Italy Travel Notes presents: by Denise Hummel
Residents of the Alto Adige region of Italy will tell you that you cannot claim to be true lovers of the mountains if you have not seen the Dolomites. For while every mountain landscape is beautiful in its own way, the Dolomites are like the precious stones of an old family ring — they have something extra. Perhaps its their position in the heart of Europe, or it may be the pink hues of their sunsets caused by the fact that they were once coral formations that rose up from the seabed 25 million years ago. Maybe it is the host of stories and history they have played witness to, invasions and exodus, as the portal to and from Austria. The colors of the Dolomites make it akin to an enchanted garden: the fresh, verdant meadows framed by the darker greens of the woods, the pink hue of the mountains against the white of the glaciers at their peaks and the sky that resembles a cut canvas with the sharp outline of the peaks against blue sky and white cotton-candy clouds.
Merano is a geographic anomaly. Predominantly German-speaking, it seems to belong to neighboring Austria, but is 70 miles inside Italy, a consequence of the redrawing of borders after World War I. Many street and shop signs are bilingual, but to Germans and Austrians, Merano is still Meran. The architecture of the region is decidedly Tyrolean, with wrought-iron balconies making way for classic wooden carved ones characteristic of the Austrian and Swiss alps, a change in shape of church bell-towers that is almost Byzantine, and food that leans towards Italy’s northern neighbors rather than the traditional Italian dishes.