The Gardens of Castel Trauttmansdorff in Merano/Meran, South Tyrol, are sloping down on an overall surface extended over 12 hectares, and gather – as in a natural amphitheatre – exotic and Mediterranean landscapes, set among awe-inspiring sights on the surrounding mountain scenery, as well as on the nearby city of Merano/Meran, often bathed in dazzling sunlight.
In more than 80 botanical habitats prosper and blossom plants from the whole world. Whether old or young, plant lovers, people passionate about botany or common people: the gardens of Castel Trauttmansdorff will not fail to fascinate anyone with an enchanting mixture of nature, culture and art. Various multi-sensorial stations, atmospheric thematic gardens, artistic pavilions and specimens from the animal kingdom contribute to make the Giardini di Castel Trauttmansdorff – also easily reachable on foot from Merano/Meran – a really unique, variegated and fascinating place. The Touriseum – the Provincial Museum of Tourism – is hosted in the Romantic setting of the castle itself, and it offers an unusual perspective on two centuries of history of Tourism in South Tyrol in general, and in the spa resort of Merano/Meran in particular.
Voted “Italy’s Most Beautiful Garden” in 2005, the variety offered by the gardens of Trauttmansdorff enchants visitors year after year with an articulated offer. An extraordinary blend of a botanical garden and a recreational facility turns any visit to this site into a special adventure. Wherever you look, the gardens are full of intriguing details, works of art and attractions of any kind. A number of colorful experience stations (some of which are described in more detail below) are distributed throughout the grounds, making Trauttmansdorff – which is truly one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy – something that visitors not only experience, but that also allows them to gain knowledge, and that sparks a renewed passion for life. Ultimately, this is a garden for the senses; therefore, not only beautiful to watch, but also to touch, smell and savour – in a nutshell, it is a living entity, and as such it should be appreciated.
The gardens at Trauttmansdorff are divided into three main sections, highlighted on the map in different colours: “Forests of the World” (green), “Water and Terraced Gardens” (blue) and “Landscapes of South Tyrol” (red).
Trauttmansdorff’s "Forests of the World" Garden Area Offers Cool Shade, Exotic Ferns and Other Primordial Plants.
The “Forests of the World” area is located on the north side of Trauttmansdorff. These leafy woods offer a shady refuge, especially in summer. A wide variety of deciduous and coniferous woods from North and South America and East Asia add a touch of the exotic. The primordial Fern Glen, replete with streams and waterfalls, is refreshingly cool. In addition to the natural landscapes, there are also crop plants from the Americas, as well as an Asian rice paddy and a tea plantation – representing important cultivated landscapes from faraway lands.
Trauttmansdorff’s “Forests of the World” area also features special plant collections that set it awash in colour: ornamental cherry trees begin their parade of blossoms in April, immediately followed by the lush flowering of over 300 species and varieties of Rhododendron.
The ‘Valley of the Ferns’ and Wollemia nobilis
Ginkgo, Araucaria, and dawn redwood lend the Fern Glen a primeval appearance. The highlight here is a specimen of a species that was once believed to be extinct: Wollemia nobilis. This “living fossil” was commonly found throughout the world 65 million years ago. In 1994, specimens were discovered in a hidden canyon in Australia – a botanical sensation!
Ancient Zen traditions are still alive and well in this garden: every stone, the course of the stream, the positioning of the individual plants and the machiai shelter all follow the design of a Japanese master in the art of gardening. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy true serenity.
Flowering Clay Wall
Unique in the world, this ingenious planting of colorful flowering “walls” of loam – nearly vertical flowerbeds supported by 1,500 m² of reinforced earth – affords visitors an up-close-and-personal encounter with plants.
Nowhere in the gardens is Trauttmansdorff’s unique fusion of North and South clearer than at Palm Beach, also located in the “Forests of the World” area. Lounge on a deck chair, surrounded by a beach of fine sand and shady palm trees. This is a tropical dream come true – with a twist: panoramic views on the snow-capped mountain peaks.
