Planning a mountain biking holiday this summer? Try South Tyrol, Italy

 

I have been to Italy umpteen times but never visited South Tyrol until this trip. I also had never been on a mountain biking holiday in South Tyrol or anywhere for that fact so this was a journey of a fair few firsts. We were based in the Biohotel & Bike Hotel Steineggerhof which is located in the picturesque mountain village of Steinegg, in the heart of the Eggental region of South Tyrol, just 13 kilometers from the capital, Bolzano.

 

Eggental Valley-so dreamy

 

Me, mountain biking in Eggental, South Tyrol. Picture credit: Mattias Frederiksson

 

Bolzano lies nestled in the innovative and small prosperous region of South Tyrol, wedged up against the borders of Austria and Switzerland. Like most border regions, the area enjoys an intriguing dual identity which makes it a fascinating place to visit. When you first arrive in Steinegg, you’ll be greeted in the local German Südtirolerisch dialect. 95% of locals speak German here. You will find the duality reflected in the local cuisine: you can choose from hearty Bavarian dishes or typical Italian fare.  The Hotel Steineggerhof itself is a modern, comfortable and perfect base for experiencing a biking holiday in the Eggental Valley and Dolomites. Wake up to birdsong, enjoy delicious home cooking using locally sourced ingredients and wonderful hospitality from Kurt Resch and his family. The hotel offers guided mountain bike tours, for beginners like me to more experienced riders.

Disclaimer: We visited Eggental Valley and Hotel Steineggerhof to take part in ‘Bosch Sustainability Days’ , a 4 day camp organised by Bosch eBike Systems. All views expressed here are entirely my own. To find out more about the camp and what we’re upto, have a peek at the website here

I wrote a story earlier on the blog about my personal motivation for taking part and some lessons learnt from my time in Eggental. Click here to read the post.

Steinegg

Steinegg

I start my guide with some tips and try to paint you a general idea of what Steinegg is like and what is a really ideal base for exploring the region.

Steinegg lies between Rosengarten, Latemar and Schlern, and the first thing that struck me from the roof of the Hotel Steineggerhof is the amazing panoramic view of the South Tyrolean Dolomites. The scattered villages of Steinegg, Gummer, Karneid, Kardaun, Blumau and Breien are between 275 and 1,650 meters above sea level.

In terms of things to do in Steinegg, I would recommend paying a visit to the local Museum Steinegg (Piazza della Chiesa / Kirchplatz 2. Adults €7. Children upto 14 years- €4. The museum has been closed recently because of Covid so email [email protected] in advance of your visit) to get a feel of the history of the area. Housing almost 1,000 years of Tyrolean history, the museum tells stories of the past times in the village and its surroundings, of life at the court, of the deep faith of the population and of the ancient crafts that are preserved here from being forgotten. You’ll find examples of local folk art, furnishings and tools as well as traditional costumes and art treasures exhibited here plus learn about the local flora and fauna.

Also around Steinegg you can expect over 100 km of marked hiking trails, with great circular routes. One of the easiest hikes is to the mystical looking Earth Pyramids of Collepietra in the Val d’Ega, high above the Valle di Tires valley. The circular hike from Collepietra to the earth pyramids and back takes a leisurely three hours. Follow the “yellow pyramid” signs from Collepietra to the Katzenbach gorge and via the Lahnenweg path just below these impressive giants of clay. Then pass the Raffeinerhof farm and ascend to the Dosser cross; from here it is directly down to the pyramids. The way back to Collepietra is on trail no.2 along the Katzenbach path.

Also, I do recommend visiting the neighbouring village of San Valentino in Campo (Gummer) where you will find the First European Star Village, an Astronomical Observatory and the Planetarium South Tyrol.

Bolzano

Bolzano

Bolzano is a city of a thousands faces and stories which makes it a fascinating place to visit. A former crown land of the Austrian Empire of the Habsburgs, the fusion of Germanic and Italian influences gives Bolzano a unique vibe. Walking the streets, you’ll see 17th century baroque buildings jostle for space with harsh Fascist architecture, a legacy of Mussolini’s rule.

If you can’t decide what to do in Bolzano first, engage in a bit of retail therapy. The arcaded shops running along the Via Portici have been attracting shoppers since 1180. Along Via Portici, you’ll also find the Mercantile Museum and Mercantile Palace founded by Claudia de‘ Medici. This is the only Renaissance-style building in Bolzano.

From the market, wander north along the Franziskanergasse to the Franciscan Friary. Founded in 1221, the friary contains a Gothic church, chapel and cloisters with frescoes dating back to the 14th century.

