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86km (53 miles) N of Trent, 28km (17 miles) NW of Bolzano

This well-heeled resort, tucked into a valley half an hour west of Bolzano, sports Europe's northernmost palm trees -- the product of a mild microclimate ensuring that summers are never too hot or humid and that winter temperatures remain above freezing even when the surrounding slopes fill with snow.

Austrian nobility and, in their wake, bourgeois vacationers from all over the Continent have been descending on Merano since the 19th century for their famous grape cure. But the town flourished long before that. In fact, the counts of Venosta were lords of what would become Austria through much of the 13th and 14th centuries; the name "Tirol" came from the Castel Tirolo, just above Merano, from which they ruled. The capital of the territories that passed from the house of Venosta to the Habsburgs was moved from Merano to Innsbruck until 1420.

With its handsome shop-lined streets, riverside promenades, and easy access to mountainous wilderness, Merano is a nice place to visit for a day or two of relaxation or hiking.