Alto Adige cuisine has unreservedly Germanic traditions, while Trentino cooking blends mountain influences with more recognizably Italian flavours. The hearty traditional food is great for refuelling after a day of hiking or skiing and the quality of produce is exceptional, even in the simplest mountain hut. For finer dining, adventurous chefs are reworking old recipes to fashion much lighter dishes, and it is well worth trying out some of the pricier restaurants we list for a new take on local specialities.
A traditional meal starts with some kind of salami (lucanicche in local dialect), often paper-thin slices of salt beef, or Tyrolean canederli – bread dumplings spiked with speck (smoked ham) often served in broth (brodo). You’ll also see strangolapreti (bread and spinach gnocchi) and schlutzkrapfen (spinach-filled pasta) on the menu. Fresh lake and river fish, game and rabbit are popular as secondi, as are venison goulash or boiled cured pork with sauerkraut. Desserts are often based on apples, pears or plums, readily available from the local orchards. Other sweet treats include apfel strudel, sachertorte and kaiserschmarren, a scrambled pancake with raisins.
A highlight of the year for food- and wine-lovers is the autumn Törggelen season, when everyone heads for the hills to sample the new vintage and snack on mountain ham and roast chestnuts, followed by a walk to work it all off.
Vines have been cultivated here since before Roman times, and Trentino-Alto Adige produces more DOC wines than any other region in Italy. Most famous are the Pinot Grigios and Chardonnays, which are bright and aromatic from being grown at high altitudes and in cool conditions. These also provide wine makers with the raw material for some outstanding traditional-method sparkling wines, often marketed under the spumante Trentino Classico label. Despite the excellence of the whites, local wine makers actually make more reds often with local varieties like Teroldego and Schiava (known as Vernatsch in German-speaking areas). Red wines made from Schiava are good when young: look out for the pale-red Kalterersee (Caldaro) and the fuller, fruitier St Magdalene (Santa Maddalena); those made from the Lagrein grape variety are more robust, such as the strong, dark Lagrein Dunkel, or the Kretzer rosé from Bolzano’s vineyards at Gries. Also worth seeking out is the rare vino santo (not to be confused with vin santo from Tuscany) from Trentino’s Valle dei Laghi – a luscious dessert wine made from local Nosiola grapes.