South Tyrol boasts terrific cuisine and top-notch skiing
Sick of the usual wintersport resort diet of greasy French fries, pizza, chicken wings and an excess of cheese? Then head to the slopes of South Tyrol, in northern Italy, where you can fuel your runs with a tasty feast.
Originally Austrian but part of Italy since 1919, this region offers the best of two cultures — and cuisines.
A picturesque farming region, South Tyrol offers high quality ingredients, and delicious, simple rustic dishes served in cosy restaurants. Stop off for lunch in a wood-panelled mountain refuge and you can tuck into barley soup, fluffy dumplings, cured ham Speck, crusty sourdough Schuttelbrot, hearty al dente pasta and plump apple strudel, all washed down with a glass of red Lagrain wine.
South Tyrol also has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometre in Italy, with a total of 12 stars at 11 restaurants.
St. Hubertus, the gourmet restaurant at luxurious family-run Hotel Rosa Alpina, recently became the first restaurant in the area with two Michelin stars. Run by chef Norbert Niederkofler, a dinner here is like an evening at the theatre, an almost intellectual experience full of twists and surprises from the pine needle risotto to the beef fillet wrapped in hay. It’s no wonder he was asked to produce a five-course alfresco lunch for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on their day trip to the Dolomites after a film festival last November.
South Tyrol is not just for foodies: There are plenty of slopes here on which to earn your dinner. In fact the Dolomites Superski region is the largest ski network in Europe, with 1200 km of connected slopes with guaranteed snow all year round thanks to an infrastructure of hi-tech snow machines. You can also ski the Sella Ronda, a 26 km circular tour around the Sella Massif Peak linking four valleys (www.sellaronda.it).
The scenery is inspiring, with spectacular mountains and the pretty villages with their majestic castles and churches painted with pastel frescos, and the après-ski starts early, with drinks in a cosy stube, or a dance on the terrace of a mountain bar in your ski boots. Add to that its laidback Italian charm, and you’ll find that South Tyrol a great place to get on your skiis. (www.suedtirol.info.)
In Alta Badia, one such sublime experience starts with a stay at the Rosa Alpina, San Cassiano.
A gorgeous family-run luxury hotel with cool interiors and warm atmosphere, the building dates back to 1850. Features include beautiful rooms filled with Tyrol antiques, indoor pool and the excellent Daniela Steiner spa but food is key here. As well as the St. Hubertus, there’s the informal Wine Bar & Grill, the cosy Fondue Stube and the sunny Limonaia, where you’re met with an extravagant breakfast buffet, with local yoghurt and eggs from happy chickens with yolks the colour of a clementine. (www.rosaalpina.it)
Where to ski? Plan de Corones / Kronplatz: At 2,275 metres high, this high-tech ski resort is the flagship resort in the area with 264 snow guns guaranteeing the white stuff through until April 22. With three sides to explore, leading to Valdaora, Brunico and San Vigilo. (www.kronplatz.co)