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In South Tyrol, among ‘my’ Christmas markets

Why do I insist, every year, on organising a trip to visit the Christmas markets?

I ask myself, time and time again, every year.

And every time I answer myself that even though the crowds are not my thing and I prefer slow shopping, I love visiting my favourite places. Keeping an eye on them. Rediscovering them unchanged or improved over time. Renewing my passions.

For example, just how nice is it to go to Bolzano to see the opening of the blumenhof, or ‘giardinerie‘ as the Italian-speaking locals call them, on the Sunday before Advent? I go there to buy a Christmas wreath with four candles to light one at a time on the four Sundays of Advent. Or to attend the celebration of Saint Nicholas, on 6th December, when he brings gifts to the children and parades among the market stalls. 

For those who, like me, live by passions, the spiritual, folkloristic and gourmet facets are always intertwined. 

Should you happen to run into me, it will certainly be along the South Tyrolean Wine Road, in Caldaro (Kaltern in South Tyrolean) to be precise, amidst magnificent landscapes and incredible wine cellars, intent on a wine tasting or hiking through the 756 hectares of vines. 

However, with the same zeal, I dedicate myself to cooking. I always gain a few kilos when I stop in South Tyrol, but then again, I am not one to shy away from testing the local cuisine. Be it a lunch of pretzels, speck and beer, or a dinner at one of the many starred restaurants in the area, I strive to honour the local flavours with all of my might.

A piece of advice: buy speck at one of the many stalls at the Christmas markets. Take it home and support the artisans that produce it in the area. And, with a glass of gl├╝hwein, you won’t even feel the cold.

Before heading off again, a trip to Brixen is obligatory, to say goodbye to a dear friend, whose family runs a genuine institution of hospitality in the city: the Hotel Elephant, a 16th-century residence with its bizarre history.

The hotel owes its name to the stopover that Archduke Maximilian of Austria – future Emperor Maximilian II – made in 1551 with his elephant called Soliman right in the house that used to be where the hotel now stands.

An ancient history, a magical structure and the perfect end to my trip to South Tyrol, with markets, friends, smiles, enchanting places and endless delicacies to take home and carry with me into my heart.

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