South Tyrol for experienced holiday makers
Understanding South Tyrol
You, a true fan of South Tyrol, have probably already noticed: the South Tyroleans are different. This is made even more difficult by the fact that South Tyroleans don’t actually exist: because of their two opposing cultures, their three official languages and their turbulent history. As a fan of South Tyrol you know that locations are usually called by both their German and Italian name and that spaghetti are eaten with a fork only. That the pre lunchtime drink is white wine and that you should never drink cappuccino or latte macchiato after a fine meal. And you also know that the German spoken in South Tyrol is a special form of German.
How careful do I need to be?
In general you do not need to fear for your property anywhere in South Tyrol. However, it is always better to lock your bikes, put cameras into the boot of your car and
to keep an eye on your skis. When you are out hiking in the mountains, watch for thunderstorms blowing up.
What about nude swimming, hiking or skiing?
South Tyroleans would prefer you not to! Although it can get quite hot, especially in the Southern parts of the province, it is most definitely not South Tyrolean custom! The only place for nudeness is the sauna. Skiing in skimpy clothes or walking up a mountain half-naked are also not advisable.
How much Italian do I need to know to have a reasonable conversation?
Although the majority of South Tyroleans is said to be bilingual, many Italians struggle with the difficult German language. If your German isn’t up to scratch, and if you don’t know the key different words in South Tyrolean German, you can practice your Italian instead – over a pizza, in the trattoria or during the festa. But don’t worry, Italians also communicate perfectly with gestures and through making faces. Capito?
Are South Tyroleans Italians, Austrians or Germans?
Careful, tricky territory! All South Tyroleans should be seen as an individuals. Their ID card declares them to be Italian, looking at their family history, they have Austrian roots, liberals see them simply as a European, but their own view of themselves is defined by their valley (Val Venosta, Val Pusteria, Valle Isarco, Val Sarentino etc.), their region (Oltradige or from Val Badia), or even just their home village. Let’s keep things nice and simple and local.
Which coffee at what time?
For Italians, coffee is no joking matter. And where coffee is involved, South Tyroleans quickly become Italians. The day begins with a good cup of cappuccino or a milky latte macchiato. For a coffee break and after dinner South Tyroleans treat themselves to a macchiato (with only a dash of milk) or an espresso (black), or even a corretto (with a glass of angostura bitter or a brandy on the side).
How long can I slow down the car to admire the views?
In front of you, heart-melting panoramic views, behind you an angry, horn-tooting, wildly gesticulating tail of cars. Although South Tyrol only has upper speed limits, it is advisable not to stretch the patience of local drivers. Better to park and get out of the car.
How much fruit am I allowed to pick for myself?
“To the hiker - nature, to the farmer - fruit” is a sentence found every now and then on wooden slates in vineyards and orchards. That’s all there is to it, because if every single one of the several hundred thousands of holidaymakers would taste only one apple and one grape each, all fruit farmers would end up forming a queue at the job centre. Tip: Many farmers sell fresh fruit on their farms.
Which souvenirs are best to take home?
Well, some like kitsch, others prefer it nostalgic, others again like it modern and stylish. You never go wrong with typical South Tyrolean delicacies: aromatic Speck cured ham, fine wine, homemade jams, three kinds of dumplings (vacuum packed) or a flacon of original South Tyrolean mountain air.
How many glasses of schnapps can you drink with the innkeeper?
In this tricky matter it’s better to be safe than sorry: a “no thank you” hurts the landlord’s pride, a small schnapps furthers digestion, two schnapps further friendship, three schnapps can further the loss of our driving license. Better be careful!
How do I impress the locals?
Well, there are a number of things not usually associated with your average tourist. A few strong expressions in deepest dialect, for example. It doesn’t matter whether you speak the language of Sarentino, Bassa Atesina or Passiria! Or milking cows and cleaning out stables. Or chopping wood, dancing Schuhplattler or cracking whips. Or being able to play the card games Watten, Maiern and Schnapsen. The latter has, of course, nothing do to with schnapps!