Autumn was truly golden, so what could be more natural than filling up the motorhome and setting off for one of the most attractive destinations for campers, South Tyrol and Trentino? The two Italian Alpine provinces have a lot in common. In South Tyrol, German is mostly spoken, in Trentino, mainly Italian. The endless apple orchards and sprawling vineyards are trademarks in both regions, as are the bold mountain peaks and mighty massifs. But since, as always, the journey is the reward, we first stop in Erlangen at the Dechsenendorfer Weiher campsite, which has been run by the Rangau camping club since 1964; the sanitary facilities are more recent, but overall the facilities are solid and the accessibility from the A 3 is good.
After a sumptuous dinner with a Turkish twist in the local restaurant and a peaceful night's sleep, we continue deep into Middle Franconia. Ellingen is home to one of the most beautiful golf courses in Bavaria, and the destination is no less interesting for motorhome campers. The parceled-out gravel pitches cost ten euros, of which there are 16 in total. Electricity and water consumption are charged separately at moderate prices, and the club bistro also serves tarte flambée and veal sausages for comparatively little money. The site is open from April to November, making it an ideal stopover for our trip to South Tyrol. The use of the spic-and-span sanitary facilities is included in the price, so why such a welcoming culture for motorhome vacationers? The operator, Marie-Therese Einender from Geneva, wants to encourage campers to play golf. "My husband also has a motorhome himself and goes on trips with it," she says, "he knows what mobile guests need."
The onward journey to Weißenburg an der Donau with its historic town center is short, then to Treuchtlingen. The motorhome camp at the Kurpark has a rather unusual registration procedure. This does not take place at the entrance to the 91-pitch site, but at a Shell petrol station around 200 meters away. The reception is professional and functional. There is a guest card that entitles you to a discount on admission to the neighboring thermal baths and a lock with a key that can be used to attach the "reserved" sign to the number post of the selected pitch. The camper in Treuchtlingen should attach this immediately and not, like us, make a round through the nearby supermarket first. This is because many other contemporaries disregard the signs for the petrol station and take a pitch as they see fit. This inevitably leads to annoyance when a camper with a booking returns after a short walk and with a license to re-park.
The next night is less complicated. The journey continues to South Tyrol, via Kufstein, Innsbruck and Sterzing we reach the town of Klausen, deep in the Eisack valley, from where a winding road winds its way up to the municipality of Feldthurns. If the view of the Dolomites is already fantastic here, an unforgettable panorama awaits at the Glangerhof, which lies a few hundred meters higher above the mountain village. The round peak of the 2562-metre-high Plose, Brixen's local mountain, the Geisler peaks of the Odler group and, to the south, the mythical Schlern, where fires still blaze at the solstice and many a witch from the valley has swapped her broom for hiking boots, line up to the east of the Eisack Valley. Martin and Cornelia Oberhofer are now the third generation to run the more than 600-year-old farm, and the Buschenschank is famous for its Törggelen evenings in the fall. Törggelen is derived from the South Tyrolean term Torggl for the wine press, as Törggelen takes place during and after the grape harvest. The cabbage, bacon, wine and music are all homemade at the Glangerwirt, and it's not just the tour group from Recklinghausen who think it's great and hearty, the locals also come up from the valley to enjoy this very hospitable South Tyrolean tradition. The pitch offers nothing but peace and quiet and a view and can be used for a small donation of around ten euros, breakfast is served on the sun terrace from ten o'clock (Guln 37, 39040 Feldturns, telephone 0039 320 326 1124).
From the Eisack we drive into the Etschtal. Tourism is booming here and the campsites are full to bursting. The two campsites in Terlan (29 euros) and Nals (26 euros) are nice, the latter is run by the owner of a bike store and e-bikes are available for hire. Excursions to Merano/Meran and Bolzano/Bozen are possible here, but the tour into the Ultental Valley with its original farms and Alpine pastures is also highly recommended.
The route continues over the easy Gampen Pass (1518 meters) and, after the lovely Alpine stretch, dives back down into the valley, this time into the Val di Sole, which runs parallel to and south of the South Tyrolean Vinschgau, but is a whole lot more Italian. We have crossed the border into Trentino, the espresso costs 50 cents less and there is another pass ahead of us. This time it leads over the 1882-metre-high Passo del Tonale, which served as the namesake for the Alfa Romeo SUV Tonale. At this point at the latest, it becomes clear that the choice of our motorhome was not entirely wrong. At 2.14 meters, the semi-integrated Benimar Yrteo 861 is barely wider than an extended panel van, making encounters with buses and articulated lorries in oncoming traffic less daunting despite the narrow road.
