September is a glorious time. While most mope and mourn the end of summer, there are a few intrepid souls who venture out and make the most of the incoming and often inclement weather. With frost, crisp morning starts and a ski season all on the horizon, South Tyrol, a relatively undiscovered gem, tucked away in the Italian Alps, is an ideal weekend getaway to welcome in the winter.
Taking off from London and landing at Innsbruck airport in Austria, South Tyrol is a (rather substantial) stone’s throw over the Alps into neighbouring Italy. “It usually takes just over two hours by car but we’ll do it in under 20 minutes in the ‘copter,” says Marco the pilot, grinning with signature aviator sunglasses pitched on top of his head.
Leading the way into a functional, bright red helicopter, it’s not long until we’re up in the air, passing snow capped mountain peaks and breezing over lakes and forests until our landing site comes into view.
Hovering above what looks to be nothing more than a rough field, we land in an isolated spot, next to my steed for the trip – a red Bentley Bentagya Diesel, the marque’s latest addition to its SUV line up. Jumping out of one and into another – albeit more luxurious – cockpit, it’s a short drive down a dusty mountain pass, to the San Luis Resort – an enchanting mountain retreat with tree house cabins perched within 40 hectares of alpine woodland.
Situated just under seven miles from the ski resort of Merano 2000, San Luis feels a world apart from the hustle and bustle of a winter hangout. Venture out on the tree house balcony in the evening and the views across the lower foothills are accompanied only by the sound of birds and – just maybe – a distant church bell.
Rising early with the sun the following morning, the silence is broken only by the sound of a V8, burbling away below the treehouse. Down the sweeping mountain roads from the resort to the valley floor, the Bentagya’s punchy triple-turbo charged 4.0-litre V8 produces 429bhp and as much torque as its W12 petrol counterpart.
The Bentagya's punchy triple-turbo charged 4.0-litre V8 produces 429bhp and as much torque as its W12 petrol counterpart
Inside, cocooned in swathes of quilted leather, deep-pile carpet, and a swooping dashboard, you’d be hard pushed to find any audible difference between the petrol or diesel model. An hour’s drive south through the valley leads to the Manicor estate and vineyard, situated above Lago di Caldero.
Built by the befittingly named Hieronymus Manincor in 1608 on land he had been gifted by the Emporer, the estate now belongs to Count Enzenberg, a relation of the Manicor family. With vines stretching down to the lake, up the valley sides and beyond, Enzenberg’s biodynamic vineyard features a Bond-like underground winery, built into the hillside, in which the wine is produced, bottled and shipped around the world.
Bidding farewell to Manicor and back on the road homeward, there’s time to pay a visit to the Jaufen Pass – a twisting mountain road that connects Merano and Sterzing, ahead of the Austrian border. Spiraling up into the clouds, the pass offers unparalleled views over the Sarntal Alps before dropping back down into heavy alpine woodland ahead the town of Sterzing.
Once back on the main road, the Desiel Bentayga makes short work of the motorway mile munching, allowing for some reflection. With more people opting for long weekend breaks over long-haul holidays, less-obvious destinations like South Tyrol are well worth considering for an alpine getaway. With hot summers, cold winters and mild weather in between this quiet, Austro-Italian province is just waiting to be explored.
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