The charming town of Bozen-Bolzano in South Tyrol is at the heart of the Dolomites – the pink mountains of the Alps. The nature around the city is a tourist heaven for people interested in hiking in the mountains, mountain climbers, biking along the valley; in winter skiing brings millions of turists to the area.
The city is trilingual between the major languages Italian and German and the minority language Ladin. Due to the large degree of tourism in the city, the majority of the population also speaks English. The colourful medieval, Gothic and Belle Époque buildings, with their stepped gables, turrets and attractively faded frescoes, have a north European feel. Yet the main commercial street feels Mediterranean, and at Piazza delle Erbe, described with pleasure by Goethe in his Italian Journey, the two flavours meet. Some of the cosiest bars and cafés are hidden behind the stalls of fruit and flowers, spices and cheeses.
Bolzano is also the home of Ötzi the Iceman; found in melting glacier ice in 1991 he is one of the oldest human mummies at roughly 5000 years.
Over the years, Bolzano’s history, culture and traditions have defined the city’s character: lively, multilingual and always changing.
Bolzano was probably founded as a Roman military statio in 15 B.C. under the name of “Pons Drusi”. In the following centuries it was invaded by Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns, Lombards, Saracens, Normans and Hungarians up to the Counts of Tyrol in the 13th century.
“Via dei Portici”, built in the 12th century, was the first street in Bolzano and is still today the heart of the commercial city. Outside the city walls stood the early Christian church, which later became today’s cathedral.
In 1363 the county was handed to the Habsburgs, who ruled until 1806 when Tyrol became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria, then allied with Napoleonic France. In 1814 the Tyrol returned to Austria and in 1919 the southern part of the Tyrol (South Tyrol) was annexed to Italy by the Treaty of Saint Germain.
Fascist Italianization provided for a new urban plan, which from 1935 radically changed Bolzano’s appearance, expanding it southwards into the new “Semirurali” districts and the industrial area where previously there had only been vineyards and orchards.
In the 1960s, Bolzano went from being a predominantly commercial city to a tourist boom that has never left it.