Another legend also enshrouds the friary albeit one much more nightmarish. The funeral stone and tomb of the real-life Count Dracula’s great-grandson forever marks its hallowed walls. His name was Petru Schiopul, but he was known as “Peter the Lame”. He died in 1594. His remains rest within a tomb sealed with a stone bearing the carving of a bull’s head, the traditional symbol of Moldavia as well as a carving of the devil.

Recreation of what Ötzi, the Iceman would have looked like…

Another unmissable destination in Bolzano is the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology that tells the incredible story of Ötzi, the Iceman, a 5300 year old mummy from the Copper Age. Spread across three floors, the museum floor by floor, builds the story of the world’s most famous glacier mummy, covering stories from the Ötzi’s miraculous discovery on 19 September 1991 to the international media response and then the exhibition dives into what daily life would have been like for Ötzi back in the Copper Age. The tour finished with a reconstruction of the Iceman himself.

Panificio Grande

Time out- Relaxing by a water fountain at the busy Piazza delle Erbe

Hungry by now? Go full South Tyrolean by ordering up a freshly-baked Krapfen. Krapfen is a delicious doughnut-like pastry filled with apricot or marmalade jam. Careful, as one may turn into two. Or try a freshly baked pretzel from Panificio Grande and pair it with some speck /alpine pasture cheese from Hopfen & Co. (Have a craft beer too maybe if its not too early). Pop into the lively marketplace of Piazza delle Erbe which has been in existence since 1295.

If you’re looking for a good place for lunch, try the Hotel Weißes Rössl’s – Cavallino Bianco or the famous local brewery, Batzen Braeu where you can sample typical South Tyrolean dishes like Knoedel (bread dumplings) or Schlutzkrapfen, a half moon-shaped ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and topped with melted butter and Parmesan.

Lisa Wine Bar-great place to sample local wines

 

Osteria Dai Carrettai, my favourite bar in Bolzano

Tartine-these local mini delicious open faced sandwiches compliment wine perfectly. Starting from around €1, super cheap and so tasty.

“Venice may swim on water, but Bolzano swims on wine.”

If you’re feeling thirsty and want to sample some of the exquisite Alpine wines of South Tyrol, pop into the historic wine tavern, Osteria Dai Carrettai. They serve local wines by the glass at great prices. Plus they also have an extensive selection of small bites, small bruschettas with a choice of toppings, from gorgonzola to the local cured speck ham. The neighbouring Lisa wine bar is also a fantastic place to try local wines.

Another good trek would be to visit the Kellerei Bozen winery for an introduction to some of the region’s best wines.

Getting to Bolzano from Steinegg

Thanks to the convenient Bus line 182 you can reach the municipal capital Bolzano (approx. 15 km away) in just over 30 minutes by bus and also easily accessible by bike from Steinegg.

Mountain Biking Holiday in South Tyrol

One of the best ways to discover the region is by bike. A cycling holiday in South Tyrol offers you a mix of beautiful terrains that appeal to all kinds of cyclists – you have the laidback Mediterranean charm of the valleys, steep mountain passes, stunning peaks and those gentle rolling Alpine pastures. The incredibly scenic Eggental Valley is a paradise for mountain bikers thanks to the impressive mountain ranges of Latemar and Rosengarten.

To navigate the single trails more comfortably, having an eBike makes a huge difference. There is a wide variety of trails that suit all levels, from beginner, leisure biker, to family or freeride expert. In addition: more than 10 bike hotels, cable cars, bike taxis, bike shops and bike guides.

One of the classics in this mountain bike region is the Latemar circular route. Depending on clockwise direction, this can be a leisurely tour for you and your family, where you use lift facilities as support or this turns into a challenging tour with exciting trails and downhill routes for bike experts. On this route, bikers experience the Dolomites in all their shades. From the grey and yellow ochre dolomite rock to scree slopes, green meadows and forests to dark mountain lakes – with this natural diversity it is no wonder that Le Corbusier once called the Dolomites the most beautiful building in the world. Much of the ridge – including the Rosengarten and Latemar – was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2009.

Kurt Resch

What can you expect from a mountain biking holiday in Eggental: Interview with Kurt Resch

I’ll now turn the spotlight to my host for my trip, the bike guide and hotelier, Kurt Resch from Steinegg, who knows the Eggental region like the back of his hand. After all, he has been leading bike tours since 1994 and runs the Steineggerhof, one of the first bike hotels in South Tyrol.

What do you love about ebiking?

I’ve been riding my mountain bike since the early 1990s. I especially love technical single trails, with the eBike I can also ride single trails uphill. Uphill flow is currently my great passion. For me, the biggest advantage of the eBike is that I can get to the mountains quickly. As a cook, I have little free time and don’t want to torment myself for hours so that I can drive downhill for a few minutes. I immediately have 100% fun on the eBike.