In late summer 2013, a new attraction will open its doors in the “Forests of the World” area: the Glass House and Terrarium. A continually modified exhibition of exotic and rare plants will be housed here. Animals such as tree frogs, leaf-cutter ants and geckos will call the terrarium home, affording visitors a chance to see them close-up.
Visit the Mediterranean Without Leaving Merano: The Sun Gardens Will Sweep you into an Exotic World.
On the sun-drenched southern slopes of Merano’s botanical gardens at Trauttmansdorff, you’ll find a themed garden that really captures the feel of the Mediterranean. Walking paths meander through the Sun Gardens, leading up the hill and offering spectacular views of the surrounding Alps. Fragrant dwarf shrubs alternate with evergreen woody plants. Cork and holm oaks evoke the original landscapes of the Mediterranean region. Below the castle, Italy’s northernmost olive grove thrives: here, the gnarled silhouette of a 700-year-old specimen makes quite an impression; in the summer, thousands of sunflowers come into bloom. Pines and cypresses flank old crop plants such as pomegranate, grape, mulberry and fig trees. There are also succulents from Mediterranean semideserts such as Cacti, Euphorbia, Aloes and Agaves.
In this spine-chilling garden, Nichtlinde the Witch and Rostolph the Raven watch over a ragtag bunch of bizarre sculptures – symbols of the vilest work of witches – and many a poisonous plant.
The 700-year-old Olive Tree
This olive tree, which originates from Sardinia and is seven centuries old, weighed an incredible 5.8 tons when it was planted. A custom-built vehicle was needed to transport it: the circumference of its trunk is three meters and its diameter, at chest height, is 93 cm. The gnarled intrepid traveler features the striking silhouette characteristic of ancient olive trees, which are generally considered to be the most durable of crop plants.
The ‘Limonaia’ (Lemon Grove)
The relaxing Lemon Terrace is the ideal place to enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ of the Mediterranean in this unlikely Alpine location. In addition to flowering and fruit-bearing lemon and orange trees, exotic kumquat trees, tangy Citrus trees and spectacular Buddha’s hand Citron trees all thrive here.
Succulents for the Semidestert
On 'Desert Hill', you’ll find Cacti taller than a man and many other succulents, including African Aloes, Spurges and North American Agaves. In winter, the whole structure is covered and protected from hard frosts.
The "Water and Terraced Gardens" at Trauttmansdorff: European Garden Architecture at its Best.
The “Water and Terraced Gardens” area is graced by stairways and water features that connect various levels, where there are interesting elements of European landscape architecture: spherically manicured boxwood, geometrical plantings, and a maze that evoke the Italian Renaissance Garden. In the English Perennial Garden, the plant beds are also geometrically shaped, but are not laid out in rigid patterns. You can smell and touch aromatic plants in the raised beds of the Sense Garden: the intense fragrance of English roses, Lilium regale and star jasmine permeate the air.
At the foot of the terraces is the romantic Water Lily Pond. A dense planting of irises, daylilies and grasses encircles brightly coloured water lilies. Flawless Lotus flowers rise up out of the water and a dense palm forest fringes the shore; in the spring, Camellias and Azaleas bloom amidst more than 200 hemp palms.
The collections of Clematis and perennial peonies bring an intoxicating flush of flowers. In the Rose Garden, over fifty wild species and thirty historical roses blossom in summer: an absolute must for anyone passionate about roses.
In the centre of the maze, made from yew trees, is a pomegranate tree. Tradition says that lovers should meet here, coming from different entrances. Getting lost in the network of paths is a real adventure – especially for children.
Water Lily Pond
The Water Lily Pond, together with its Lakeside Stage, is the centerpiece of the gardens. Inhabited by Japanese koi carps, ducks, turtles and many other aquatic creatures, this experience station is an oasis of tranquillity.
In the Sense Garden, you’ll enjoy the distinctive aromas of herbs and shrubs, while listening to the relaxing sound of rippling water.
Over 200 Chinese hemp palms form a dense and exotic forest of palm trees.
"Landscapes of South Tyrol" in the Gardens at Trauttmansdorff: Traditional Cultivated Landscape.
The “Landscapes of South Tyrol” area of the gardens at Trauttmansdorff is set up along a man-made waterway: a mountain stream lined by green alder follows an alluvial forest with alders and willows, then merges into a lakeside vegetation with reeds and cat-tails.
