The best time of year to drive the Vineyard Road is late September or October, but the region is lovely (and wine is abundant) any time from April to November. Starting in Bolzano, drive along the Via Druso to Ponte Adige, dominated by the massive walls and turrets of the uncompleted Firmiano Castle. The largest fortified manor in Alto Adige, it was built in 1473. Once you've crossed the bridge, the road veers left and heads up towards Cornaiano, with spectacular views across the entire valley all the way to Merano. Cornaiano is an important stop on Vineyard Road; surrounded by an ocean of grapevines, the local wineries produce Pfefferer, Jungferl and Schreckbichl. Nearby is San Michele Appiano, guarded by its imposing castle whose walls are up to sixteen feet thick. In the town, the baroque church of Calvary is reached by following the stations of the cross. Every April, local residents host a celebration of rural cuisine (Bauernkuchl) and all the restaurants serve local delicacies accompanied by local wines. Be sure to try the polenta.
The next stop is in Caldaro, where the lake is warm enough for swimming from May to September. Nearby Castle Ringberg has an excellent restaurant on the premises. In town, visit the Wine Museum, which illustrates every step of local winemaking and features a wonderful collection of carved barrels. Then leave your car and take the tramway to the top of Mendola Pass for a view that encompasses nearly all of Alto Adige. When you return, peek into the tiny church of St. Anthony, near the tram station.
Termeno boasts the tallest belltower in Alto Adige, but it is better known for its Traminer Aromatico, a wine which the local residents claim can actually raise the temperature of a person's blood. No wonder it's supposed to be an aphrodisiac! The erstwhile fame of this one wine is largely responsible for the prosperous local wineries and the many affluent homes you'll see here. Just outside of town, literally swimming in a sea of vineyards, is the tiny church of San Giacomo in Castelaz, which is worth visiting for its fine romanesque frescoes.
The last stops along the road are Cortaccia, then Magrè, where you can see the oldest grapevine in the region. It has been growing on the façade of the Augustin house since 1601.