Review: Tour of Bolzano (Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige) – Journey in the footsteps of the theorem
A beautiful town in the South Tyrol with the beautiful Dolomites;✓ picturesque historical center;✓ frescos of the Giotto school; ✓ beautiful surroundings with castles; ✓ delicious cheeses and smoked meats.
There was a time when I associated the ringing and weightless geographical name Bolzano exclusively with a course in mathematical analysis. The Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem, the Bolzano-Cochey theorem… Then, in the noughties, the association with mathematics was joined by the association with figure skating – when Caroline Kostner came to this sport.
A few years ago I learned that the Cathedral in Bolzano has frescoes supposedly created by students of Giotto. In the end, the magical phrase “Giotto School” to which was attached the uplifting and roof-breaking beauty of the Dolomite Alps, led me to the idea that we had to go. To go to South Tyrol.
Like Merano, Bolzano is a former “piece” of Austria-Hungary, now owned by Italy. But if in Merano Italy is barely perceptible, almost ephemeral and manifests itself mainly at the level of flags and passports, in Bolzano you can already feel the influence of Italian culture, and the Italian speech in the streets drowns out the German.
My husband and I combined our trip to Bolzano with a visit to another South Tyrolean town, Bressanone, which we drove from Innsbruck to. The fare on the freeway section between these two cities was 1,9 EUR, and the total sum of the ride on the route “guesthouse – South Tyrol (aka Trentino – Alto Adige) – guesthouse” was 9,3 EUR. Speaking of languages and redistricting … When we asked our GPS-navigator to guide us on the road to Bolzano, he showed solidarity with the collapsed Habsburg Empire, saying that he did not know the city and does not want to know:))) I had to backtrack and give the navigator a German-speaking name of the place – Bozen, after which he was nicer and helped us to get to the right destination
Radiantly smiling hospitable Bolzano prepared for our arrival bright spotted flowerbeds, blooming oleanders, a colorful selection of medieval streets and spa-rest surroundings, inexplicably mixing it with a relaxing and energetic traffic:
Who goes where, and we’re first to the “living room,” as the locals jokingly call their main square. We grab a bite to eat (thankfully it’s lined with all sorts of cafes, restaurants, and eateries), have a little rest, and look around. In the center of the square, above the patchwork of flowers, there is a white monument…No-o-o, not to mathematician Bernard Bolzano, as some might think:), but to poet and composer Walter von der Vogelweide:
For the very existence of a monument to a man of the glorious cohort of Minnesingers, I stand before Bolzano in a deep curtsy. He created in the twelfth century, but people remember! The only thing that connects Bolzano with Bolzano (pardon the clumsy pun) is the ancestors: the outstanding mathematician, who, unknowingly, ruined the nerves and blood of a large number of negligent students, was actually born, worked and died in Prague. And so he was left in Bolzano without a monument:)
What can I say? They have a nice living-room area in Bolzano. No unnecessary, tasteless or shabby “furniture”. Everything is neat, cultured and cozy. You sit under the awning, order a cup of coffee with dessert and meditate, watching the city life…
I turn my gaze to where Minnesinger Walter is looking – i.e., to one of the main points of our plan. At the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Duomo, which was painted by students of the Giotto school:
Yes, the Duomo will not disappoint. The Gothic silhouette is graceful and even somewhat coquettish. The slender bell tower with its lace trim. And a beautiful tile coverlet with white and black and yellow ornament on an emerald background.
We take our heels off the restaurant chairs and go and see the most interesting result of the work of Lombard, Swabian and other guest workers. Gothic is Gothic, but there are some “shards” of Romanesque style. So the answer to the question of the date of construction is elastic: it depends on what to count from. But by the beginning of the sixteenth century the building process was definitely finished:)
The entrance to the cathedral is reliably guarded by stone lions, and looking at them you start to think that they appeared simultaneously with our planet:
The exterior fresco with the crucified Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saints John and Barbara, as well as the frescoes inside, are also counted as creations of the Giotto school. I will refrain from disputing the validity of this attribution. But for me personally, the influence of the Master’s work was nevertheless noticeable.
