At just over three hours’ drive from Salzburg, the city is a melting pot of southern poise and Tyrolean down-to-earth attitudes. Italian boutiques and delicatessen blend in with alpine architecture. One minute, you’re wandering along Via Parma, the next, you are relaxing in Walther-von-der-Vogelweide Square—the city is the epitome of bilingualism. Of the 100,000 inhabitants, two-thirds speak Italian and the other third, German. Flexibility is the key here as you don’t know if the salesperson, waiter or police officer in front of you is an Italian or German speaker.
It’s exactly this harmonisation of two cultures that gives the city its charm: Italian dolce vita meets alpine splendour. In November, people are still sitting outside at cafés, enjoying the sunshine, while the market stalls are packed full of flowers, mushrooms and spices, and the smell of freshly-roasted chestnuts fills the air, while if you hop into one of the three cable cars, you’ll be whisked up one of the mountains surrounding the city. But it’s not just cultures that are interlinked. Traditions and progress, both of which are visible everywhere you look, also go hand in hand. All sites can be easily reached on foot or by bike in the historic and car-free centre. Thanks to the two-lane cycle paths—constructed separately from the roads—have seen bike ownership increase by around 30%. And it’s not just the 3,000 students at the only university in South Tyrol who appreciate them.
While the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano has only just turned twenty, the biggest scientific breakthrough in South Tyrol came 5,000 years ago. Between 3,359 and 3,105 BC, high up in the mountains, a lonely wanderer died in unexplained circumstances. His remains are now housed in the Museum of Archaeology in a specially-constructed, refrigerated cell. The leathery-brown Stone Age glacier mummy, Ötzi is far and away Bolzano’s top tourist attraction with over 250,000 people visiting The Iceman’s final resting place every year, while the more adventurous make the trip up into the mountains to the spot he was found.
Bolzano is surrounded on three sides by the towering peaks of the Alps and Dolomites, but with vineyards planted up to 700 metres, Bolzano is one of the largest wine-producers in Europe and is the gateway to the South Tyrolean Wine Road. There’s an old saying that goes “Venice swims on water and Bolzano on wine”. To be more precise, on Santa Maddalena and Lagrein. The locals like their white wine as a Veneziano, with a shot of Aperol, while enjoying the mild temperatures and the mountain views.
Sounds like the perfect holiday destination! But that’s not all. Bolzano also hosts trade fairs and offers the most employment in the region. The offices in the NOI Techpark south of the city are alive with activity. The South Tyrol Innovation Quarter is aiming to link companies, research and universities and promote sustainable progress, and this is also where Bechtle calls home. Bechtle direct’s oldest Italian site celebrated its 20th anniversary last August. “A diverse group of 30 colleagues are working enthusiastically on the continued growth and success of Bechtle in Italy”, explains Davide Mamma, Managing Director, Bechtle direct Italy. Bechtle direct began renting larger premises in Bolzano in 2016 and, since May 2018, the complete Bechtle portfolio is available at the click of a mouse at bechtle.com/it. It’s no wonder that Davide Mamma is already thinking about the next expansion. He has ambitious goals—within the next five years, revenues should have nearly quadrupled. “The Italian market provides us with a lot of opportunity for growth”, says Davide Mamma, with one eye on the future and one on the mountains as the offices in the Via Luigi Negrelli offer a spectacular panorama of the peaks.
Personal highlights and real insider tips from:
Daiana Osele, Account Manager, Bechtle direct Bolzano
The home of Ötzi the Iceman. The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is known around the world for its extensive exhibition about the famous glacier mummy. Three entire floors are dedicated to The Iceman and include a life-like reconstruction.
The Italian mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, is an adventurer, world record holder and living legend. His Messner Mountain Museum project splits photos, sculptures and mementos of a variety of expeditions between six locations, allowing visitors the change to confront the mountains, and ultimately themselves. The centre point is the museum located within Sigmundskron Castle near Bolzano.
South Tyrol is home to some 800 castles and the area around Bolzano has in fact the highest concentration in Europe with Maretsch, Runkelstein and Haselburg castles all very close by.
Casa als Torchio may well be the oldest restaurant in town. At least, that’s the assumption of the owner of the building, which has been registered as a “house with courtyard and tavern” since 1786. The historic restaurant offers South Tyrolean specialities such as Spätzli agli spinaci and Schlutzkrapfen al burro fuso and of course, pizza.
Haselburg has overlooked the city of Bolzano since the 12th century. The restaurant, Castel Flavon, located within the castle walls promises to be an unforgettable culinary experience. It won’t just be the views that take your breath away—the wine list is pretty impressive as well.
If you only have time for a quick lunch, but still want to experience something extraordinary, Zur Kaiserkron is the place to be. Having said that, Claudio Melis’s culinary expertise can only be enjoyed in the evenings. According to the Michelin Guide, this is the place for “simple, unpretentious, contemporary fare”.
In South Tyrol there is a house and this house has a garden. The Laurin has an entire park right in the centre of Bolzano. Here, guests sip coffee in the shade of giant sequoias and enjoy a delicious evening meal, accompanied by birdsong.
Vegetarians, look away now! The name Tito in Val di Fiemme is today as synonymous with bacon as ever. Master butcher, Tito Braito, has been producing specialities such as bacon, pancetta, salami and smoked fillets on his farm for over 50 years.
The story of ceramics manufacturer, Thun, began in 1950 with a singing angel. The original Angel of Bozen was quickly adopted as the city symbol. Today, Thun AG has 1,500 outlets and an online shop selling ceramic decorations and gifts, jewellery and products for children.
Loacker is a family company, famous for its waffles and chocolates beyond South Tyrol. There are numerous Loacker stores in its hometown of Bolzano, the nicest of which is located in Walther Square, where you can enjoy a waffle while soaking up the sites of town centre.
The South Tyroler Wine Road winds between Salurn in the south and Nals in the north-west, through medieval villages and past castles, and is surrounded by around 5,000 hectares of vineyards—the perfect location to while away the day.
Bolzano is also worth a visit in winter. The ski areas are a big draw, but so is the traditional Christmas market located in the historic old town, which could easily compete with its more famous rival in Nuremberg.
Bolzano and the Dolomites are truly an outdoor paradise, which isn’t really surprising with its around 300 days of sunshine every year. The countless hiking possibilities, over 2,000 kilometres of mountain bike trails, and the Alpine and Dolomite peaks ensure that life in this area is lived outdoors.
Published on Dec 3, 2019.