In the Val di Pejo, a side valley to the Val di Sole, we come across the bizarre world of the ski circus beyond the season. In summer, hundreds of Italian families hike up into the mountains here, in winter they let themselves be carried up by the lifts and cable cars. But there is nothing in between. The restaurants are closed, but if you're lucky there's a bar that serves a top-class cappuccino. The comfortable campsite of the same name is heavenly quiet and, despite the glorious weather, is only moderately busy at this time of year. A hike to the higher village of Pejo Therme leads to the Aqua Pejo mineral spring, one of the most important employers in the region alongside the seasonal ski resort. If you look carefully, you can spot deer, ibex and chamois on the slopes - pure mountain idyll.
But we don't want to rest for long, the journey should take us back north into the Vinschgau Valley. To do this, we have to overcome the Stelvio Pass, the 2758-metre-high Passo dello Stelvio (another namesake for an Alfa and a Moto Guzzi), which is the second highest pass in the Alps after the Col d'Iseran in France. This is not impossible with a motorhome a good seven meters long, but not to be taken lightly either. The 48 hairpin bends on the South Tyrolean side in particular demand concentration; three times we approached the hairpin bend too casually and had to back up. Oncoming motorcyclists are not exactly thrilled, as the sun is leaning towards the horizon. And at this altitude, that means it gets very cold early in the fall.
However, it soon warms up again in the well-tempered water of the swimming pool at the Sägemühle campsite in Stilfs, which offers every comfort and luxury, including a restaurant that meets the highest standards. But also at high prices. While the two nights at the well-equipped Val di Sole campsite in Pejo cost 50 euros, we paid five euros more for an overnight stay at the sawmill.
Complaints from guests
A few kilometers further on, the municipality of Lasa is famous for its church clock, which constantly chimes the hours, including the half and quarter hours. At least some guests at the Baderhof campsite complain about this, but it is not really annoying, especially as the chimes keep quiet from midnight until the early hours of the morning. However, the municipality of Vinschgau is truly famous for its marble deposits. The pure white stone is extracted from the mountain about 500 meters above the valley floor and was brought down for further processing using a gigantic inclined elevator until 1991. For safety reasons, trucks now transport the tons of rock. Lasa Marmo, as it is known in Italy, not only adorns buildings in the Vatican, Berlin and London, but also the rebuilt subway station at Ground Zero, below the destroyed World Trade Center, is adorned with the dazzling white marble from South Tyrol.
A two-centimetre-thick square meter of the white gold, which is not extracted in open-cast mines but in quarries, costs 1330 euros. You can get up close and personal with the precious material on the seven-hour guided tours, which are offered every Wednesday and cost 54 euros. "Marble light" is available for less sure-footed visitors on the company premises in the valley, which lasts two hours and costs eleven euros. A film screening replaces the trip 500 meters up to the Weißwasserbruch quarry (registration on 0039 347 40 95 404). But there is another attraction in the tranquil community in the middle of the Vinschgau Valley. Lasa cabbage is a specialty not only among professional chefs; hardly a tourist leaves the village without at least one of the jars of fermented white cabbage in their luggage. When processing the high-quality product at home, care should be taken to ensure that caraway seeds are added appropriately. This is said to have a reliable effect against the threat of flatulence.
The return journey is approaching and, as always, there is the threat of excessive traffic on the Brenner highway and the Fernpass road at weekends, with long traffic jams, block clearance and delays. However, these can be avoided. We drive to Imst in Tyrol on Friday evening and stay at Campingpark Fink (Tel. 0043 5412 662 93). Here, on the outskirts of the historic traffic junction, there is good comfort at moderate prices and a recommendation for the Hirschen restaurant within walking distance. The next morning we set off shortly before 9 a.m., the former Via Claudia Augusta is moderately busy, we get over the pass without having to stop and leave the bottleneck, the border tunnel at Reutte, behind us. Much later, between Ulm and Stuttgart, the traffic news reports that there is a good hour's wait on the Fernpass road.
The tour was as relaxing as it was eventful, and the warmth of our hosts was always present. But even if the infrastructure of the alpine hotspot for campers is improving significantly, you shouldn't head for a day's destination without registering or making a reservation. (aum)
Share this article: