This northernmost province of the country is a very unique part of Italy. Stretching across several prominent, green valleys and alpine peaks that reach heights of up to 3,900 meters, South Tyrol enjoys an advanced level of autonomy within Italy and is closely connected to the neighboring federal state of Tyrol in Austria.
Up until the end of World War I, Tyrol and South Tyrol were one region named Tyrol within the Empire of Austria-Hungary. But the allied nations going to war against Germany and Austria-Hungary promised Italy it would receive the area if the Italians joined the war efforts. From 1922 on, the then-fascist regime of Italy started to force an Italianization on the population and tried to expunge the German language from the region. South Tyrol today is proof that this endeavour was not successful. More than 60% of residents here speak German and only some 23% speak Italian as a first language. Consequently, the area mostly goes by “Südtirol”, the German word, while it may often be called “Trentino-Alto Adige” on street signs and in publications.
South Tyrol is most commonly visited by outdoor enthusiasts who will find ample opportunities for hiking, biking, canoeing, canyoning, climbing and many other activities. The area also boasts many ski areas suitable for all skill levels. Further tourism segments the region caters to include green tourism, agritourism and health tourism. Accommodation options range from simple cabins and bed and breakfasts to luxurious spa resorts. Culinary travel is also an option, as the area features a unique cuisine based on the goods grown locally. Apple orchards cover a lot of ground in the region, which contributes about 10% to the apple production within the EU. In addition, South Tyrol has a longstanding tradition of wine growing. Some 5,000 vineries operate in the province, growing various grapes ranging from Pinot blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon.
For visitors arriving from abroad, trains are often a good transport option as South Tyrol is located along major north-south train lines and there are several smaller train connections within the province. Arriving by air can be a bit more challenging. Although there is a small airport in Bolzano, only seasonal charter operations are available, so that the nearest commercial airports with good connections are those in Innsbruck, Austria and in Venice, both of which will require lengthy transfers to get to South Tyrol.
The province’s capital and largest city is Bolzano (Bozen in German), a town often awarded with high ranks in quality of living surveys. Bolzano has an old town area with various historic buildings, several castles and an archaeology museum that’s home to the famous “Ötzi” Iceman mummy. Other important towns include Merano, popular for its spa resorts that have drawn many famous visitors, Bruneck and Brixen. Since early settlements in the mountaineous region often were rather isolated, each of the valleys developed on its own for a long time, creating unique visitor experiences everywhere. However, travelers looking for hiking, climbing or skiing opportunities will find those in all districts of South Tyrol. Also, the mountains of Northern Italy are important habitats that are often included in National Parks or regional conservation parks. For example, the Dolomites, stretching from South Tyrol into neighboring provinces, are a World Heritage Site. The are can be explored via several long-distance trails and also feature a number of popular ski areas.