Castles, Christmas and Kranskies
Spending Christmas in a European castle really is a magical experience. When that castle is a 2,000-year-old castle in the Dolomite foothills, all bets are off. Castelbrando is the centrepiece of Albatross Tours’ captivating Christmas in an Italian Castle tour, which my husband and I were lucky enough to go on. This was our first Christmas away from our families and it proved to be an unforgettable one.
The Christmas in an Italian Castle tour
Bavarian capital Munich marks the start of this winter tour, which winds eastward to the picturesque Austrian lakeside village of Fuschl for two nights. Switching back west to the historic town of Innsbruck, you’ll visit the storybook Neuschwanstein Castle and experience the truly special Christmas markets. The tour then crosses over to Italy, taking you to Castelbrando for four nights over Christmas before ending in Italy’s capital of fashion, Milan.
Expectations and Highlights
I was most looking forward to escaping the heat of an Australian summer and having a cold white Christmas. I was also expecting Europe to be quite festive with its Christmas markets and lights, and couldn't wait to start immersing myself in the regional traditions and food.
On a trip with so many highlights, it’s not easy to choose just one! That said, staying in a 2,000-year-old castle is not something that everyone can boast about.
My husband claimed Neuschwanstein Castle as his favourite highlight. You might recognise Neuschwanstein as the famously romantic castle that was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and used as inspiration for Disneyland’s castle. However nothing comes close to the genuine thing.
Carols on the Coach
It’s fair to expect friendly and knowledgeable leaders on an adventure like this one. Yet the dedication and passion of both our tour manager and driver towards their job and us passengers was remarkable. The tour manager made us feel like an extended family; we sang Christmas carols on the coach and shared local sweets and chocolate purchased along the way.
Schnitzel and Hot Chocolate
Nothing competes with authentic cuisine when travelling overseas. It was nice to have most dinners included while on the tour, though we did enjoy purchasing our own lunches to allow us to get amongst the local people and soak up the atmosphere.
We enjoyed delicious schnitzel and large beers in a local pub in Mondsee, tasty pizza in the beautiful Italian town of Sirmione and wandered through the Christmas markets in Munich, munching on hot kranskies in crusty bread rolls. Another highlight was drinking hot chocolates and feasting on cake in Bolzano.
A Taste for Immersion
When travelling, I like to immerse myself in the local culture and food, and prefer to visit sites and towns that are not major cities. The Christmas in an Italian Castle tour offered plenty of opportunities to visit historic and culturally rich regional locales such as Sirmione, Hallstatt, Bolzano, Fuschl and Cortina d’Ampezzo. This way, you get a more genuine feel for a place.
Christmas in Europe is enchanting and everyone should experience it at least once in their life. We decided to collect Christmas baubles from each place we visited so that for future Christmases at home, we could decorate our tree and never forget our magical trip.