To the left of the fresco, attributed to the Giotto school, there is another fresco of a smaller size, which appears to depict a pilgrim weary from his long wanderings. After such an encouraging introduction, we can’t wait to find out what’s behind the door.
In the forest of Gothic columns we find the promised frescoes. There are few frescoes in the cathedral, and in addition, each of them survived only partially. And some due to the location of their location, and do not get close. Because of the loss of a large number of images, in articles and books that describe Bolzano and its Duomo, about the subject matter of the frescoes is either controversial, or complete silence. Therefore, to deal with the subjects had to “manually”, remembering life descriptions of certain characters and their characteristic attributes. And looking into the frayed letters under the frescoes, scribed in gothic letters.
In this fresco, where about half of the square was damaged, one easily recognizes St. Martin of Tours, who cuts open his cloak to share it with a beggar:
Despite the losses that befell the other fresco we saw, I am ready to utter the word “I believe.” I believe that the school of Giotto was indeed involved in the creation of this fresco. The handwriting of their great Master is visible even in such extreme conditions. As for the subject in the fresco, I join those who believe it is a scene from the life of St. Margaret:
Above, above this unknown lady with a dragon, whom I have designated as “Margaret with a question mark”:), depicts episodes of the ministry and demise of one of the popes. Based on the approximate time of the frescoes, it seems that the painters immortalized Urban V:
Fragments of a fresco “narrating” St. Dorothea have survived near one of the carved altars:
One of the cathedral’s frescoes, which also did not escape the loss of fragments, was dedicated to those who initiated its construction:
A remarkable work of stonework (a pulpit for reading sermons) and several excellent carved altars also remain from the Middle Ages in the Duomo:
And on the cathedral’s main altar, the baroque has made great strides. But fortunately not like an elephant in a china shop:
The starting point for our introduction to the city’s antiquity was Dominican Square:
How many pictures and street scenes, pleasing to the eye and soul, this compact historical center of Bolzano managed to hold within its walls! Like a generous, hospitable host, it relentlessly put new architectural and aesthetic treats on our plates – for example, these captivating broken lines and curves of the arched passageways:
And each contact with such geometry awakened more and more warm feelings for this city:
Bolzano did not skimp on mansions with elegant turrets, openwork pinnacles and balconies:
It delighted us both with wall paintings and sgraffito :
…and garlands of magical bay window lanterns:
Bolzano also remembered to take us to Via dei Bottai to show us its most fabulous building, the White Horse Tavern, where they feed us Tyrolean cuisine:
On the same street, we met a funny painted cat sitting on the wall between a barbershop and a musical instrument parlor:
Around every corner lurked enchanting cityscapes with ornate houses laid out in whole placings:
Bolzano did not relent. He invited us to stroll along his, one might say, trademark South Tyrolean houses, dissected by covered arched aisles – porticoes, reliable protectors from the pouring rain and scorching sun:
I later saw a street with porticoes and the exact same name in Merano, but Bolzano was far superior in its level of charm.
And, of course, Bolzano could not allow the guests to leave without gifts:) He cheerfully beckoned us to the stalls where they sold local gastronomic souvenirs. The key points of the South Tyrolean tourist program were shpek (cured meat flavored with juniper and pepper) and cheeses – such as Grana Padano, Grana Trentin, Bergkase.
The aroma emanating from the cheese and sausage and smoked meats tickled our nostrils pleasantly:
Who put the parmesan out like that! Not the slightest indulgence for the faint-hearted tourist contingent:
At other stalls there was a brisk trade in wine, vegetables, and fruit:
One of the most important shopping addresses in old Bolzano was Riazza delle Erbe (Piazza delle Erbe). The name of this square is as far from romance as our planet is from Mars. It simply tells us that the square was (and still is!) used to sell the gifts of herbs. This is why Piazza delle Trava is not only found in Bolzano, but also in Verona and in many other Italian cities. The square, or rather, its “patch”, free of stalls and shops, is decorated by a fountain with a statue of Neptune.
