Having lived relatively close to the ocean for most of my life, I’m used to flat landscapes, moderate coastal climate and a constant breeze. Even during my travels I stayed true to this pattern – with the sunny hills of California being the most unusual environment.

With this in mind, you can imagine my amazement when we were approaching the mountains of South Tyrol during a recent trip to Northern Italy. While we spiralled our way upwards on the winding roads, I couldn’t help but stare at the snowy mountain tops, camera always right at hand. A stark contrast to my usual surroundings, this local landscape was something completely different: Fresh green was darkening to a rich fir green and fading out into a deep gray, complete with a snowy topping.

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We were headed to Bressanone, a small town in the province of Bolzano near the Isarco river. Bressanone is more than 1,000 years old and one of the oldest towns in South Tyrol with a picturesque historic centre from the Middle Ages. During the winter, the area is popular among sports enthusiasts who enjoy skiing and sledging; in the summer visitors take to the mountains via bike or on foot. If you’re not among the devotees of athletic activities, you might as well just sit back and relax, and indulge in the delicious food and wine from the region.

Foodies, take note: The Bressanone area is well-known for its delicacies, most of them regionally grown and processed by local manufacturers. We were stunned to discover the versatile palette of products, especially with the selection of cheese and wine. Would you believe that a mine provides the perfect climate for wine to mature? Or would you have imagined that cheese is refined with chocolate or liquorice?

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During a tasting at South Tyrol’s only cheese refinery Degust, we discovered an amazing variety of artisan cheese, ranging from creamy Camembert to strong firm variations. The Degust company’s creation refine up to 200 locally produced cheese which mature in a bunker from the Second World War. The products appeal to foodies around the world with regular exports to the gourmet capitals of Paris and London. Most surprising creation: Cheese with gold leafing.

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Another golden creation from the region is their award-winning wine. Even though the climate differs from the mediterranean temperatures in the rest of Italy, the weather conditions are still mild enough to produce excellent white wines. The Vini d’Italia, Italy’s most influential guide to national wine, awarded some of the local wines with their highest rating – and deservedly so. I lost track about the number and variations of wine we got to taste, and even if you only warm up slowly to this drink, you will certainly find a wine that tickles your fancy.

Similar to the cheese storage, the wines of the Röckhof winery mature way below the ground in the tunnels of a mine from the Middle Ages. Equipped with helmets and pit lamps, our group trotted into the tunnel and learned about the conditions below ground. The chilly and humid conditions were once a dangerous and tough environment to work in – today this place serves as a well tempered natural cooling station for the winery’s tasty products.

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From the depth of the mountain, our next stop would take us all the way to the top to one of the countless alpine meadows. The grasslands on the peaks of the surrounding mountains are home to the oldest South Tyrolean breed of sheep: The spectacles sheep. The woolly quadrupeds’s produce is distributed via the Furchetta brand which aims to support and protect the animal population. We were surprised to learn that the shepherds actually live among the sheep for several months in the elevated solitude of the South Tyrolean peaks. None of us could really imagine a long-term camping trip without warm water – let alone a WiFi-connection.

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Even though all of us enjoyed our visit to the alp meadow, my favorite part of the trip was a hike to the Schatzer Lodge. Besides their amazingly delicious food the panorama was truly captivating. What struck me most about the entire trip were the creative menus we were invited to try. Most of the dishes were the restaurants’ own creations ranging from filled gnocchi to fried elderflower. Having a sweet tooth, I have to admit I enjoyed the desserts most with the home-made apricot ice cream at Schatzer Lodge being my favorite. But no matter where you decide to stop for a bite to eat – there will certainly be a favorite for everyone.

Many thanks to Eisacktal Tourism Board for their hospitality and for inviting us on this lovely trip!

All photos by Cordula Schaefer.


Cordula Schaefer Cordula Schaefer is a photography enthusiast who loves to venture out to explore new places and hardly ever leaves the house without a camera. A New Yorker at heart, she is especially fond of city trips and has a soft spot for beautiful beachscapes. She currently bases herself in Berlin and keeps the visual documents of her travels at Cordugram.