Have you ever seen archival footage of the Wörthersee from the 1980s and 90s and wished you could have experienced it when it was new? Well, me something like that was given the opportunity to do so.
Every May for 41 years, VW and German car enthusiasts from around the world have gathered in the Austrian town of Wörthersee for a week of car meetings, events and a celebration of our hobby. Over the past 10 years, the occasion has grown dramatically in size. It was an event that far outgrew the host city, and last year the Austrian authorities finally relented and asked to stop the annual meeting in Wörthersee.
One of the main events on Wörthersee’s agenda, the XS CarNight decided to use this as an opportunity to launch something fresh and new.
Of course we’ve lost access to the beautiful Wörthersee, but there’s still a lot of mountainous Europe left for car enthusiasts to gather and explore while enjoying the cars that brought us together. When one door closes, another opens, and so on.
XS eventually negotiated with the local authorities to allow them to host an event in Italy’s northernmost mountainous region of South Tyrol. It’s a beautifully scenic part of Europe, bordering Austria and importantly just a stone’s throw from Wörthersee. XS has been given permission to organize three other events either side of the main CarNight show and the venue is ready.
Dubbed the #BetterDaysAhead Tour, XS gave everyone an alternative to the Wörthersee and a chance to participate in the beginning of something new. For all I know, this could be the future of European car culture meetings for the next 40 years. For me, this must have been the Wörthersee of those before my time.
With all this in mind, I grabbed some finicky friends, packed my BMW E38 for the road and drove the 1,100 miles from London to South Tyrol.
The first challenge came when we got there. Apart from the four events organized by XS, we had no idea where the local hangouts would be.
Wörthersee had the “Turbo Curve”, the iconic Eni station, the main town with endless parking in the area, where a car meeting can take place at any point of the day.
The geography of South Tyrol is a little different; each town is about a 30 minute drive from each other. This isn’t a problem, but since each town is relatively similar to the other, everything felt much more spread out and we never stumbled into car meets like we used to at Wörthersee events.
We soon found out about the Q8 gas station, 15 minutes from the city hosting the XS CarNight event.
This place gave us the strongest Wörthersee atmosphere. The rear parking lot was huge, the gas station facilities were modern and accommodated everyone as cars kept coming and going. It was the best car show of all: a rolling car show. The movement of the cars, hearing the engines and talking to the owners filled us with energy and optimism about the event as a whole.
Many exciting cars were presented here, my favorite was probably the Alfa Romeo Guilia. I think they are infinitely sexier than any equivalent AMG or M car, but unfortunately they are not nearly as common.
Another hot spot was the Meran 2000 summit, a large parking lot 15 minutes up a mountain from the main area of Bolzano where we were staying. Here we attended a Saturday morning car and cafe event simply called the Classic Meet. As the name suggests, most of the cars presented were old school. Immaculate paint and OEM+ touches are definitely at the forefront of car modifications here in Europe.
It was at Meran 2000, where I found my favorite car combination of the whole trip. This Mk2 Volkswagen Golf with 15 inch BBS RS wheels rolled in together with the curious Porsche 993 and immediately attracted a crowd. As you can see from the photos, it was a very special pairing.
So, dear reader, which one will you take home?
Jet washers are endlessly scattered throughout South Tyrol for anyone to use. Keeping your car clean here is super easy, and with so many show cars on the road, these spots have become little events in themselves.
Check out this Fiat Tipo Sedicivalvole I came across at one of the car washes. Owned by a nice gentleman named Rene, the car is brand new after a winter renovation.
It’s these types of hidden motorbike nuggets that make such trips really rewarding, encouraging you to drive around and find more and more cars and interesting people along the way.
The other XS event we attended was a Friday car and coffee morning. We were the first to attend when we arrived in South Tyrol, so this morning laid the foundation for the essence of the XS #BetterDaysAhead Tour.
A mix of people who enjoy their project cars from all over Europe. The authorities made sure everything went smoothly and directed the flow of traffic, but in Italy there was no problem between cars and the law. This was in stark contrast to Austria in years past, where participation became almost a game of chance to see if you could get in and out without being fined.
So let’s deal with the question I asked myself in the title of the article. In short: no, South Tyrol is not a new Wörthersee. But that’s because it never was. Without getting all poetic, the point of the #BetterDaysAhead Tour, as far as I could tell, was to explore new opportunities to gather to enjoy our passions and hobbies.
As car enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to do so with respect and to treat the place we drive with as much respect as possible. South Tyrol offers this opportunity, and we must take advantage of it. Who knows, maybe 40 years from now I’ll be reminiscing about this event while sitting in the Q8 watching the 2063 Mk16 Golf with the latest hovering Hoverlift suspension.
Until next time, South Tyrol.
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