A very good example of South Tyrol’s traditional cultivated landscapes is the meadow orchard, with forgotten apple and pear varieties (cultivars): it is evocative of the rustic orchards of long ago.
In addition to Gewürztraminer, Schiava and Lagrein, the vineyard features original South Tyrolean varieties that are rarely grown today.
Another element of the local cultural landscape is the braided Speltenzaun: this type of fence protects the typical South Tyrolean farmer's garden where vegetables, herbs and ornamental plants are grown.
Vineyard and Tabernaculum
In the South Tyrolean vineyards, you’ll find the Tabernaculum, which illustrates South Tyrol’s 3,000-year-old wine heritage. On display: a golden replica of a 7,000-year-old grape seed – a gift from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi – and 2,400-year-old grape seeds from South Tyrol.
South Tyrol has a tradition of fruit cultivation that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. Old local apple and pear varieties that have largely disappeared grow today in the orchards of the gardens at Trauttmansdorff.
A farmer from nearby Val d’Ultimo (Ultental) braided the traditional South Tyrolean Speltenzaun fence by hand. Narrow pathways separate the beds of the garden where lettuces, carrots, leeks, onions and cabbages are grown. Herbs and medicinal plants are peppered throughout.
Vast alluvial forests once covered the marshy plains of South Tyrol’s main valleys; only fragments of this natural landscape remain today. The alluvial forest at Trauttmansdorff, which visitors can explore along the Adventure Bridge, evokes this lost landscape.
The Grotto’s Multimedia Show: in Search of the Mystery of Life’s Origins!
If you’ve always wanted to learn more about the origins of life on Earth, be sure to visit the Grotto at Trauttmansdorff – one of the garden's most beautiful attractions. An exciting multimedia show, complete with lightning and thunder, explains the formation of the Earth and of life in a very engaging way.
The Botanical Underworld at Trauttmansdorff’s: a Bizarre Underground Journey.
A unique attraction opened its doors on the occasion of the garden's tenth birthday in 2011: the Botanical Underworld. Located in the “Landscapes of South Tyrol” area, this 200-meter-long trail penetrates into a hillside, leading through a bizarre realm. The botanical underworld closely examines the mysteries of plant life below the soil in an entertaining and illustrative way. Anything that sprouts green and flowery above ground sends deep roots into the earth and is no less active there – although it is hidden from the view of man.
Underground pathways lead from chamber to chamber, accompanied by lights and sounds that show the way: each shift shines the spotlight on one of the main botanical underworld themes: water, soil, nutrients, roots and light.
Eerie and entertaining, illuminating and informative: the different stations, with multimedia elements, teach visitors the basic botany of underground plant life.
Merano’s New Indoor Glass House & Terrarium.
In 2014, Trauttmansdorff will be dedicated to the theme of exotic flora and fauna. The new Glass House & Terrarium will give visitors to Merano a chance to enjoy a very special collection of plants – even when the weather isn’t so nice. There is also an indoor terrarium with some inhabitants quite new to Merano: African bullfrogs, Egyptian desert locusts, giant spiders and stick insects that will delight visitors of all ages.
Art and Nature in Juxtaposition: Artists Pavilions at Trauttmansdorff – a New Take on Nature.
The gardens at Trauttmansdorff fuse art, nature and culture in a unique way. Ten Artists Pavilions represent an unconventional approach to illustrating various phenomena of nature: a successful combination of aesthetic elements and sensory experience.
At Trauttmansdorff, local and international artists and architects have reinterpreted the classical concept of the garden pavilion – a place of rest that offers protection from the weather and sun. Each of the ten Artists Pavilions addresses a different botanical theme. Focusing on Mother Nature and Her plants, botanical phenomena are presented in way that is not only instructive but also artistically and aesthetically appealing.
Ornamental Plants from Around the Globe
Through the use of masts, sails and a telescope, this pavilion harkens back to the botanical conquests of the plant hunters who brought exotic plants to Europe centuries ago.
Metal leaves dancing in the wind mimic the play of light and shade found under a tree canopy.