Backdrop of Bolzano you will spot the towering majestic Rosengarten massif-here it is glowing crimson at sunset. Picture credit: Eggental Tourism

You have been leading bike tours of the region for almost 27 years now. What are the main ingredients that makes an e-biking holiday in the Eggental region unique?

The Eggental is a small region, tourists can be found in the few hotspots such as Rosengarten or Karersee. In our forests, however, there are many unknown paths and single trails that only we locals know. There are huts with delicious regional dishes and the view of the Dolomites is free.

 

As a beginner like me, what are the three routes you would recommend to visitors planning a trip to the Eggental region?

Beginners will find many forests and forest paths here in Eggental. From Steinegg we often take the tour to the Hagner Alm, where the farmer Hansi makes the cheese himself. The panorama of the Dolomites is terrific. On the tour to the Hofschank Wiedenhof, which my sister runs with family, you have beautiful views of the Eggental, Eisack Valley and Bozen. Children love the many animals that live on the farm. The third tour that I can highly recommend is the tour from Deutschnofen to Jochgrimm, with a very special panorama of the Dolomites.

Your favorite landmark / place in the Eggental Valley is ?

That’s top secret, there is actually a wonderful vantage point here in Steinegg where I can see the Dolomites, our village and the hotel from a bird’s eye view. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the secret location because there are a lot of mushrooms there 😃.

 

Other than Bolzano, what other places in the region would you recommend people to visit and why?

The most beautiful places are found where there are no people. It is not possible to describe popular places because there are too many people there.

Therefore, I would like to describe some of the second most beautiful places in South Tyrol to you:

Rotwandhütte

The Rotwandhütte – Rifugio die Vaèl am Rosengarten can be reached on foot or by cable car from Carezza. Unique to stay overnight.

The Schlernhaus can only be reached on foot from the Seiseralm, one of the most beautiful two-day tours.

The Churburg in Schluderns in Vinschgau with its knight armor

Knotten Cinema- A cinema with a view! Picture credit: Eggental Tourism

The Knotten cinema in Verano in the Burggrafenamt, the cinema with a wonderful view of the valley

The Bio Burgerhof above Brixen is not always open. Great view and delicious food with organic products from the farm.

Ebiking in Eggental with Bosch eBike Systems

As a first time visitor to the region plus as a newcomer to ebiking, it was for me, a really memorable experience coming to Hotel Steineggerhof with Bosch eBike Systems. For navigating the steep slopes and rocky terrain of Alto Adige, an eBike really makes a huge difference. Especially, thanks to Bosch’s clever touchscreen navigational system, the Nyon, you can climb a steep mountain road, by a simple flick of the switch from the ‘Eco’ mode to ‘Turbo’ mode. It is a real adrenaline rush. I’m usually a keen hiker and less into biking, so the chance to ride an eBike gave me the opportunity to experience the region in a completely different way. Even as a beginner, the eBike also gave me the possibility of covering a larger distance than would have been possible say compared to a bike. eBiking really opens up a new world of opportunities for travellers and I think it will play a huge role in the future of travel. If you are nervous or unsure, I would really recommend you give it a try, especially if you are visiting the South Tyrol region. Although the Hotel Steineggerhof is much more expensive than the average hostel I recommend on the blog here, I would encourage you to look into their packages if you are looking to get into eBiking. Kurt and the team know the region like the back of their hand and are the perfect people to show you some really cool trails plus offer you a comfortable and relaxing stay. For more on my experience of eBiking with Bosch plus thoughts on sustainable travel, checkout my recent blogpost.

Essentials

From €530 you can book a 4 day package stay at the Hotel Steineggerhof. In addition to the amenities of the hotel that include their swimming pool and sauna, you get two e-bike rental days plus guided e-bike tours are included, as well as our free laundry service for your bike gear.

If you are on a tight budget, there is a simple, clean and no frills youth hostel in Bolzano plus one in Merano. More details, uptodate prices can be found via their website 

Getting there and away

From London, you hop on the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord and then change from Paris Gare de L’Est onto the TGV to Munich. From there it is a direct train to Bolzano. Journey time is 14 hours in total so you might want to break the journey in Munich.

The other option is to fly into Innsbruck and then take the train from Innsbruck to Bolzano.

Disclaimer

I was invited by Bosch eBike Systems and Hotel Steinneggerhof to be part of their sustainability workshop and also experience how ebiking will contribute to the future of sustainable travel. For more details about the Bosch Sustainabiilty Workshop , checkout the website.

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