Those of you that read our blog regularly or follow our travels on Instagram know that we’ve been to South Tyrol many times already and can never get enough of the alpine-mediterranean flair, cuisine and hospitality of our neighbours in the very North of Italy. Our last trip took place at the beginning of November, when larch trees are carrying their golden needles and chestnuts are roasted in the streets.
In this guide we’ll share our tips for an autumn visit of South Tyrol – focusing on the region between Merano, Bolzano and Lana, which are an ideal base for the fall season.
From Merano to Bolzano: An autumn visit of South Tyrol
During our last trips to South Tyrol we often stayed in the countryside to be closer to nature, hike in the Dolomites or enjoy the many outdoors activities South Tyrol offers.
But November isn’t an ideal month for hikes, and not just because of the weather. The mountain season usually ends a bit after the “All Saints” holidays – and that’s also when many cable cars pause their operations before the winter season kicks off again. In November it makes sense to focus on wellness & relax holidays in one of the many wonderful spa resorts or on cultural visits.
This travel guide includes tips for Merano, Bolzano, Lana and Salorno – all worth a trip in autumn for various reasons!
Contemporary design, nature & traditional handcrafts in South Tyrol
We decided to focus on the cities & culture this time and stayed in the town of Lana (close to Merano) and the city of Bolzano for 2 nights each, so we could experience the historic architecture, the wonderful cuisine and the culture of the region from it’s contemporary design to it’s traditional handcrafts. And that’s perfect even when the weather doesn’t play along!
Read all about our tips for autumn in South Tyrol in these regions.
Rainy days in South Tyrol: What to do & what to skip
You should know, rainy days are usually rare – in fact South Tyrol gets 300 days of sunshine per year. And even when it rains, it usually doesn’t last for days on end. You see how I used “usually” twice in this description. We got “lucky” to experience a bit of the exception and it rained for almost our whole 4 day stay. Yet, we made the best out of it and when it did clear up we headed outside as much as possible!
Here are our takeaways and what we can recommend for a November trip.
What to do in Lana in November
In 2020 we already visited Lana at the very end of November, when the Christmas markets open and the first snow covers the mountains (read all about it here). But the beginning of November is a completely different season altogether and in Lana the last apples are still hanging, while ripe Khakis glow in bright orange from the trees.
One local produce is the celebrated star of November and that’s the chestnut.
- Called “Keschtn” in local dialect the region of Lana has dedicated a few weeks to celebrate the fruit in all its glory. That entails roasted chestnuts in the streets as well as chocolate chestnut pralines on sale in the local pasticcerias (Panificio SCHMIEDL sells the “official” ones). A handful of restaurants participates in the chestnut weeks as well offering dishes like Tortelli with chestnuts, chestnut risotto and creative dessert variations.
- The best place to eat: For us it’s 1477 Reichhalter again and again. We’ve stayed here last time and loved the atmosphere of the historic building as well as the handpicked à la carte dishes for breakfast. But dinner has gotten even better now (my husband says this was the best pumpkin risotto he ever had in his life). Make sure to reserve a table to have a chance to try for yourself!
- And then there’s the wonderful artist’s garden and winery called “Kränzelhof”, where you can walk around and make your way through an elaborate labyrinth all while discovering the yearly changing art installations on display.
- A visit at Kränzelhof wouldn’t be complete without one of the best meals we had during our stay in South Tyrol at the restaurant called “miil”. The building itself is the perfect combination of historical parts and contemporary architecture, with a rounded glass facade and wooden elements creating a cocoon like shape and structure. And the food is a very refined & elegant version of local South Tyrolean specialties, served in a creative form and with really interesting taste combinations (think Tortelli with beetroot, quince and chestnuts for example).
What to do in Merano in November
Now when it comes to Merano there’s a couple of things you can’t miss. We only had a short & rainy two hours in the city, but our tips would be:
- Visit local newcomer chocolatier René at his store and chocolate manufacture called “58 Chocolate” (and try not to talk too much about white chocolate, which he says he “only makes because people have been asking about it” 😉 He prefers the dark kinds and we do too!)
- Shop for delicacies at “Pur Südtirol”, which is a place where we always stop by – be it for Kohl’s cloudy apple juices or the iconic “Schüttelbrot”.
- If your hotel doesn’t have it’s own spa & wellness area you can also visit the “Terme Merano”, which is a huge thermal bath located centrally in town and offers as many as 15 pools and countless saunas (just try not to come on a holiday, because it might be packed).
- Buy souvenirs at the “Monocle” store, which has a great selection of creative local handcrafts, magazines and design.
What to do in Bolzano in November
Now we wish we had a bit more time to explore Bolzano during this visit, but we’ve been here before and always enjoy the atmosphere of the beating heart of South Tyrol. This time around we stayed in the newly opened “Parkhotel Mondschein” (see below for some more impressions), which embodies the spirit of the city for us.
Bolzano is cosmopolitan & hip, while still understated & relaxed.
- Definitely eat dinner at the wonderful “Bistro Bogen”. Order the “Parmigiana” (an oven-baked aubergine topped with lots of cheese and tomato sauce) and the Tiramisu and thank us later. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere very laid-back and casual – like a visit with really good friends.
