Welcome to Bolzano (Bozen)
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy
Population: 94,989 (2001)
Bolzano - known to Germans as Bozen - sits where
the Isarco River flows into the larger Adige
River, which streams out of the Alps.
Though unquestionably Italian, the city sits on
the A22 running north through the Brenner
Pass and south to
Modena, in the midst of the German-speaking
part of the country, known as the South Tyrol.
picturesque small town, with a mild climate,
Bolzano is surrounded by gorgeous Alpine
scenery. And although tourism is a
mainstay of its economy, Bolzano also boasts a
busy commercial center and small manufacturing
center from which aluminum, plastic, ceramic,
wood, wool and other machined goods are
exported. It is also a busy agricultural
area which produces an array of wines, vinegars
and dairy products. The city consistently
ranks as one of the best cities in Italy
Originally settled by the
Romans imposed themselves on
the town in about 15 BC, calling it Pons
Drusi after their general Nero Claudius
Drusus. But, of course, Rome fell, and
Bolzano witnessed the centuries long
coming-and-goings of a succession of war-makers:
Austrians, French and Germans. Even in the
20th Century its strategic position near the
Brenner Pass put it in harms way, during the
First World War, of course, but also during
the Second World War, when it suffered at
the hands of the Axis and Allied powers alike.
The official language of the area is Ladin,
but most people are multi-lingual and can
converse in Italian and German. Alas,
historically speaking, even up to the 1960s,
co-existence between the Italian and German
parts of the population has not always been
peaceful, largely because the Germans have
steadfastly resisted assimilation.
After World War I, Italy annexed the region
which had been under Austrian control.
But, the land remained in dispute, and ethnic
tensions caused perpetual conflict. Hitler
and Mussolini tried, unsuccessfully, to solve
the problem by giving all the Germans who wanted
to the right to move to Germany. In
the 1960's the UN brokered a deal between
Austria and Italy, that resulted in Trentino
being ceded officially to Italy, but as a Region
with a special autonomy and corresponding
rights. As a result, the age old conflict
has more or less subsided.
History of the South Tyrol
Its location has made Bolzano a trade center
since time immemorial. In early medieval
times a market drawing traders from north and
south was held here every quarter year.
When you visit Bolzano, in the "centro", you
will find narrow, winding streets overlooked by
"tyrolean" houses and commercial buildings
featuring a lot of woodwork, wooden beams, high
peaked roofs and balconies. Bolzano is an
episcopal seat, so there is a cathedral, the
building of which started in 1184, done in the
It was rebuilt in the 14th Century at which time
it took on a pronounced
appearance. There are a few medieval
palazzos in the old part of the city, which
travelers will see during their perambulations.
the main piazza, the Walther von der
Vogelweide Platz, keep an eye out for the
statue of a minstrel - the minstrel for whom the
piazza is named. Those who like oddities
can visit the archaeological museum, resting
place of a 5,000 year old mummy affectionately
known as Otzi, which was found
encased in glacial ice in the nearby mountains.
No one has yet raised him from the dead.
Mussolini built a large white, marble monument,
to the Italian dead of WW I, which apparently
remains controversial to this day. Don't
and around the city there are a few castles
built in improbable mountain locations, among
them the Maretsch, Schloss-Runkelstein,
Schloss and Sigmundskrop.
Listen for the sound of trumpets, and standards
snapping in the wind.
you have the time, energy and inclination (dig
deep), then we highly recommend a journey to
San Genesio, about 800 meters higher
than Bolzano in the mountains nearby. It
is one of those idyllic Tyrolean villages that
one sees in the movies. You can hike up,
or drive a very windy road with great panoramas
of the valleys below, or, most fun of all, take
a 10 minute ride by cable car. The
village's main claim to fame are its horses, the
famed Aveglinesi breed, a breed of gentle
blonds bred for mountain work.
Take time for lunch or dinner, in either Bolzano
or San Genesio. Here is a combination of
German and Italian cuisine that will appeal to
English-speaking travelers. The local
grappa helps everything to go down, just right!
destination? We think so.
By Vian Andrews November 24th,
46░30′ N. 11░21′ E.
By Car: North
from Modena, Verona
and Trento on the
A22, or South
from Austria, via
the Brenner Pass on
Outdoor market in