Neptune, as it should be, has a traditional trident in his hand:
How the old streets are enlivened by all sorts of landscaping finds! I don’t know the name of the person who got or grew this huge hare-like cactus, but the composition created a sensation:
Contrary to the absolutely appropriate expectation of a fairy tale for a city like this, the local town hall represents quiet elegance:
There’s been no craze for street sculpture in Bolzano, with a few minor exceptions, such as this trio of graces sticking together:
But the most stunning thing about Bolzano is its surroundings:
The places around the city are not just a collection of geographical points, but a real hymn to the irresistible nature of South Tyrol and the titanic work of its inhabitants, who planted endless gardens and vineyards on the slopes of the Dolomites, who built beautiful houses, castles and churches, who built excellent roads in difficult mountain conditions and created comfortable conditions for tourism.
Words and interjections will be superfluous. Such beauty wants to contemplate silently:
And since we could not walk in the footsteps of the Bolzano theorem (which, incidentally, was known even before the visit), I will finally formulate the axiom. The city that gave the name to the most respected scientist is one of the most pleasant places in Europe.
Itinerary of Bolzano in 3 days, Italy.
Bolzano is the capital of South Tyrol and a city in Italy with one of the most fascinating histories. Just think of its belonging to Austria and its subsequent attribution to Italian territory, from which, however, it received the autonomy of the entire province. From its past emerged various aspects that set it apart from other cities, such as its bilingualism. It also follows a distinctive architecture that mixes Gothic, Renaissance and Austrian characters. It is also a very lively city, young and full of nightlife, both in terms of cultural and popular events that continue the Tyrolean tradition.
Morning: Piazza Duomo, Dominican Church. The day can only begin with Piazza Duomo and a great breakfast at Caff Mattei, which can be reached on foot or by any bus. Immediately after visiting the Duomo, also called the House in German, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and symbol of the city as a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic art, built on 3 previous stages. Next to it is the Cathedral Treasury with its collection of works, furniture, jewelry and artifacts of the sacred themes of Tyrolean Baroque art. Then a walk to the Dominican Church.
Afternoon: South Tyrol Archaeological Museum, City Museum. From the church, walk out into the narrow streets of the historic center and stop for lunch at the Weisse Traube restaurant, which offers typical or international dishes for an average price of €30 per person. From the restaurant, continue to the Museum of Archaeology of South Tyrol, famous for housing the Etzi, a mummy found in the Dolomite Alps, as well as many other archaeological finds in the Alpine region of South Tyrol. At the end of your visit you can reach the nearby Civic Museum in a few steps, the oldest museum in South Tyrol, which tells the story of Tyrolean archaeology, art and popular culture through finds, local crafts and works of art, medieval, Gothic and Baroque art.
Evening: Piazza Erbe, dinner. After the museums, stroll along Via Museo until you reach Piazza Erbe, a historic meeting place for all ages in the heart of the historic center of Bolzano. Here every day until 19:00 there is a market where you can buy great local products such as cheeses and pretzels. In addition, Piazza Erbe has many different types of bars where you can enjoy a delicious Tyrolean aperitif with excellent Spritz and Hugo.
Morning: Piazza Walter, Palazzo Mercantile, Museum of Natural Sciences. The second day begins in Piazza Walter, another of the city’s main squares, which can be reached on foot or by any bus. Have breakfast at La Piazza bar with excellent coffee, croissants and ice cream for about 4 euros. Walk through the narrow streets of the historic center to the Trade Palace, a prestigious historic building from the 1700s that houses a museum with Renaissance and Baroque furniture, paintings and works of art among its luxurious rooms. At the end walk towards the Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a museum that talks about the geology and natural environment of South Tyrol. With permanent and temporary exhibitions full of reconstructions and multimedia stations, there is also an aquarium with coral reefs, the largest in the area.
