Castel Tirolo: Built in the 12th century, this quickly became the very symbol of the surrounding region (to which it gave its name, Tyrol). It was the residence of the Counts of Tyrol until 1363, when the last surviving heir gave up her title and handed over all her possessions to the Habsburgs. Completely restored, it now houses a great museum. The hamlet of Castel Tirolo is just outside of Merano and can be reached by car, or by bus from the station. From there it is a pleasant half-hour walk to the castle.
Castel Roncolo: Built in 1237, this castle was completely destroyed only forty years later, then lovingly restored by a new owner. Eventually, the city of Bolzano donated it to Emperor Franz Joseph. On its walls are some of the finest existing examples of chivalrous medieval fresco painting. From Bolzano, drive or walk the short distance north alongside the Talvera River.
Castel d'Appiano: Fortifications were first built on this site, which now overlooks Bolzano, Lake Caldaro and hundreds of vineyards, 2000 years ago, but the present castle was erected much later by the Appiano family. In 1158, one Federigo d'Appiano robbed an enormous treasure that was being sent from the Pope to the Holy Roman Emperor. These two most powerful rulers retaliated, besieged Appiano's castle and totally destroyed it. Restored, it now features a chapel with lovely frescoes. From Bolzano, travel by car or bus to Appiano or Missiano; then walk the short distance to the castle.
Castel Moos-Schulthaus: Built in 1356 as a gigantic hunting lodge, this is one of the best examples of Alto Adige architecture. Located just outside Appiano, it is surrounded by vineyards and orchards.
Castel Coira: Built in the late 1200s, this castle has belonged to the Trapp family since the 16th century. Perfectly preserved, it houses a famed museum crammed with armor fashioned by artists from all over Europe. From Merano, it is about an hour's drive to Sluderno; a short walk completes the trip. While you're there, take a side trip to nearby Glorenza, the smallest walled city in Europe.
Abbazia Monte Maria: Dating from the 12th century, this former castle is now a Benedictine abbey. Visit the crypt to see its romanesque frescoes. From Burgusio (near Castel Coira), it's a short drive along the state road.
Castello di Tures: Guarding the entrance to the Aurina Valley, this fortified manor house is famed for its hall of mirrors, its 24 rooms of tapestries, its library, its collections of armor and knighthood memorabilia, and for the Gothic frescoes decorating the chapel. From Brunico, drive to Campo Tures, then walk the short distant remaining.
Castelbello: Perched on an outcrop of rock in one of the loveliest parts of the Venosta Valley, this 13th-century castle features a chapel with excellent frescoes, but the main attraction is the breathtaking view. Just a short drive from Castelbello.