TYROL – Austria or Italy… which would you choose?
We all know the Tyrol is one of the most beautiful areas in Europe with wonderful scenery, excellent food and an amazing mix of activities on offer! Some maybe don’t know Tyrol was a former political entity that existed until the early 20th century comprising the some territory in Italy (Trentino-Alto Adige region) and Austria. So there are many similarities between the two areas but my main aim is to try and explain how they are so very different.
Austria certainly depicts the classic Tyrolean towns and villages with their famous onion-domed churches and surrounding mountains that tower to 3000m. Winter walking in this area is truly spectacular as it is like walking in the French or Swiss Alps but without the people and worn down trails. Instead, it is simply a paradise of tranquillity and some very friendly locals! And if you’re cross-country skiing, then this is the perfect place as you would almost never have to jump out of the track for someone to pass and the trails make you feel as though you are running across a field (but on snow and with skis).
On the other hand, Italy offers a very different experience as although many villages still have the Tyrolean onion-domes churches we are now in a smaller mountain range called the Dolomites. The difference is that the form of these mountains is quite particular meaning the scenery each day provides a very different picture. From the alpine northern Tyrol, this region of Sudtirol (or Trentino Alto_Adige) has jagged limestone spires that change colour with the sun and many named thanks to their strange form, such as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (or Drei Zinnen). The trails on this side of the border do tend to offer a larger variety of views and there is much more space to practice in the local stadium. And as this is a ‘snow sure’ area almost all routes are open to both classic or skate cross-country skiers. One of the best experiences in this area has to be snowshoeing through absolute wilderness up for panoramic views from the summits.
So both sides of the border have beautiful villages and wonderful activities available but what is the real difference? Well if I think about food I would go to Trins on the Austrian side for a good specknodel, and to Villabassa on the Italian side for some amazing Spatzle. Now that doesn’t really help either, as they are both Tyrolean dishes, so no matter which side of Tyrol I go for I’m still going to eat some incredible food. And with that food will probably come some drinking with the locals, singing in the bars and some friends for life maybe too!
With Austrians being Austrian, Trins in the Austrian Tyrol can enjoy punctual public transport and just one language (not counting the dialects) to get you through the day. And with Italians being Italian, in Dobbiaco (or Toblach) and Villabassa (or Niederdorf) in Trentino-Alto-Adige (or SudTirol), things get a little more complicated. This means their first language is German but they also speak Italian and although they have Austrian punctual trains, the buses are not always on time. Generally there is more of a relaxed Italian approach in the Sudtirol culture, which is probably why I end up choosing this side (with a few visits back to the Austrian side every now and then).