Region of Trentino Alto Adige
To give it its proper name the Provincial Museum of Tourism or 'Touriseum' is located a short bicycle ride from central Merano inside the wonderfully lush and exotic Castel Trauttmansdorff botanical gardens. For anyone interested in writing about tourism, especially tourism from north Europe to Italy such as the Grand Tour, then this is an obligatory stop.
The tone is set when you realize that the grounds and castle were once the summer residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, immortalized as Sissi, when she chose to stay here. The original nulcleus of the building dates back 700 years to medieval times and today you can visit 20 rooms which are dedicated to a chronology of tourism from its early days to the present in this part of the Alps.
The typical preserved ham or Speck of Alto Adige has always played a fundamental part in the diet of the people of this mountainous area, yet it was only fairly recently that companies really begin to produce the meat on a large commercial scale. For this reason a rich variety of recipes and preparations are still very much alive, all based on family tradition and well kept secrets.
Although on first appearance speck seems a raw product, rather like uncooked bacon, it is one of the classic examples of conserved meat from the Alto Adige region. Only if it is prepared with the closest care and attention will a manufacturer in the area receive the brand seal 'Süd Tirol' or 'Alto Adige' for his product.
Early autumn sees the harvesting of one of the most important crops in Trentino Alto Adige - apples. It's also a good excuse to celebrate one of Italy's least considered culinary delicacies, the apple strudel.
The 'Week of the Apple Strudel' is held in the Altopiano dello Sciliar usually in the first half of September and is an occasion for discovering the many ways of preparing this typical 'altoatesino' sweet dish from South Tyrolean cuisine.
As the River Avisio leaves the Val di Fiemme it enters the Val di Cembra, or more precisely, Müller Thurgau territory. It is neither the most expensive on the wine list nor the cheapest and its name is suitably vague as to not offend nor impress anyone. So we tend to order it. If, like us, you are ashamed by your make-do approach to wine, then visit the Cantina La Vis and take the guided tour.
Wine making has taken place in Trentino for over 3000 years. It was introduced by the Greek tribe 'Illiri' who disembarked in Liguria and walked all the way inland. They were followed in Roman times by the 'Retici' and subsequently the monks who introduced the first wine making rules and import regulations.
The DOC labels to look out for are the 'Caldero or Lago di Caldero', 'Casteller', 'Teroldego Rotaliano' and the dominant 'Trentino'. In neighboring Alto Adige they are the 'Colli di Bolzano', Meranese di Collina', 'Santa Maddelena', 'Terlano', 'Valle Isarco', 'Val Venosta' and 'Valdadige'.
Like many of the valleys of Trentino Alto Adige, the cultivation of fruit is fundamental to the local economy, not least the apples of the Val di Non. The fruit is even at the forefront of its tourism promotions and local identity abroad. Orchards are scattered everywhere and small cooperatives combine forces to form an industry of notable size.