Dining in or near Merano and/or Bolzano
I'll be spending three days in the Dolomites in very early September. Are there any "don't miss" restaurants I should know about? Thanks.
My wife and I really like Bolzano. Our hotel, the Magdalener Hof, had a nice restaurant where we tried a bottle of the local red wine, St. Magdalener, grown and produced right down the street. Also, we ate downtown at Cavallino Bianco billed as an authentic Alto Adige gasthaus in the Slow Food “Osterie & Locande d’Italia”. I got a kick out of the menu, which was structured like an Italian menu with appetizers, firsts, seconds, etc. The firsts were pastas but the seconds were German like the wiener schnitzel with potato salad I enjoyed. That potato salad was amazing. We noticed a lady at a nearby table had only a big plate of the salad for her whole meal. Alto Adige prides itself on not being Italian, so you don’t get an itemized bill after your meal. You are on your own in the bathroom too, since there is no emergency ripcord. The Iceman from the Alps is viewed in cold storage at the museum, which has great displays. Previously, there were no English translations of the displays, but they are so popular that it was added. We were going to take the cable car up the mountain (pictured in the link below) for the 3 hour hike down to town with two hofs on the way for libations, but the weather changed and it snowed. In a little alley downtown, there is a tiny wine shop to which I later found a reference in Rick Steves’ guide. While the owner was preparing our order of bruschetta, I got down on my hands and knees to search the dark, lower shelves and located a bottle of Marchesi di Barolo Grignolino for €8. Like thieves, we retired to our hotel room, stopping only long enough in the daily (I believe), open-air farmers market for some fresh tomatoes, cheese and bread to accompany our wine. This visit was in March of 2008. When we tried to return last December, the police had all the highway exits blocked because the town was completely full for a Christmas fair.
Ripcord: In all the regions we’ve stayed in Italy except the Alto Adige, every hotel bathroom has a cord hanging down usually near the bathtub or shower, which sets off the emergency alarm at the desk if pulled. I believe almost every American pulls it at least once and elicits a call from the desk that explains the function of the cord in a tired voice and asks you to please not pull it. The bi-lingual Alto Adige wishes to be part of Austria, as they were originally. There is a separatists movement, which has gotten concessions from the central government granting the region tax breaks and a measure of autonomy. It’s fun to notice the little things that reflect this.
Hof: In our travels through the Dolomites, almost every bar, restaurant or hotel outside of town along the cross country ski trails, etc. had “Hof” in their name (i.e. Magdalener Hof). I never could figure out the exact meaning, thus I refer to them all as hofs. I assume one could stop for a beer and perhaps a bite to eat on the hike down the hill.