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With an intriguing Italian/Austrian culture mix, jaw-dropping mountainous landscapes, a family-friendly feel, top-class skiing and delicious local delicacies, South Tyrol is Italy’s best-kept secret.
Italy is a dream destination for a family-friendly holiday – the locals are welcoming (and love kids!), the food is to-die-for and the scenery is breathtaking. Tuscany has long been a favourite holiday spot for families, but if you’re looking for somewhere new, somewhere that feels like an undiscovered gem, we’ve got just the place. South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost province, is an idyllic destination packed with charm and character. The unique mix of Italian and Austrian culture – even the road signs come in three languages! – along with some of Europe’s most incredible countryside, make South Tyrol a place well worth a visit. Panoramic, mountainous landscapes of lush green, in the spring and summer, and snowy white in the winter, picture-perfect villages of charming wood-clad cabins, rolling Alpine hills, pretty meadows, mountain streams, cowbells ringing in the distance; yes, South Tyrol really is a magical, untouched slice of paradise.
There’s something to tempt family travellers all year round. During winter, as the landscape turns a beautiful snowy white, snowboarders and skiers will be in heaven. Then, as the seasons change, the warmer months offer plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure activities, like hiking in the Dolomites (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), cycling through unspoilt forests and wild swimming in tranquil lakes. If you’re up for adventure, and making memories as a family, this is the place to do it!
You can’t come all the way to South Tyrol without experiencing the wonderful mountain huts, scattered along the region’s walkways. The perfect pitstop mid-hike, these numerous huts might look unassuming from the outside, but you’ll be treated to some of the tastiest local cuisine around, once you venture inside. Cheese, speck (juniper-flavoured ham or bacon) and Schüttelbrot flat-bread, finished off with Kaiserschmarrn – chopped sweet pancakes – and cranberries, is guaranteed to please even the fussiest of little eaters. Wash this down with some of the sweet local apple juice for the kids and a glass off refreshing Pilsner for the grown-ups and you’ve got the perfect South Tyrol meal on a budget.
With such an alpine vibe, it’s sometimes easy to forget you’re in Italy when holidaying in South Tyrol. But make no mistake – there’s a fantastic choice of pizzerias across the region, serving up traditional Italian fare that the kids will love. When it comes to crowd-pleasing meals out, which the whole family will love, you can’t go wrong with some tasty pasta, pizza and gelato. Generally, Italian families tend to eat quite late and as a result many restaurants don’t open before 7:30pm, so pizzerias are a good choice for families with younger kids.
If you fancy taking advantage of your hotel’s babysitting service, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to world-class eateries. South Tyrol can boast 26 Michelin stars across 19 restaurants – and we all know, when it comes to cuisine, Italy knocks it out of the park. St Hubertus is the country’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant, so if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, this is where to book.
Fun Bob, San Candido
With a name like Fun Bob, you know you’re in for a treat! San Candido is home to the longest summer toboggan run in South Tyrol, guaranteed to have the kids raving and declaring this their ‘best holiday ever!’. Race down the mountain in your yellow ‘bob’ for an exhilarating and memorable way of taking in the views.
Pragser Wildsee Lake
As the largest natural lake in the Dolomite, Pragser Wildsee, or Lago di Braies as it’s also known, is one of those ‘has to be seen to be believed’ places. The water is a mesmerising mix of bright greens and rich blues, while the lake itself is surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges. Hike around the lake or hire a rowing boat to take in the views without breaking a sweat. Rumour has it, that this very landscape inspired J R R Tolkein’s fantasy world, in The Lord of The Rings – and it’s not hard to see why.
Drava Cycle Path
South Tyrol is a dream for cyclists, with purpose-built cycling trails across the region. For something a little bit special, try out the Drava Cycle Path, that takes you from San Candido, along the Drava river to Lienz in Austria – that’s right, you’ll cover two countries in one (mostly downhill) ride! There’s plenty of places to stop for refuelling or to rest weary legs along the way, but the stunning scenery should spur even the most unwilling cyclist along.
Adventure Park, Dobbiaco
Feeling brave? Head to the tree tops for an adrenaline-fuelled high-rope course in Dobbiaco. There are 12 different courses, suitable for different ages – and levels of bravery! – where you can scramble across nets, balance on bars and walk over rope bridges, high above ground. Specially trained instructors will be on hand to guide you across each course and, with many designed for beginners, it’s suitable for children as well as grown-ups.
If you’re after serious wow-factor, you’ve found it at Post Alpina. This chic Alpine retreat offers the choice of chalet or suite accommodation, all boasting the most incredible mountain views. Perfectly blending contemporary style and comfort with a traditional, wooden exterior, Post Alpina looks straight out of a story book, and has everything you could ever want for an unforgettable family holiday. For a real home-from-home feel, stay in one of the charming chalets. They’re a great choice for families looking for a bit more space and the freedom to cook up their own meals – always handy with young children.
Family really is at the heart of Post Alpina, and everything has been thought of to make holidaying with kids of all ages a dream. The free kids club runs seven days a week, offering a packed schedule of games, craft activities and outside adventures for children aged three and up, while the teen lounge is heaven for bigger kids, complete with PlayStation, air hockey, Wii and more. At Post Alpina you’ve also got use of indoor and outdoor pools, including a kids’ pool, as well as a spa that’s perfect for a bit of ‘me-time’. If you’re looking for adventure, Post Alpina is perfectly placed to hit the slopes, with ski in/ski out access.
The region can be accessed from Verona, served by Ryanair, British Airways and easyJet. Flight time approx. 2 hours.
Best time to go:
The winter months are a dream come true for skiers, so if that’s what you’re after, visit from early December to early April.
Make sure you treat yourself to a Hugo – a delicious local aperitif, made with sparkling wine, elderflower syrup and mint leaves. Cheers!