- If you’re up for traditional South Tyrolean fare, don’t miss out on lunch or dinner at “Restaurant Vögele”. Order the regional delicacy called “Kartoffelblattln” (loosely translated as “potato sheets”) or the “Knödeltris” (trio of dumplings) – all vegetarian and just really really delicious!
When the weather is good: Autumn excursions
Apart from staying in the city we also ventured out for a few nature experiences. Here are our tips for sunny (or at least dry) autumn days:
- Hike around “Lago di Vernago”: The larch trees shine bright and yellow around this man-made lake up in the high altitude valley called “Val Senales”. There’s a 4,5 hour circular hiking route around the lake. Our tip would be to arrive before noon, as the sun disappears behind the mountains around 2pm in November already.
- Visit “Cascata di Parcines” waterfall: Especially after some rainy days the waterfall shoots down with incredible force, making for gusts of water and sprinkles all over the path, that runs relatively close to the fall. Our tip: Make sure to hike all the way up to the restaurant aptly called “Ristorante Wasserfall” – there’s a lookout platform waiting at the top.
- Take the “Funivia Tirolo”: Ride up to the mountain station called “Muta” and hike uphill for 10 minutes to get to the lookout platform that’s shaped like a basket (called “Piattaforma panoramica ai Masi della Muta”). From here you have a spectacular panorama (well, when you don’t get caught in a cloud like we did 😉 ). This is also the starting point of the “Alta Via di Merano” hiking path, which you can hike if the weather permits.
Additional tips that are independent of the weather
Since we had a rental car, we also used the opportunity to drive out of the cities once in a while to see parts of South Tyrol that we hadn’t visited during our previous stays.
One of those trips brought us to the very Southern tip of South Tyrol to a village called Salorno.
- Here you can visit a very special place, where two local brothers are manufacturing traditional clothes from deer hides. Traditional knee-length or 7/8 length leather pants called “Lederhosen” are worn since centuries in South Tyrol and remain one of the staples when it comes to investing in a piece that you can wear for a lifetime (well and longer!). Here at “Amalia Pernter 1896” it takes 3-8 days to finish one pair – all handcrafted and made to measure.
- And there’s also a huge selection of so called “Dirndln” (traditional women’s dresses) as well as accessories from woven handbags to wool socks to match the outfits accordingly. If you’re not ready to invest in one of their pieces yet you can join a tour to learn more about the handcrafts and the building that dates back to the 15th century and stay for lunch.
- The food they serve in their very own bistro is elevated (think dry ice and espuma). Don’t forget to end things with an Affogato (scoop of vanilla ice topped off with an espresso) to complete the Italian style meal – this is as South as you can go in South Tyrol after all, so you better make it count.
Another South Tyrolean staple is of course wine. Traditionally white wine dominates the cellars in South Tyrol, but if you visit “Cantina Kurtatsch” you can learn more about how the low altitudes in this part of South Tyrol allow for grape varieties such as Merlot to grow and flourish.
The winery is worth a visit for it’s iconic showroom alone – built by local architects Sylvia Dell’ Angolo and Egon Kelderer – and reflecting the terroir in their vicinity, which is dominated by jagged cliffs and exposed stone. Well and the wines aren’t too bad either (but we’re not experts in this domain) 😉
Where to stay in South Tyrol in autumn
Lana: Villa Arnica
In the town of Lana we got to stay at a hotel that was on our bucket list since quite a while! Villa Arnica is an adults only boutique hotel with only 10 rooms in a historical villa and just one of those places that makes you feel like you stepped right out of a hip insider’s travel guide. The villa is conveniently located in a Mediterranean alpine park with Khaki trees and their own vegetable garden – and there’s even a heated outdoor pool and a yoga room in a transformed old glasshouse.
The highlights of the villa are the private atmosphere, the tasteful interior and decoration as well as the wonderful breakfast with daily changing à la carte options like a fruit salad with rhubarb compote (and hints of anise) or eggs Florentine on crispy yet fluffy brioche. If you’re lucky like us it’s warm enough (even in November!) and you can eat outside in their arbour next to the pool.
Bolzano: Parkhotel Mondschein
Parkhotel Mondschein is the sister property of Villa Arnica and the newest addition to the small family-owned business. It opened its doors in 2022, but everything about the hotel oozes history. In fact the oldest part of the building dates back to 1320. It used to be a hotel and tavern before and has only been carefully restored and updated, keeping the terrazzo floors in the hallways and the creaking wooden floors in the rooms.
We stayed in one of the Junior suites of the 72-room hotel and thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the free-standing bath tub in our suite with views of the cloud-covered mountain tops outside. The location is perfect to discover Bolzano as the hotel sits smack in the middle of the old town with a beautiful park on one and a large parking lot on the other side.
Check out our other posts about South Tyrol here to learn more:
- 5 tips for an autumn escape to Lana
- Our itinerary for 5 summer days in South Tyrol
- 2 very special hideaways & design hotels in South Tyrol