South Tyrol is one of the lesser-known alpine destinations in Europe, and yet with an impressive 1,200km of ski slopes and a passion for after-ski spa experiences, this hidden haven of wellness is definitely worth the detour.
Nestled between Austria and Switzerland, at the northernmost part of Italy, this UNESCO World Heritage site is an autonomous Italian province where the majority of its inhabitants speak German. This surprising occurrence is due to the region previously being the Austro-Hungarian County of Tyrol. It was annexed to Italy in 1918, after World War I, and changed its name to South Tyrol.
Today, the province is a success story in embracing its multicultural heritage with three official languages – German, Italian and Ladin (a local dialect) and a mix of cuisines which have both Italian and Austrian influences. It is not unusual to have Austrian dumplings as a starter, followed by a typically Italian pasta dish.
I am here with my daughter to explore this beautiful region under a blanket of fresh snow with a snowboard on my feet and the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio on my wrist.
Strapping my feet on my board, we decide to start exploring the Alpe di Siusi area to warm up. Alpe di Siusi, or Seiser Alm as it is called in German (everything is bi-lingual here), has a large network of 175km of downhill and cross-country runs as well as sledging and snowshoe trails, making it an ideal destination for families or beginners. Thanks to its high altitude, the ski station boasts the best snow in the Dolomites, as well as the best weather, with over 300 days of sunshine per year.
Skiing here is particularly appreciated by visitors as the majority of the hotels are situated directly on the pistes, so you can ski in and ski out of the front door of your accommodation, which is the ultimate luxury on a ski vacation as anyone who has ever tried walking even the shortest distance in ski boots with skis, poles and children in tow will know!
After a solid four hours of snowboarding on the various slopes of Alpe di Siusi, my stomach is starting to indicate that it may well be time for lunch. I check the time on the Panerai sitting snugly under my ski jacket, and indeed it is 1pm.
While my daughter checks the map for the nearest alpine restaurant, I take a moment to admire my new timekeeping companion. What instantly appeals to me about this watch is its smaller size. At 42mm, this is a very wearable timepiece, even for a girl. I have girlfriends who wear the larger 44mm or 47mm Panerai models, but I could never pull it off, so this is a sheer pleasure to wear.
The 1950 case is in brushed steel with the signature Luminor crown protector and the strap comes in a very supple black rubber, making the timepiece surprisingly comfortable to wear without losing any of that sporty Panerai design. The black dial features large luminescent dots, indexes and hands for great visibility, which you would expect from a professional diver’s watch. Other diving features include a 300-metre water-resistance and an attractive rotating bezel that has raised five-minute markers that go nicely with the overall dial design. Even though I am not taking the watch anywhere near water (well maybe the hot tub later), I can rest assured that it is tough enough to snowboard with, even if I do take a tumble and end up with snow inside my gloves.
The timepiece is powered by Panerai’s P.9010 automatic, manufacture movement that has a three-day power reserve and indicates the date at three o’clock and small seconds at nine o’clock with an attractive Panerai blue hand.
My hands are starting to get cold so I put on my gloves and follow my daughter down the mountain as she has located the nearest restaurant to us. She must be hungrier than I am as she is going at quite some speed!
We stop at a quaint, traditional mountainside hut, where I have a local vegetable soup that is served in a bowl made out of a hollowed-out loaf of bread. How the soup doesn’t leak through the bread defies science! Still slightly hungry, we treat ourselves to an enormous slice of apple strudel and some local alpine tea, which is enough calories for us to ski into next week.
The sun continues to shine as we venture over to some other runs which we haven’t yet tried, but as our legs start to get tired, we decide to go back to the hotel and check out the spa area. We are staying at the Icaro Vitalpina Hotel that has an indoor swimming pool, outside hot tub in the snow and a sauna made from 100-year-old local wood, which duly tires us out and after another delicious gourmet food experience we decide to call it a night.
The following day we head over to the snow park, not to jump, but to watch the more daring skiers and snowboarders practise their tricks, before heading off to explore more of the Dolomiti Superski area. Our ski pass links us to 12 different ski areas with 450 state-of-the-art cable cars and lift systems that serve a network of pistes and descents for every level of skier. This is really a skiing and snowboarding paradise.
At the end of another active day, we pack up the car and decide to relax on the terrace of the hotel for one last hot chocolate before hitting the road. We feel humble beneath the 200 million-year-old mountain range that has started to glow pink with the setting sun and sit in silence admiring the view. None of us, including the Panerai, want to go home!
All the Details
A three-day adult ski pass of the Dolomiti SuperSki area costs 173 euros.
She travelled by car from Switzerland though France and the Montblanc tunnel into Italy, although it is also possible to access the resort via Austria. To drive directly to the hotel, you will need to request a special access pass from the hotel, but be careful as the road crosses the pistes in places!