South Tyrol is a heralded walkers’ destination any time of year. But it’s an extra special experience during the autumn when the air is refreshingly crisp and the foliage takes on an attractive golden hue.
It’s the time of Törggelen, a centuries-old festival that celebrates the region’s bountiful harvests and warm hospitality. It takes place from late September or early October (when winemakers harvest their grapes and sweet chestnuts, known as Keschtn, ripen off the tree) until as late as early December.
You might think Törggelen gets its name from the German word torkeln which means to stagger, something many of us tend to after drinking our fare share of wine! It actually stems from the Italian noun torchio or verb torchiare, referring to the traditional wood press or pressing of the grapes during the wine-making process.
Those who enjoy exploring stunning rural landscapes on foot can take full advantage of Törggelen’s traditions, still embraced today. When you walk to one of the many farmhouse taverns and inns, called Buschenschänke and Hofschänke, you get to indulge in the season’s new wine, sourced either from an inn’s own vineyard or from one nearby. These establishments open especially for the autumn time and their quaint and warm ambience is part of the experience—some are even compared to cosy, “wood-panelled living” rooms.
You certainly won’t be turned away from these farmhouse establishments if you haven’t walked there. But to take full advantage of the holistic experience, it’s much more fulfilling to complete a gorgeous trek in the area and then treating yourself to some local spirits and delicious food.
One such trail that is quite splendid during autumn is the Chestnut Trail (“Keschtnweg”). Beginning at the Lake of Varhna and ending at Runkelstein Castle, the chestnut tree-lined path passes through varied beautiful landscapes, from valley to mountain, forest to meadow, with plenty of the countryside inns, for which Törggelen is famous for, along the way. In its entirety, the Chestnut Trail is 60 km and ranges from easy to moderate walking. (Some recommend breaking it up into six stages and completing one stage per day.)
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in one of the farmhouse taverns, where they will serve up some seasonal treats and meals, including Keschtn of course, along with wine and fresh-pressed juice. Some of the specialties you might enjoy are a platter consisting of cured raw and boiled bacon, smoked sausages, cheese and bread; Knödel dumplings; mixed roasted meats; and deep-fried, savoury dough parcels called Tirtlen. If you have room for dessert, you might also try some traditional rural puddings, like strudel or Krapfen.
If you can’t make it to South Tyrol this autumn, you are still in for a treat any time of year. To learn more about the topwalking spots in the South Tyrol region, visit: