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Until earlier this week, I knew the term "Red Rooster" only as a punch served at a holiday party years ago, so potent it induced a days-long hangover. But, oh, what you can discover on a random Google search. Seems Red Rooster is also the name of a well-run B&B organization in an area of Italy called South Tyrol, which borders Austria and has a fairytale landscape of forests, farmlands and vineyards, all intertwined with walking and biking paths.
Tourism in this autonomous province, which is also a mountain biking haven, centers on agriculture and sustainability. In fact, typical Tyrolean accommodations are farm stays, with more than 1,450 properties developed and overseen by Red Rooster (www.redrooster.it). Doubles usually cost around $70, typically including a breakfast of locally grown cuisine, use of a pool and free Wi-Fi.
Affordable prices, endless mountain biking and hiking options, cozy accommodations on farms and vineyards – anybody else ready to start planning an adventure in South Tyrol?
The more I read about this soft-adventure paradise, the more I want to visit. Decidedly more German than Italian, South Tyrol is one of Europe's premier mountain biking destinations, with the nearby Dolomites offering countless trails. Riders of all levels can improve their skills at any of several mountain biking schools, which offer rentals and tours at prices that won't break the bank. MTB Val Gardena, for example, has a guided full-day excursion for four people for $210 (www.mtbvalgardena.com).
(In my newfound hunger for all things South Tyrol, I also unearthed a mountain biking photo gallery that made me want to grab my helmet and hop on a flight. See the incredible images for yourself at www.mtb-dolomites.com. At the time of this posting, the English-language page of the site was down, but that didn't affect the photo gallery.)
Even if you don't opt for a guided tour, there are plenty of popular routes to explore the countryside and reach breathtaking vistas by mountain bike. Peddle along the famous Roman road Via Claudia Augusta, which winds through the Vinschgau Valley, or along the River Drau's cycling path in the Val Pusteria.
Through the end of 2011, Red Rooster is also awarding a week-long free trip to South Tyrol to the winner of its trivia contest. Questions are drawn from facts throughout the website, so be sure to peruse it before starting the quiz.