Dates: July 2-8
* Wine estates: Ferrari, Tieffenbruner, Cantina Terlano, J. Hofstatter and more
* Walking: 3-4 hours (7-10 miles) on mountain trails and country lanes
* Visit the towns of Caldaro, Merano and Tramin
* Hike the mountains pass of Mendola, ride the funiculars, and crest alpine ridges.
Day 1: After a pick-up at the Trento train station (where you might arrive from Verona, only an hour away), we head immediately to our first wine tasting at Ferrari, an estate in Trento that makes elegant, classy sparkling wines. From there, we drive north to Lake Caldaro in Alto Adige, where we'll have our complementary welcome lunch at a farmhouse restaurant affiliated with the Manicor winery, dining on a mix of Italian and Austrian fare, such as speck (smoked ham), crisp pickles, and dense brown bread. Afterward, we hike to our hotel in Caldaro, walking through a crazy quilt of vineyards and apple groves. At dinner, we will get better acquainted with Tyrolian cuisine. L, D
Afterward, we complete the loop back to town, walking through a crazy quilt of vineyards. Our first wine tasting is either the Cooperative of Caldaro or the Cooperative of San Michele Appiano, two of the many wine cooperatives typical of this region. Dinner is at the hotel, a beautiful 17th century Austrian-style palazzo. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: the Mendola pass. Today's loop hike begins with a funicular (cable-car) ride up to the Mendola Pass (4,500'). One hundred years ago, the Passo della Mendola was one of the most popular vacation spots for the Austro-Hungarian nobility, and Emperor Franz Joseph inaugurated this funicular to provide a more elegant means of ascending to the alpine pass. Our hike begins at the top of the funicular and follows the mountain ridge to an alpine cafe for lunch. (Forst beer, anyone?) Then the path dips down the far side of the mountain to the village of Rufre, and we return by funicular. Our afternoon tasting is at J. Hofstatter, a family-run winery that's a consistent prize-winner with a delicious line-up of wines. Dinner is at an enoteca near Bolzano. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 3: along the ridge from Caldaro to Tramin. Charming alpine villages and a steady view of the Adige valley are featured on today's point-to-point hike. Passing through woods and along the marked wine roads (weinstrasse), we'll end up in Tramin (Termeno in Italian), a picturesque village where the grape gewurztraminer was possibly born. Here we'll visit the esteemed Tieffenbrunner, a family-run winery that consistently picks up Tre Bicchieri awards from Gambero Rosso and makes one of the best pinot grigios around. Dinner is at a restaurant with a lovely terrace overlooking Lake Caldaro. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 4: Apple orchards and ancient canals. Today's point-to-point hike follows an old irrigation canal built in the 1700`s by the local monks. Beginning in the town of Lana, the gently rolling path goes through vineyards and apple orchards, passing aqueducts, water wheels, and educational signage until our final destination at Toll and the Adige River dam. We'll then shuttle to Merano and check into our hotel, situated in the center of town. There will be free time in the late afternoon to explore Merano, with its scenic river walk and shop-lined porticos. Dinner is outside of town. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: Alpine trails in Merano. Today and tomorrow we go up in the Alps for some panoramic scenery. Today's hike is around the ski resort called Merano 2000. From our trailhead at the base of a funicular, we ascend along the paths of Mt. Naifjoch to reach the mountain resort of Gsteier, where we have a bite, then continue to the intermediate funicular station. If time permits, we can ride the funicular to the top of the mountain (6,000' elevation). Before dinner, we'll have an informal wine tasting on the hotel patio, sampling an array of wines from Trentino, the southern half of the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Dinner on your own in Merano. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Dolomite Vistas. Yesterday we explored the eastern mountains of Merano; today we go west. Again our day starts with a van shuttle to the nearby funicular in Lana. Our cable-car will take us 6,000 feet up Mt. Saint Vigilio to our trailhead. Today's loop hike is through thick pine forests, past grazing cows, and over spectacular mountain tops. After lunch at a rustic mountain resort, we descend by funicular. The afternoon takes us to a wine tasting at Cantina Terlano, located near the eponymous town. Founded in 1893, this is one of Alto Adige's oldest cooperatives and one of its best. It offers three lines of wines, with stellar bottlings of gewurtraminer, pinot bianco, lagrein, merlot, and pinot nero. Dinner is at an elegant restaurant in Merano. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 7: Arrivederci. A shuttle to the Bolzano train station and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
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