Cutting jaggedly across the sky, the pale snaggle-toothed peaks of the Sesto Dolomites are one of northern Italy’s most mesmerising sights. Whether enveloped in snow or surrounded by green, flower-strewn meadows, these dramatic mountains are a constant, fascinating presence on the area’s skyline, their unusual beauty capturing the imagination of all fortunate enough to cross their path.
Yet, although there can be no doubt that the Dolomites form one of the country’s best known and most loved landscapes, it wasn’t so long ago that they didn’t belong to Italy at all. For between the late 14th and early 20th centuries, this mountainous region was a fully paid-up member of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and it was only when the border lines were redrawn after the conclusion of World War I that South Tyrol came into being as a province of the Kingdom of Italy.
The following 100 years have seen various attempts to ‘Italianise’ South Tyrol – notably through the promotion of the Italian language and creation of thousands of Italian place names to accompany the German originals – but success has been decidedly limited...
Around 75% of inhabitants still speak German as their mother tongue and there are reminders of the area’s Tyrolean past at every turn: from the narrow, arcaded streets of the provincial capital, Bolzano, to the wooden chalets and onion-domed churches sprinkled across the countryside. Even the efficient transport system that criss-crosses the region seems distinctly alpine.
Rather than a cause for contention, however, this unique intertwining of languages and cultures is one of the reasons that South Tyrol is such an intriguing place to visit, as a stay at our newest Tyrolean hotel, the Drei Zinnen in Moso, will confirm. Though built in the 1930s – a decade after the area had become an Italian province – the hotel was designed by the prominent Austrian architect Clemens Holzmeister, who oversaw the remodelling of Salzburg’s Festival Hall, and is one of the finest examples of the ‘Tiroler Moderne’ style. Inside the hotel, cultural boundaries are blurred on a daily basis: in the kitchen, hearty Austrian dishes are brought to life with a touch of Mediterranean flair; while in the Drei Zinnen’s panoramic lounge you can partake of the typical alpine tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen, at the same time as gazing through the picture windows onto some of Italy’s most arresting landscapes.