A trek through the Alps will often leave one surprised at what they find. By car, train, foot, or horse, the Alps offer a myriad of mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, and small towns–a perfect blend of mankind and nature. Spread across eight countries, every town and region offers a slightly different culture. In a deep valley, surrounded on three sides by mountains lies the sleepy town of Bolzano. Located in Italy between Venice and Augsburg, Bolzano has created a unique blend of Italian and German culture, and includes history and sights worth the hike. Here are some of the best things to do in Bolzano.
The first on a list of things to see are the castles both within and surrounding Bolzano. Located near the city center is the Maretsch Castle built during the 13th century. With built murals depicting Biblical scenes, this castle stands as a testament to medieval culture and architecture. Another castle is the Runkelstein Castle located on the peak of a mountain; it has been the site of raging local lords since the 13th century. Complete with famous frescos and seen as a symbol of the Romantic period, this castle will leave visitors swooning. The last castle is Sigmundskron, a short ride from Bolzano in South Tyrol. It is astounding, surrounded by medieval walls that slope down the mountain. Dating from before the 900s, the castle has undergone many renovations, and so contains a little piece of each age of history, from the Neolithic to today.
However, Bolzano offers more than just castles for the modern traveler.
Historic sights, paintings, murals, and frescoes
There’s no doubt that Bolzano is filled with historic sights, paintings, murals, and frescoes. Along with the castles, Bolzano also has a monastery and cathedral both filled with baroque paintings. The cathedral lies at the center of town, while the monastery, Muri-Gries, remains one of the most prominent examples of baroque architecture in South Tyrol. Bolzano offers extensive examples of a wide variety of architecture from medieval to baroque to modern.
Historical and modern shopping areas
Bolzano’s cultural diversity also ensures an interesting mix of historical and modern shopping areas and markets. One of the most famous shopping streets in Italy is the Via dei Portici with its mix of international and traditional shops. These shops, or “arcades”, have existed since the medieval ages and have benefited from Bolzano’s status as a trading and cultural center. If one wants to really experience medieval life, it would be best to visit the open-air market at the Piazza Erbe, where merchants have been selling their wares for centuries. Basically an ancient supermarket, the market at the Piazza Erbe has vendors selling fruit, cheese, wine, bread, vegetables, and strudel.
However, Bolzano’s crowning jewel, and most popular destination, has been the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, containing the mummified remains of Ötzi the Iceman.
The remains of Ötzi were discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, hence the name, and has been the most popular Bolzanini since. Ötzi is estimated to have lived around 5,300 years ago, and was able to live to the ripe old age of 45 when he was killed by blood loss from an arrow wound. Ötzi has been incredibly important when trying to understand the lives of copper-age peoples, being one of the most intact specimens ever found. Come and visit the remains of Ötzi, and learn about the life of prehistoric peoples, including their lifestyles, clothing, personal possessions, and diet (apparently Ötzi was partial to chamois, red deer, and ibex).
When journeying in the Italian Alps, one must always expect the unexpected.–whether it’s mountains, lakes, and rivers beautiful beyond description, or castles and streets at the crossroads of culture or a 5,300 year-old iceman. Bolzano and the Italian Alps will leave you wondering, what’s next?