Afternoon: the Franciscan church, Via dei Portici. Before you get to your next attraction, stop at the nearby Pims Burger & More restaurant for a quick bite with great sandwiches and beer for about 15 euros, then walk down Via Wintler to the Franciscan church. This is a 13th century Gothic church with a very simple interior, but with beautiful stained glass windows and an outer monastery with arches and frescoes. It won’t take you long to visit this church and then go to Via dei Portici, a 2-minute walk, the oldest street in Bolzano, very beautiful and characteristic, today full of all kinds of stores and historical stores. Here you can stroll under the arcades, shop or have an aperitif outdoors.
Evening: dinner, Via Argentieri. From Via dei Portici you get to the parallel Via Argentieri. Spend the rest of the evening on Via Argentieri, another historic street in Bolzano, now very lively and full of a variety of clubs, including pubs, ice cream parlors and lounge bars.
Morning: Castel Mareccio, Malojer Gummerhof winery. The last day in Bolzano is dedicated to the area outside the historic center. You can get to Castel Mareccio on foot or take bus 15 to Piazza Dogana. After a couple of minutes of walking you will find yourself in the bar S. Antonio, where you will be offered a good breakfast of coffee and croissants with a view of the castle for about 3 euros. Then continue to the attraction. Castel Mareccio is an ancient 12th century fortress surrounded by vineyards with exhibition halls adorned with frescoes, with exhibitions and conferences open to the public from time to time. Eventually, after a quarter of an hour on foot or always by bus 15 from Piazza Dogan to Via San Osvaldo, you will reach the Malojer Gummerhof winery, because in South Tyrol you cannot miss visiting wine, the main production of the region. The cellar is historic in the city, actually beginning in 1400. It offers a visit to the production cellar with a tasting, which is explained by those who lead with great interest and knowledge, and is also equipped with a sales room and a restaurant.
Afternoon: Petrarch Park, Castel Roncolo. For lunch, stop at the Malojer Gummerhof winery, where for about 30 euros per person you can enjoy Tyrolean delicacies accompanied by a glass of good local wine. After your meal, take a walk through Vicolo Sabbia and enter Petrarch Park. Once in the park, walk north and enjoy a quiet stroll along tree-lined avenues surrounded by children’s playgrounds and restaurants. When you reach the end of the park, from the Ponte S. Antonio, take bus 12 to the San Genesio cable car stop. From there, walk a couple of minutes to Castel Roncolo and discover the imposing 13th-century castle overlooking the city.
Evening: dinner, Piazza del Grano. In the early evening, visit the nearby Osteria Castel di Roncolo to enjoy an aperitif in nature and views of Bolzano, and stop for dinner to enjoy a last meal of Tyrolean delicacies at an average price of €25.00 per person. Then take bus number 12 from the Funivia San Genesio stop to the Piazza Walther stop to the historic center. From there, it’s a 2-minute walk to Piazza del Grano, another historic yet most lively square in Bolzano with all sorts of clubs to spend the rest of the evening.
Weekend in Bolzano
Bolzano is usually an expensive city, where accommodation costs start at 70 euros per night for a room without meals, and meals out cost an average of 20 euros per person. Because of this we recommend preferring pubs and taverns to restaurants, where you would spend at least 35 euros instead. On the other hand, the rides are quite low cost and some are even free, and the same goes for transportation, which includes a one-way ticket for 1.50 euros and a day pass for 4.00 euros. To combine everything, a Museumobil is also available, a card for 3 to 7 days, which includes all modes of transport and all attractions. In the case of a one-day weekend, a three-day card costs 30 euros.
Go to Bolzano in the spring, because of the low temperatures and rains, but also in the winter, despite the cold and snow, the city is still very crowded with tourists because of the Christmas fairs. Bolzano is well connected to trains and buses, especially the Flixbus company. In the center of Bolzano you can move around on foot or by bike, while for the more peripheral areas you can use the excellent network of city buses.