Visitors sniff nine different aromas and try to identify each at this sense-based guessing game, which is very popular with people of all ages.
Plants from Regions with Mediterranean Climates
Bright and radiant, this pavilion evokes the houses and pathways of the Mediterranean.
Downy Oak Forest
In this pavilion, the gnarled trunks of downy oak trees (Quercus pubescens) were meticulously layered within a linear steel lattice frame, underlining how the natural proliferation of the surrounding trees has been tamed.
The shape and inner workings of this walk-through pavilion were modeled after a barrel cactus.
Take a walk at the bottom of a lake: boats overhead offer shade and symbolize water plants in a highly imaginative way
Cultivated Landscapes Replacing Natural Landscapes
This pavilion presents elements of South Tyrol’s cultivated landscapes, amongst which are orchard espaliers and vineyard pergolas.
Plants in Spring
Heralds of spring: flexible colored rods reach towards the heavens.
Plants in Fall
Inside this rusty steel dome, colored plexiglass leaves infuse sunlight with the warm hues of autumn.
"Experience Stations" Communicate Botany: Enjoy Italy's Most Beautiful Garden with all of Your Senses!
Some of the "Experience Stations" Include:
The Geological Mosaic
The Adventure Bridge
This precariously swaying suspension bridge leads across an alluvial forest just like those that once covered the marshy lowlands of the Adige Valley (Etschtal). This is an experience that turns many an adult right back into a child again!
This round walk-in house for bees teaches visitors about the lives of hardworking honey gatherers: a close up – yet completely safe – perspective.
The Dragonfly Clock
This oversized clock, located in the section “Landscapes of South Tyrol”, illustrates just how diverse the species and flight periods of these iridescent insects are.
The Grotto and Multimedia Show
The Grotto’s multimedia show explores the origins of life on Earth in a very vivid way. This attraction features thunder and lightning (read a fuller description above).
The Sounding Stones
Delayed Echo – round holes cut into porphyry rocks reveal their secrets and delay the return of sound.
The Bamboo Forest
About 40 small, medium and full-sized species and varieties of bamboo grow here on various levels. In addition, the station shows the many different ways in which bamboo can be used as a material through examples from the Far East.
It is almost as though the colorful parrots and exotic birds of the aviary are trying to give you courage enough to walk out onto the dizzying outlook point, from where you can enjoy stunning views over the gardens, the town of Merano and the majestic mountain ranges of the surrounding area.
The Forbidden Garden
Directly along the castle wall, there is a strange little garden that is home to bizarre sculptures nestled amidst poisonous plants and ‘witches’ herbs’.
Matteo Thun’s Viewing Platform
This outlook point, which is 95% see-through and built in the shape of binoculars, allows visitors to feel as if they were freely floating in the air. The viewing platform offers breathtaking views over the Adige Valley (Etschtal), the town of Merano and the surrounding mountains to the north.
Innsbruck Alpenzoo Showcase
A partnership between North and South Tyrol – that is, between the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo (Austria) and the botanical gardens – has taken the form of a twin exhibit: Aesculapian snakes at Trauttmansdorff and exotic Mediterranean plants at the Alpenzoo.
Animals in the Garden
To the great joy of our youngest guests, rabbits, zebra finches, peacocks, snakes, Hungarian racka sheep, Chinese ducks, Japanese koi carp and many other animals frolic at the gardens of Trauttmansdorff.
‘Name that Wood!’
Visitors examine and try to correctly identify different types of wood – a challenge that is fun for the whole family!
Children & Animals: A wide Array of Furry and Feathered Friends Call Trauttmansdorff Home
The gardens’ animals represent an extra pleasure for the whole family. The animals have found Trauttmansdorff to be a wonderful home: they include rabbits, peacocks, Hungarian racka sheep, goats, snakes, macaws, loris, Chinese ducks and Japanese carp.
When the terrarium inside the new Glass House opens in the fall of 2013, you’ll be able to enjoy a close encounter with indigenous and exotic insects, spiders, amphibians and reptiles.
Merano’s City Center to the Botanical Garden: Sissi’s Path.
