Bolzano, Italy is known as the gateway to the Dolomites. It is the capital of the province of Trentino/ Alto-Adige also known as the South Tyrol. In this area, all towns names are written in Italian and German. As a matter of fact, you will hear more German spoken than Italian. This is because this area of Italy belonged to Austria before WWI.
Bolzano is known for having one of the highest qualities of life in Italy. It is a lovely town that is a mix of old and new, the center of which is Walther Square.
The Hotel Greif…a contemporary design hotel on the inside of one of the oldest buildings on the square is where we chose to stay. We usually stay at a very traditional hotel so staying in a very contemporary one was fun. Each room is designed by a different artist and ours was really nice.
Across the square is the Gothic Duomo with a 200 foot bell tower and ornate spire. The sound of the bells was incredible. Luckily they don’t ring all night or early in the morning. The rest of the square is lined with lovely buildings, restaurants and outdoor cafes.
Going through one of the arches we discovered an outdoor beer garden where people were listing to a brass band.
Down one of the side streets is the Lauben. It is a mile long street in the center of town with medieval arcades. In the same area is the Franciscan Church from the first half of the 14th century.
The cloister is beautifully decorated with frescoes. We could hear chanting from the monks in one of the chapels off of the cloister.
Down another of the streets off the square there were vendors selling flowers, fruits, vegetables, cheese and cured meats. The atmosphere was wonderful…there was so much to choose from.
We returned to the main square to have a light meal at Walther’s. They have two large summer terraces with the best view over the square in the old town center. We shared a wonderful cream of porcini soup with rye croutons and drizzled with truffle oil. You know that this was nothing like Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup…just delicious.
Afterwards we had a pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomato and rocket.
The next morning we walked out on the main square to find an antique car show. It was so much fun looking at all the little Fiat cars. Don’t you just love the convertible with its picnic basket on the back. When parked, it has an awning that covers its open top.
We then went to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology to see Otzi the Ice Man. Otzi is 5000 man that was found in 1991 with his clothes and equipment that had mummified and frozen on a glacier. It was one of the most interesting exhibits that I have ever seen.
Bolzano, though not too far off the beaten tract, is on the autostrada to the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria. It is not frequented by many American tourists…don’t miss it.