Bolzano, a city of great charm surrounded by mountains
31 August 2022
The history and highlights of Bolzano
The history of Bolzano is definitely interesting. The city took on an urban layout from the end of the 12th century, when the bishop of Trento introduced a new merchant village into the ancient landscape of scattered settlements in the Bolzano valley.
Medieval Bolzano is an interesting example of the complex social, economic and political dynamics that characterised other urban centres in the Alpine area, with its controversial relationship with the contado.
Soon this non-idyllic relationship led to a clash between the bishops of Trento and the Counts of Tyrol, turning into a real military conflict which eventually came to an end after almost a century with the arrival of the Habsburgs in Italy.
Another historical figure who marked a period of particular splendour in Bolzano was Claudia De'Medici, who, through her role as ruler of Tyrol, led her newly acquired people to prevail against Upper Austria, expanding the borders of the region.
Even today, legacies of her patronage can still be found throughout the city, starting with the renovated Piazza delle Erbe and passing through the entire Baroque urban development.
What to see in Bolzano: 3 unmissable stops
Life in Bolzano runs smoothly in the shadow of its Dolomites, and the days, among wellness centres, good food and opportunities for sport, punctuate the time that passes gracefully.
However, Bolzano is also the ideal stop to take a journey through its history and culture, and lose yourself in its beauty. What to see in Bolzano? Here are the 3 unmissable stops:
- The posh living room: the first visit can only be to Bolzano's Piazza Walther, the city's nerve centre full of elegant cafés where you can stop to breathe in the magic of the place. And, in winter, allow yourself to be carried away by the festive atmosphere: this is where the much-awaited Christmas Market is held.
- The spirit of the area: The second stop is Bolzano Cathedral, a religious building of great importance built on three previous churches, one early Christian, one early medieval and one Romanesque. Its Gothic bell tower is considered the most beautiful in the region.
- The Central European soul: you can't say you know this city without seeing Bolzano's Piazza delle Erbe, which has hosted the fruit and vegetable market on weekdays since 1295. A place where the people of Bolzano have been shopping for more than 800 years, it is an ideal opportunity to take a stroll along the square, with its famous arcades and alleyways, to breathe in the Central European atmosphere of the city.
Put the Alto Adige Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano on your list of things to see and do in Bolzano. Here you can learn all about Ötzi the Similaun Man, the mummy found in 1991 at the foot of the nearby Similaun Glacier, and dating back to the Copper Age.
On the outskirts of the city, plan a trip to Castel Firmiano, just outside Bolzano, and Castel Roncolo, a medieval fortress in Renon.
3 ideas on what to do in Bolzano
Modern and traditional at the same time, city and small town together, it is the destination for a holiday that will entertain, relax and amuse the whole family. What to do in Bolzano?
In winter, the must-see event is Bolzano's Christmas Markets, one of the largest in Italy, which have been attracting tourists from all over the world for 20 years, taking place in the beautifully decorated central Piazza Walther.
The event lasts the whole month of December, covering streets and alleys with an incomparable atmosphere.
Our second recommendation is for all seasons: go to Bolzano's Via dei Portici, an extraordinary shopping opportunity with its many shops and boutiques. As well as shopping, linger over its medieval structure enriched by the many year 400 buildings such as the Mercantile Palace and the Old Town Hall.
What to eat in Bolzano: 4 specialities
Alto Adige gastronomy is known to be rich and tasty, relying on the exceptional products of the region.
- Definitely not to be missed are schlutzkrapfen, or Tyrolean ravioli: they are half-moons of pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese, a delicacy.
- To forego the typical Alto Adige Speck would be a misfortune: it has been granted IGP recognition by the European Union and is prepared from boneless pork leg, lightly salted, flavoured and then smoked.
- If you like first courses, you will fall in love with spinach spatzle, dumplings made with flour, eggs, water and spinach, served with speck and cream.
- Finally, one of the world's best known traditional dishes: canederli, large bread dumplings created with stale white bread, eggs, speck and onion and served in a variety of ways. A symphony of flavour.
Bolzano's unusual places
The unusual places in Bolzano are fascinating: start at the MUSEION in Bolzano, the museum of modern and contemporary art with more than 4,500 exhibits and a venue for shows, events and educational workshops.
A symbol of Bolzano's modernity, the Talvera Bridge was built in the 20th century over an older, narrower wooden structure to give the city a more developed face.
Last but not least, also worth a visit is the Victory Monument, a controversial piece of marble standing right at the point of access to the Italian part of the city, commissioned by Mussolini after the Italian occupation of Alto Adige and in memory of the victory against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.