The trails are marked.
Don’t think of Italy as only a summer destination. There are plenty of things to do and to see during the Italian spring, fall, and even winter. This series of articles provides ideas for your Italian winter vacation, describing regional spectacles, tourist attractions, and special events, and sometimes skiing and other winter sports. Italian winter holidays have several advantages: You won’t fight the crowds, hotels and other accommodations are easier and cheaper to find, and every region has its own winter festivals. When we say winter, we mean November to February; spring comes early in Italy. Don’t look here for information about Italy’s marvelous Carnivale; we are planning a separate series covering regional Carnivale celebrations. Talk about planning; start organizing your Italian winter holidays now. Keep reading.
The Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy lies on the border of both Switzerland and Austria. Its tourist attractions include the Dolomite Mountains, which the famous architect Le Corbusier called “The most beautiful work of architecture even seen,” glacier lakes, and Alpine forests. Needless to say, skiing and other winter sports are a major attraction here, but you can’t really count on the snow until late February.
Beautiful traditional Alto Adige costumes.
This region is composed of two parts, Trentino in the south and the heavily German speaking Alto Adige in the north. Alto Adige, sometimes known as South Tyrol, really seems like part of Austria. Its second largest city, Merano (Meran in German), hosts an International Wine and Culinara during the second weekend of November. There is quite a focus on biodynamic and organic wine as well as Asian food. Talk about multiculturalism, Asian food in a Germanic speaking part of Italy.
The first Saturday in December Passo dello Stelvio, the highest paved mountain pass in the eastern Alps, holds its Festa dei Klosen dedicated to Santa Claus. Costumed locals wander the streets until the church bells are rung and everyone unites in prayer. Given its proximity to Germany, Trentino-Alto Adige is a great place for Christmas markets that sell beautiful local handicrafts and plenty of kitsch. At night the markets are well lit and often provide other festivities. Some of the best Christmas markets are found in Trento and Bolzano. The former hosts a large Nativity Scene in its lovely Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square). You’ll enjoy the Nativity Scene in Tesero. Cortina d'Ampezzo, “the Pearl of the Dolomites” celebrates Christmas Eve with a skiers’ torchlight parade; at midnight hundreds of people ski down the mountain carrying torches.
Castelrotto (Kastelruth in German) is quite Germanic, complete with strudel, dumplings, and oom-pah-pah music. It hosts several special events every January. First comes the Trial of the Witches, Castelrotto was said to be full of them. Then enjoy the Dobbiaco Balloon Festival. On the third Sunday the town reenacts a traditional peasant wedding; about twenty sleds transport the traditionally dressed wedding party to the church. The towns of San Candido and San Vigilio hold a great Ice Sculpture Festival in mid January. If you are driving there, make sure to bring along snow chains, a reflective vest and a warning triangle. Winter driving in the mountains is serious stuff. And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Trentino-Alto Adige wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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Winter events, spectacles, and tourist attractions in Trentino, Italy