen in my entire life). When we sat at our table, I didn’t even look at a men- we just agreed to the chef’s tasting which meant course after course after course of tastings: quail eggs, seared tuna with avocado sauce, quail breast with orange carrot pistachio and cilantro, green apple risotto with beet, venison with cherry + potato, and so many more I can’t even begin to describe (and I even took notes). Everything was mind-blowing. As if it wasn’t already great enough, there was a wine pairing for every course. Our sommelier Riky wasn’t just any somm- he’s one of the 147 level 3 masters in the world. He did an incredible job pairing the perfect wine to compliment each course that the chef prepared.
If there is ever a time in your life to make the drive, spend the money, and splurge on a meal, it is without a doubt Castel Fragsburg. You won’t regret a second or a penny of it.
There are lots of great restaurants in Merano that we tried and loved, and lots more I wanted to try that we didn’t have time to explore.
Sigmund had a beautiful outdoor patio that drew us in for dinner one night as we were aimlessly wandering around. It's an awesome spot if you're looking for high quality food and wonderful ambiance.
Ristorante Kallmünz was a recommendation of Barbara's (from Imperial Art Hotel) and we were so pleased with it. Both the patio and indoor spaces are stunning and create the perfect dining atmosphere. The food (I loved their salmon risotto) was delicious- even the bread basket!
One of my favorite things we did in Merano was wine tasting at Meran Burggräfler Winery. First, the property is stunning and has the best view I've ever seen at a winery (those mountains!). Valentino, our guide, took us on a tour of grounds and lead our tasting. He did a great job educating us (and spoke great english, which was helpful in an area that's predominately German + Italian!) They had some great wines that I loved drinking throughout the week at other restaurants in town. Be sure to add it to your itinerary while planning if you love wine or incredible views (how could anyone not love both of those!?)
To get a true Merano experience, we had to partake in a wellness activity! So we we spent an afternoon at Terme Merano in the heart of town. They offer the townspeople and visitors to South Tyrol an oasis of health and wellbeing, and constitute a new interpretation of Merano’s long tradition as a health resort and spa. Since the 1960s thermal water containing radon has been pumped from Monte San Vigilio near Merano and used for a variety of therapeutic applications. In the new Terme Merano, thermal water has always been employed for inhalations, individual baths and it is also used to fill the pools.
A variety of therapeutic properties are ascribed to these mineral waters they use (soothing and pain-relieving effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems, positive effects on the respiratory system, improvements for allergy sufferers and treating chronic disorders of the veins to name a few.) We loved relaxing at the pools and saunas (although PSA: several saunas strictly prohibit wearing any kind of bathing suit and are mixed gender - so if you're not quite comfortable with that you see a lot more than you hope for!)
Similar to health clubs in the states, you can either attain a membership or if you're just visiting, you're able to buy a visitor day pass. Rain or shine, there's tons to experience here and help you relax.
The gardens at Trauttmansdorff Castle are stunning. So stunning in fact, they were named the International Garden of the Year in 2013
We were taken on a tour of the grounds by our fantastic guide, Hans. He was so kind and I couldn't believe how much he knew about the hundreds of plants (and that he could tell you in 3 languages!) We loved our time with him and everything he taught us. After our tour, we went to one of their restaurants to have lunch with Ms. Patuzzi (who works in the Castle's marketing department). She was a delight and told us so much helpful information about the property.
The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle, located on the eastern outskirts of Merano in the Italian province of South Tyrol, are multifaceted and visually stunning. South Tyrol’s most popular tourist attraction is simply enchanting: this twelve-hectare botanical paradise features more than eighty garden landscapes and plants from all over the globe. Gardens based on historical models, colorful collections of plants, and a variety of Experience Stations round out the offering.
The contemporary and stylish feel of the botanical gardens, a mix of new and old architecture, and the historical role that Trauttmansdorff Castle played as a retreat for Empress Elisabeth of Austria have all been important factors in Trauttmansdorff’s success.
There's literally so much information I could throw at you about the gardens, but the important part is that they are beautiful and you don't want to miss visiting them during your time in South Tyrol.
We originally were set to do a Via Ferratta (which I was so excited about!) but unfortunately due to rain in the Dolomites we had to cancel (but I still recommend looking into it!) Fortunately for us, we still got our fair share of time on top of the world thanks to Meran 2000- a hiking and recreation area up in the mountain terrace overlooking Merano. Take a short 7 minute cable car to the top and before you know it, you have a breathtaking view of the Ortles range and the Dolmites. There is a playground area for kids and families, or if you're like me- a terrace at Panorama Bistro for lunch and some wine. We did a little bit of hiking but because of time I didn't even scratch the surface of all I hoped to see. Regardless of how long you stay, you're sure to love the views and experience for an alternate perspective of Merano.
I'm so glad I ventured to this "hidden gem" of a town in South Tyrol! I adore big cities and lots of destinations that are full of tourists, but there was something special about going someplace that felt like a well kept secret that you don't experience everyday. I would go back in a heartbeat and advise anyone else to visit as well! As always, if you have any questions, give me a shout: firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's all for today! I'm off to drink some champagne right at the source here in Reims, France. Au revoir until next time!