Bello Bolzano – Schöne Bozen: Cross-cultural delights of Austrian Italy

Alan Heeks writes...

I’ve been keen to visit Bolzano for many years: perhaps because of Sudtirol’s cross-cultural history, perhaps because I have a friend whose German-speaking mother emigrated to England from here. Anyway, my first visit delighted me: Bolzano has charm, history, and lots more.

Bolzano streets

Bolzano streets

Bolzano’s location is magnificent: in a deep Alpine valley, with mountains all around on the skyline, and cable cars that start near the town centre. It’s one of the most bicycle-friendly places I’ve seen, with dedicated cycle trails, and most of the central area car-free.

There are many houses and civic buildings which date from the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and give the town an elegance and impressiveness which compare with more famous old Italian cities, but differ in style. Here, all the street names, shops and other signage are in both languages.

It was agreeably confusing to be in a different version of Italy, where everyone speaks Italian and German, though I heard more Italian spoken generally. I was unsure which language to use, but since my basic German is better than my improvised Italian, I ended up speaking German everywhere.

The cuisine, as you might guess, is very cross-cultural. Along with all the Italian usual suspects, there were Weinstube, and restaurants serving goulash, dumplings and sauerkraut. Both Austria and Italy have a strong coffee and pavement café culture, and with all the quaint pedestrian streets and squares, you can lounge with your kaffe to your heart’s content.

Otzi man

Otzi man

 

One of the most amazing things you can see in Bolzano is Otzi: a mummified body of a prehistoric man, 5000 years old. It lay preserved in ice near a high Alpine pass until freak weather conditions exposed it some years ago. The whole story is amazing: the ice had preserved some of his clothing, such as his goatskin leggings, fur hat and shoes, plus his bow, dagger, and many other items which can now be seen, along with his body, in the Archaeological Museum in Bolzano.