South Tyrolean hospitality with a dash of Italianità … tradition combined with modern outlook and a Mediterranean lightness. That is Bolzano / Bozen, the capital of the autonomous province of South Tyrol.
Bolzano / Bozen – about an hour's drive from Ridnaun / Ridanna – lies at the confluence of the Eisack / Isarco, the Talfer / Talvera, and the Etsch / Adige rivers and at the junction of two ancient trade routes from Italy to Germany via the Brenner / Brennero Pass and the Reschen / Resia Pass. During the Middle Ages, this strategically and economically important location made Bolzano / Bozen a prosperous trading town and the natural center for the Tyrolean areas south of the Alps.
Bozen / Bolzano has always been a bilingual city and also oriented towards Italy. Due to increased immigration from the south of Italy, Bozen / Bolzano has acquired an even more Mediterranean atmosphere. Today, it's a young, modern, and urban city.
The beautiful old historical center of Bozen / Bolzano with its tree-lined arcades, the atmospheric streets, and medieval architecture is still one of the main attractions of the city. The Waltherplatz with the cathedral are in the center. Its 65-m-high tower with the distinctive openwork spire of sandstone is the city's landmark. There are priceless medieval frescoes visitors can admire in the Franciscan Church of St. John's Chapel and in the Dominican church. In comparison with the contemplative atmosphere in the churches, the hustle and bustle at the city's markets seem twice as colorful. In particular the fruit market with its almost Mediterranean atmosphere has achieved wide renown.
The city's many museums are definitely worth visiting, beginning with the Municipal Museum, the Natural History Museum with its exhibition on the origins of the Dolomites, one of the largest saltwater aquariums in Europe, and the Archaeological Museum, where the legendary Similaun Man – the Neolithic "Iceman" – can be viewed. Meanwhile, the Museion, Museum of Modern Art has become almost a new landmark in Bolzano / Bozen and a symbol of the modern, cosmopolitan character of the city. The museum was newly opened in 2008. Located on the shores of the Talfer / Talvera River, it is regarded internationally as an outstanding example of successful contemporary architecture.
The historical significance of Bolzano / Bozen is reflected in the many castles and ruins sprinkled about the valley floor. There are a total of about 40 historical sites. Popular destinations include the romantic Haselburg or the Sigmundkron / Sigismondo Castle, which houses the Messner Mountain Museum Firmian. The old lordly castle serves as a Benedictine abbey. At the entrance to the Sarn / Sarentino Valley one finds Runkelstein Castle, a real jewel: The Built by the Fuggers, this so-called "Picture Palace" is lavishly decorated with beautiful frescoes and an atmospheric setting for the summer palace concerts.
In addition to the range of cultural activities here, there are also plenty of sports opportunities available in and around Bolzano / Bozen. The surrounding mountains, the Ritten / Renon and the Sarn / Sarentino Valley are ideal for hiking and mountain biking in the summer and for cross country and downhill skiing in the winter. South of Bolzano / Bozen we come to the beautiful Kohlern / Colle nature reserve. Visitors can come here by taking the oldest suspension aerial cableway in the world. The aerial cable car taking visitors to the Ritten / Renon – the romantic high plateau with the famous pyramids – has been rebuilt. And there's an aerial cableway even to Jenesien / San Genesio Atesino, the popular resort on the Salten / Salto. From Jenesien / San Genesio Atesino, you have a wonderful view of Bolzano / Bozen and the Rose Garden. Especially at sunset when the Dolomites glow red, the atmosphere is second to none!