Enchantment in South Tirol

If you live in an English speaking country and you've never heard of Merano (Meran) I suspect you would not be alone. I base my suspicion on a single day spent here so I might be quite out of order but I'll chance it.
Merano is an Italian resort town just south of the Austrian border. Surrounded by the towering Dolomites, it surprises immediately with its almost subtropical vegetation. Palm trees and banana trees are not what you might expect to find in and amongst alpine chalets but they are everywhere here. Some quirk of nature I guess.
The second surprise is that German and Italian language exist happily side by side in this northern corner of Italy. In fact, if anything, from a quick walk around, German seems to dominate. Street and business signs are bilingual, as are schools. This might have something to do with the area having been Austrian until early last century, but more influential these days would be the thousands of German speaking tourists flocking here. Whatever the underlying reason, the town's German name, Meran, seems as frequently used as its Italian one.
There is a third surprise for visitors to this town. There is an interesting and unusual demographic operating. An informal survey (conducted by yours truly) has determined an overwhelming majority of these tourists are older middle-aged and elderly.
You might be surprised that most of your fellow holidaymakers are, shall we say, of mature age, unless, like me, you are of similar vintage. In that case, you will feel as though you fit right in! The town and district seem to cater specially for this age group. I am told throngs of German speaking seniors descend habitually on this place. They are well looked after with everything from fashion stores for the more mature person, to scores of cafes and bars with comfy chairs and attentive wait staff.
The hotel we stayed in had safety handles in the shower and elsewhere, and a heated pool in the 'wellness center'. The staff seemed to be fluent in German and Italian; English not so much. In fact we have not heard English spoken all day. If that would bother you, maybe it is best not to come to Merano, but then you would miss an enchanting experience.
The district has a number of well maintained nature walks. Each of them is managable for anyone who is used to walking for an hour or so regularly, even though they can be fairly steep at times. Someone has planted beautiful flower gardens here an there along these paths, and enterprising persons have path-side cafes where you can sit and watch the promenading couples. Admittedly we bit off more than we could chew and walked for hours on one of them, returning home via country lanes very stiff and sore. The panoramas are breathtaking though. There is an old roman stone bridge at the start of one path and a cafe where you can sit at an outside table and listen to the fast moving stream surge past below you. Maybe we should have just stopped at that cafe.
More than once we felt we were walking into an old fairy tale.

One thought on “Enchantment in South Tirol

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  1. Great post! We are Americans who live above Meran in the Val di Non. We always look forward to the 20 minute drive to Meran. We have made many friends there over the years and we are still finding new things to do there. We would definitely recommend the Rooster Keller in nearby Algund as well as a walk on the Meraner Höhenweg.

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