Thanksgiving in South Tyrol, Italy

Thanksgiving in South Tyrol Italy

Berlin’s autumn days are getting chillier and the last leaves are dropping, and I notice that one of my favorite American holidays is coming up: Thanksgiving.

I’ve had some interesting celebrations since I started traveling. In Mui Ne, Vietnam, I shared a feast of fish, noodles and a pot of potatoes – the closest thing to the real deal – with two new friends from Australia during my freshman year. Last year in the Maldives, it was a strange combination of Tang orange drink and seafood pizza. I’d rather not have that meal again.

Just a month ago in South Tyrol, Italy, I experienced a local Thanksgiving tradition called Törggelen, right after they finished the harvest season.

Culture

This Alpine region of Italy has a long history of being a crossroads between Germans and Italians, dating back to the Middle Ages.

It switched hands over time and is now a region of Italy that runs and funds its own public transport and utilities. Locals joke that it’s good for tourists because it’s a nice part of Italy to visit, but things work like in Germany. Having lived in Berlin for a short while, I know what that means: like clockwork.

I heard people speaking German and Italian among themselves throughout the region.

I asked my local friend Deborah, “How do you know who to talk to with someone?” She replied, “You just felt that.”

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With twice as many sunny days as Austria, this region of the Alps offers a perfect balance of snow, water, and nature. You can enjoy world-class skiing and climbing on famous mountains, or immerse yourself in the unique culture of this area.

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The culinary delights of South Tyrol are also remarkable. The region grows apples that are juicy and sweet (I can vouch for that), makes speck, a smoked and cured meat with a rich and salty taste, and produces wines and beers that are exquisite, among other things.

Wine

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The wine from this region was amazing and rare. South Tyrol makes only 1% of Italy’s wine. Most farmers here grow apples on the plains and have small vineyards on the hills. They work together with local wineries to make and sell their wine. This is common in Italy, but more so in South Tyrol.

I visited Cantine Valle Isarco, a cooperative winery. The new manager gave me a tour and a tasting. The wines were some of the best I ever had.

After each sip, I asked, “Can I get this in Berlin?”

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Thanksgiving Day

Törggelen is a month-long celebration of the harvest. People enjoy long meals with their loved ones. Deborah says she goes to Törggelen 2-3 times every fall.

The meal is at a farmhouse that grows pigs and grapes. Everything on the table comes from the farm. It’s very fresh and tasty!

The feast starts with speck, a smoky cured pork that is special to South Tyrol. It’s like prosciutto, but different.

It’s also very hard to stop eating specks. You have to save room for the rest of the meal.

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Another special food is a hard biscuit with anise seeds. People eat it with speck.

After that, they have vegetable soup, made with fresh farm produce:

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This dish consists of airy, crisp bread bites that taste like a refined and savory take on a Southern beignet, accompanied by sauerkraut.

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As Deborah had cautioned me, I had filled up on speck and was running out of space for more food. But I was determined to finish the meal and resisted eating too much bread before the main course, which consisted of freshly made pork sausage, came. Surrounded by German speakers and a plate of sausages, I felt like I had traveled to Germany, but the speck and wine reminded me that I was still in Italy.

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As we savored our meal, the host and master farmer kindly offered us and other curious diners a tour of the rooms where the wine production and the meat processing took place. I was amazed by the amount of work and the local and fresh ingredients that went into my dish.

The atmosphere was festive and lively, with people at different tables chatting, playing cards and sipping the young wine – a partially fermented drink somewhere between grape juice and wine.

We finished our meal with a pastry and the star of the show: roasted chestnuts. I confess I didn’t take a picture of the dessert because I couldn’t resist eating it right away. Can anyone relate?

It was a longer meal than I usually have, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Thanksgiving celebration and felt lucky to have explored this unique and wonderful part of Italy.

Have you ever experienced Thanksgiving in another country? How did it compare?

Do it yourself:

  • How to get there: Take a train to Bolzano. From there, you can rent a car or arrange a transport service if you want to join Törggelen. You can also take a bus or a guided tour. The only drawback of the bus is that you might miss the last one back or not be able to get to the exact location of the farm. That’s why you might prefer a private transport option.
  • Where to eat: We had our Törggelen at Oberpartegger Hof. The typical price is very reasonable €30-40 including drinks. You need to book in advance for next October (but you might need some help from someone who speaks German or Italian, like your hotel staff or tourist office).
  • A word of advice, if you participate in Törggelen, be prepared to spend 4-5 hours. Bring some cards, a sober driver and a huge appetite. If you don’t like sitting for too long, bring a cushion or ask the hosts for some extra padding, as the seats are wooden benches.
  • I also highly recommend trying venison and kastanien herz (“chestnut heart” – a chocolate-covered dessert with cream and chestnut) when you visit South Tyrol during this season – they are both delicious.
  • Where to stay: In Bolzano, I stayed at Hotel Greif which had the most amazing breakfast buffet ever, seriously (with cheesecake and wine)

*Note: This message is sponsored by the South Tyrol Tourist Board. However, I only endorse or praise what I truly enjoy. Your trust is my priority.

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I have been living in Southeast Asia for over five years and I love to share my experiences on this blog. You will find stories about my daily life, as well as my travels around the world. From exotic tastes to stunning views and funny encounters from across the globe, join me on my amazing journey at www.theladyontheroad.com

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