To me, winter means snow, fire, hot chocolate and South Tyrol. I’ve already mentioned the beauty of this Italian region in the summertime. Now it’s time to write about the snow-covered rooftops and mountains, the warmth of the stube (dining room) and the silence of winter mornings. Our destination is Bressanone, or Brixen, in the heart of the region. Brixen is a small but very functional city, which offers everything you might want or need. University, hospital, museums, shops, restaurants, banks, and an efficient public transport network.
Brixen, an eco-friendly town
All in all, I think that Bressanone is very close to my idea of an ideal town. The stunning historical center develops around the imposing cathedral. The eco-friendly residences live harmoniously with the traditional South Tyrol houses, offering a good example of integration between old and new. The pedestrian streets are lined with all types of shops, bakeries, cafés and art galleries. In the heart of the town stands the Cathedral, which reflects many different architectural styles. Brixen has been the episcopal see for one thousand years, and is the oldest city in South Tyrol. The bishop of Brixen had his own palace, the Hofburg, which was built in the 13th century. Its Renaissance buildings are well worth a visit. At Christmastime, the Diocesan Museum housed in the palace becomes even more interesting with its collection of nativity scenes.
South Tyrolean cuisine
South Tyrol is famous for wine, speck (smoked ham) and apples, which are used in baked goods, sweet and savoury dishes. But there’s more to it. In the last few years, the traditional cuisine has been influenced by Mediterranean flavours and new culinary tendencies. The result is a tasty, inviting combination of old ingredients and new dishes, prepared by local chefs. And the high concentration of Michelin star-rated restaurants in the region proves how far South Tyrolean cuisine has come. Spinach and cheese dumplings, apple strudel, warm blueberry sauce are classics, but also fish and cheese are cooked so as to make delicious dishes.
A delicious strudel in Rio di Pusteria
Not far from Brixen, in the small village of Rio di Pusteria, there’s a bakery that makes one of the best strudels I’ve ever tasted. It’s called Stampfl, and they also sell whole grain bread and buckwheat cake. Their strudel is made with a fragrant pastry wrapped around a mixture of apples, raisins, pine nuts and sugar. I’ve had it with hot chocolate, thick and creamy. Their address is Via Katharina Lanz, 64. The best way to enjoy such a nutritious break is to take the cable car right behind the shop in the morning and go up to Maranza. This beautiful village offers many trails where you can walk during the winter, when the snow makes the landscape even more charming and silent.
THree gourmand addresses in BRIXEN
Back to Brixen: if you want to try the real South Tyrolean cuisine, here are three places that I strongly recommend. The first one is Traubenwirt, in the historical center next to the Cathedral. A warm, welcoming restaurant which serves traditional dishes combined with modern and new flavours. Their chestnut, potato and leek dumplings make an amazing first course. And their Linzer torte, a crumbly pastry with almonds and lingonberry jam, is able to give some moments of real pleasure.
The second restaurant you want to try is Sunneg, The Thaler family has owned a house with a view over the valley for several generations. They use local products and produce their own wine, the renowned Gewürztraminer. A dinner in their traditional stube is an experience that will make you feel the intimate magic of this beautiful region.
And then there’s Fink. Located in the heart of the town, Fink is both bakery and restaurant. The café on the ground floor offers local specialities and delicious cakes in an informal atmosphere. The elegant restaurant on the first floor is called Menhir-Stube, because Hans Fink discovered a menhir, and ancient stone with engravings, in Tschötsch. And so you will find good food in an evocative place.
WHERE TO STAY IN BRIXEN
There are many options to stay in the city, from luxury hotels to bed & breakfasts. Here are some addresses I recommend:
Hotel Elephant – the oldest hotel in town, elegant and warm.
Hotel Goldener Adler – a beautiful hotel by the river.
Hotel Pupp – a small, modern luxury hotel.
Hotel Grüner Baum – a large bio hotel with a good restaurant.
Residence Isarcus – the perfect option for those who want to stay in a home away from home.
Hotel Traube – a nice and comfortable hotel in the historical center.
Most of the hotels and residences give their guests the Brixen card, which can be used as a bus, cable car and train ticket and to get free entrance at many museums. One more reason to visit this beautiful, relaxing and welcoming region.