Merano has many stories, and Sissi’s Path tells one of them. The immensely popular Empress Elisabeth of Austria loved taking long walks. You can follow in her footsteps even today, walking from downtown Merano up to Sissi’s holiday residence, Trauttmansdorff Castle, passing quiet corners, majestic villas, enchanting manors and old parks. Along the path leading from the gardens to Empress Elisabeth Park in Merano’s city centre there are many places that commemorate the monarch’s sojourns in the spa resort town. The well-marked Sissi's Path is easily negotiated with a wheelchair or stroller.
If you, like many of our visitors, are a fan of Empress Sissi, then the gardens are the perfect place to follow in the footsteps of this hugely popular monarch. It was largely due to Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s visits to Merano and her stays at Trauttmansdorff Castle that the little spa town achieved international renown. Scattered throughout the present-day botanical gardens and the Touriseum to commemorate her, you’ll find several attractions and exhibits dedicated to Empress Sissi, who has long since achieved cult status.
Sissi Terrace & Sissi's Throne: In 1908, Baron von Deuster, who was the owner of Trauttmansdorff Castle from 1897 to 1921, commemorated the Austrian imperial couple’s visit to the castle with an imperial celebration. For that occasion, he erected a white three-meter-long marble, with pictures of the couple, at the empress’s favorite spot beneath an old chestnut tree. Today the same bench sits regally on a stately terrace, redesigned in 2005, and located on the southern end of Trauttmansdorff’s grounds. The wide, semi-circular steps done in marble and slate allow the visitor to practically float up to Sissi’s Throne, gleaming and white. From there, you can enjoy a splendid view over the botanical gardens, the fragrant plants of the South and the Lily Pond – just as the Empress would have done.
Sissi Promenade & Bust of Sissi: Passionate about sports, Sissi loved long walks. She requested that "charming footpaths" be strewn with "fine gravel", so that she could "take a walk far removed and undisturbed by the noise of the world". Even today, Trauttmansdorff visitors use some of these same historical paths around the botanical garden when they walk along the Sissi Promenade.
The ‘Touriseum’ – An Engaging Interactive Museum that Sheds Light on the Alpine Tourism History.
The Touriseum, South Tyrol’s Museum of Tourism, moved into the beautifully restored rooms of Trauttmansdorff Castle in 2003. Since then, this museum has taken visitors of all ages on an intriguing journey through 200 years of Alpine tourism history. The name’s merging of the terms “tourism” and “museum” says it all: the Touriseum is the first Alpine museum to focus on the theme of tourism history – running right up to the present day – in a large-scale way.
In 2006, the Touriseum was nominated for the European Museum Award.
Mechanical theatre, detailed models, films, and sounds: the Touriseum is anything but a dusty museum with lengthy texts. Visitors travel through South Tyrol’s 200-year history of tourism, passing 20 different areas on various levels. The museum also has an educational trail about the development of this industry, which is presented in a very appealing way.
One of the Touriseum’s very unique features is South Tyrol's Pinball Machine. Measuring ten metres in length, it is the world’s largest pinball machine. It was created by a master woodcarver from the Gardena (Grödner) valley, and it will take you on an amusing and thrilling journey through South Tyrol.
The most prominent guest of the castle was, of course, Empress Sissi.
Permanent Exhibition: Trauttmansdorff Castle and its Residents
A dreamy romantic in search of his roots; an Empress who could not bear life at home and her sickly daughter; an Emperor in search of his Empress; an old warhorse in the service of the Habsburgs; a German baron infatuated with Meran; war veterans who took up farming: they all stayed at Trauttmansdorff Castle for various lengths of time, influencing its place in history right up until the present day. The new permanent exhibition in the historic rooms of the castle dedicates a shining monument to each of these illustrious inhabitants
Please consult also the page on the so-called ‘Culturonda Dolomythos’: an initiative that has been devised by the province of Bolzano (South Tyrol), divided into twelve thematic areas, and whose aim is to propose alternative ways with which to explore the culture of the Dolomites. One of these itineraries is dedicated precisely to tourism in the Dolomites, and Trauttmansdorff Castle is an active participant and supporter of the initiative.