Merano: best lunch ever

So where were we? Oh yes: Merano, Italy. On our second day there, we asked at the hotel for a lunch suggestion. Lucky for us, the recommended place was closed, and we ended up improvising. We found Castel Fragsburg at the top of a windy road outside of Merano. The posted menu looked interesting, if a bit expensive, so we decided to give it a try. We were led through a large dining room out onto a terrace with a sweeping view of the valley below. Worth the price alone.

Before we can even order the chef starts sending us little ‘greetings from the kitchen’ Continue reading

Italy: you say Bozen, I say Bolzano

I was happy to finally get back to Bolzano (Bozen in German), a city where we spent some time many years ago and completely loved it. At the time we were living in Italy and found Bolzano’s German-ness to be novel and charming; this time around it was the Italian side we were more interested in. Although the locals supposedly prefer German, the city feels almost perfectly bilingual, and almost every conversation I had involved exchanges in both Italian and German.

Luckily it wasn’t too hard to find enough Italian details in Bolzano to completely delight me. Bolzano’s cafes serve real espresso and delicious aperitivi. The city’s center contains many winding, cobblestoned pedestrian streets teaming with life. The cuisine in most restaurants is heavily Austrian-leaning, but we had an amazing Italian dinner at Hostaria Argentieri. We took it as a good sign that the only menu available was in handwritten Italian, and our instincts were dead on.

This time we stayed at the Parkhotel Laurin, a grand old-timey hotel with a gorgeous private park and an elevator that contains a sofa. The location was great for exploring Bolzano on foot, and the rooms were clean and modern. Previously we’ve stayed at Hotel Figl, which I can also highly recommend: central, good value, clean, good.

The views of the vineyards and Dolomites surrounding Bolzano are gorgeous, and there are many nice hikes that you can start right from the city. We skipped him this time, but I also recommend a visit to Ötzi. That is, if you can tear yourself away from people-watching as you sip your prosecco at an outdoor cafe.

Italy: Val Gardena

The Dolomites were the perfect place to unwind after two weeks of Oktoberfest. A friend recommended Val Gardena, Italy – about a 3-hour drive from Munich. It’s a ski resort area in the winter, and popular with hikers in the summer. Since we are now the shoulder season, we were able to get a great deal on a room with half board at Hotel Grones in the little mountain town of Ortisei (St. Ulrich in German).

Signs in the area were often posted in three languages: Italian, German, and another one which contained wacky things like ë. This turned out to be Ladin, a local language similar to Romansh (one of Switzerland’s four official languages) and about equally decipherable. At the hotel and around town we heard all three languages being spoken around us, and it made my head swim a little. Our waitress clearly preferred speaking Italian with us, while the hotel owners were happier chatting in German.

The roads were small and windy, which made for some heart-thumping every time a tourist bus came flying towards us. There were a lot of tour buses. I don’t want to imagine what it must be like in the high season.

We visited various little towns in Val Gardena (each with a cute little church and graveyard, some hotels, and at least one collapsed wooden barn). There was a little Sound-of-Music-style spinning involved. And a waist-tall squash. I’ll let the photos say the rest.

Italy: Bolzano’s colorful market

I could have wandered up and down this street all day.

Not that Munich doesn’t have a nice market; it does. But for some reason everything looks more delicious when it’s in Italy.

Luckily we didn’t have to just look.

We came home with many delicious Italian treats from this market.

My husband gets credit for most of the photos. He was shooting away while I was buying as much as I could carry.

Hiding out in the Dolomites

Greetings from Italy. We’re recovering from Oktoberfest in a cute mountain resort town, because the best way to get over too much German beer, pretzels and kaesespaetzle is to wash it down with Italian wine, pasta, and cheese.

I’ll be back to finish off my Oktoberfest posting in a few days. But for now, the sauna is calling me.

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