It seems like any photo of South Tyrol could be a postcard. The Italian province is picturesque and dramatic with a rolling green landscape set against snowy peaks. Naturally, it’s a beloved destination for vacationers and adventurers, and it helps to have a local with recommendations. 24-year-old photographer Stefan Mahlknecht is one such guide. As his Instagram account wonderfully proves, he’s quite skilled behind the lens and his time is spent well outdoors around South Tyrol.
Having grown up hiking with his parents, Mahlknecht now spends his summers and falls trying to capture natural beauty, especially mountain scenery. Meanwhile, in the winter and spring, he mostly skies. “Skiing is my second big passion, after photography,” says Mahlknecht, “and I try to combine them more and more. Sometimes I get into a conflict where I don’t know if should shoot my friends while they’re skiing a great powder field or if I should rather ski down the mountainside by myself.” What better person to tell you how to make the most of a trip to South Tyrol? We thought the same thing and asked him for insider tips.
Photography: Stefan Mahlknecht
Images above: 1st Kathrein Church + Merano Sunrise (3)
What are your favorite spots in South Tyrol?
SM: Well, South Tyrol has, in my opinion, the big advantage of being so multifaceted. It is a small area in the northern part of Italy, but the landscape is just breathtaking. In the north, the alpine divide; in the south, the dolomites and in between a mediterranean area where palms grow together with apples, chestnuts, and olives.
For shooting beautiful landscape images, my favorite spots are:
- Lago di Braies / Pragser Wildsee
- Lago di Carezza / Karersee
- Val di Funes / Villnößtal
- Alpe di Siusi / Seiser Alm
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo / drei Zinnen
- The City of Merano /
- The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle, near Merano
Images above: Fanes-Sennes-Prags Nature Reserve, Lake Sorapis, Tre Cime di Lavaredo
If someone had one day to explore South Tyrol, what should be their itinerary?
SM: It really depends on a person’s preferences because as I’ve mentioned before, South Tyrol is very varied. On every stay, and also in every season, there’s something new to explore. One itinerary could be:
Hiking in the beautiful area of Merano 2000, which is a great hiking area during summer and a beautiful ski area during the wintertime. After having lunch at one of the various alpine cabins, the cable car brings you back to Merano, where you can have a swim at the beautiful Terme Merano. After sunbathing at the big natural park situated at the Terme, a stroll through Merano’s old town with various traditional and designer shops is definitely a great experience. When the night rolls in, Merano’s different and great bars and gourmet restaurants offer local, traditional, and creative food and drinks.
Images above: St. Johann Church, Marlinger Waalweg,
Any tips for navigating around South Tyrol?
SM: As South Tyrol belongs to Italy, we are bilingual. Our first language is German and then Italian, which means that most South Tyroleans which live in the cities are perfectly bilingual; in villages and side valley, German is more frequently used. The people are in general very friendly and hospitable. When it comes to navigating through South Tyrol, there’s nothing important to say... Streets as well as hiking and biking trails are well-signed and the people are friendly and open-minded when it comes to ask for directions. Sometimes, I hear from guests that South Tyroleans also have the classic Italian driving style, but honestly I cannot confirm that. I think that navigating in South Tyrol is no big deal. Only in Fall, during the apple-picking season, and at Ferragosto, an Italian holiday (August 15th) where almost the whole country goes on vacation, traffic can be more intense.
Images above: Dorf Tirol, Schloss Tirol, Peitlerkofel
Any additional must-stop cafes or coffee shops?
SM: There are many good cafés in South Tyrol, especially at the zone of Merano.
When visiting our capital city, Bolzano, there is a beautiful small café called Fischbänke right in the middle of Bolzano. There are no cafés in South Tyrol, a Mediterranean flair is more of the vibe here—a café, bruschetteria and open wine bar all in one is what you should expect. Another trendy bar there is called Franzbar.
When riding your bike on the famous bikeway through Val Venosta, Radbar is a must stop for everyone who loves a delicious café served by young and creative people. Right next to the bar is a small pond and a few slacklines. Perfect for younger couples or families with children.
Merano offers also a few very good restaurants and pizzerias. For example mediterraneo, which is a new pizzeria right in the middle of merano. It offers classic and creative pizza creations and the best...all of them are available with whole-grain and spelt pastry. Or “Kallmünz”, which is a modern gourmet restaurant at the sand square in merano.
Images above: Hotel Der Waldhof, Italy's Mayenburg Castle
What are your favorite South Tyrol hotels or cool spots to rest your head for the night?
When it comes to hotels or cool spots, The Level in South Tyrol is very high. There are so many great accommodations that it’s really hard for me to pick a few out. I’ll try it anyway!
It is a really nice hotel near Merano which is dedicated to nature. It has its own nature park with a natural pond where you have a great view over the valley to Merano. The kitchen is especially high class and in my opinion one of the best in South Tyrolean hotels; perfect for people who want to relax in the middle of nature but not far from Merano, eat the most delicious cuisine, and go hiking in the near surroundings.
Actually a campsite but with a few breathtaking and luxurious treehouses. Situated in the heart of the Dolomites, it is the most luxurious and award-winning campsite I know. Perfect for a romantic vacation.
South Tyrol is also famous for farm holidays. We have many farms here and a few of them are situated right in the mountains. The Monferthof is in Val Senales, near one of South Tyrol’s glaciers. This farm is almost 1,500 meters above sea level and grows many products to strictly biological guidelines for almost 20 years. Vegetables, teas, and herbs are self-grown and only a few products grown by family Ilmer. They also have various animals like cows, pigs, cats, free-range chickens, hares, etc. Perfect for people who want to get a great cultural experience away from the hectic daily routine.
Images above: Waldhof
Any additional tips for tourists?
SM: Plan at least a week for visiting South Tyrol, so that you have the chance to receive many different impressions of this great place. And be open to explore this area, because the distances are very small. So almost every place is accessible by car in no more than two hours. And when you’re here, be sure to ask locals or your hosts for cool places worth to visit. South Tyrol is too beautiful to stay only at your hotel.
Photography: Stefan Mahlknecht