Last month I discovered a new Italian region: Trentino Alto-Adige, also known as, Trentino South Tyrol. I went there to catch up with my old friend Julia, taste some wine, hike around the Dolomites, and explore the gastronomic traditions of this area. This is a very particular region in Italy since it used to be part of Austria-Hungary before becoming part of Italy in 1918. German is still spoken throughout the region and in the southern part more people speak German than Italian. This is an amazing region for wine which I have overlooked until now. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days at Elena Walch’s winery in Tramin, one of the most well-known wine villages in the region. Elena is Julia’s mom so I was given the special treatment of a private tour of the cellar and was able to taste the wines with the Walchs.
I was pleasantly surprised by all the wines that I tried, especially one red in particular called Kermesse. It is a blend of five grape varieties Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Lagrein (one of the finest autochthonous grapes of the region). While talking to the sales assistant in the cantina I found out that this is the most popular wine which is exported to the states. So if you are lucky enough to come across a bottle I highly recommend trying it. While we were sipping our way through Tramin we randomly came across a food festival or “sagra” as they call it in Italian. And what was the celebrated food? Knodel or canederli. Knodels are somewhat of a round dumpling made of milk, egg, dried bread or potatoes. They can be made both savory and sweet. Some of the types that I tried were made with speck (a typical smoked ham from the region), spinach, cheese, and served plain with a meat stew on top (something similar to Hungarian goulash). It seemed that the whole town came to this party and many locals were dressed up in traditional clothes that reminded me of German lederhosen. After dancing off our Knodels we were off to roam the Dolomites, probably one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Italy. We set off early in the morning hiking through the mountains and then eventually four hours later we reached the top of our hike. As I sat there taking in the view I had time to reflect on what an amazing region this is. They have extravagant mountains, wonderful wines and a cuisine that is completely different from the rest of Italy. Visiting this region really opened my eyes to a part of Italy that has retained their old traditions, language and food habits and I’m excited to see what the rest of the 20 Italian regions have to offer.