A mix of German and Italian sings throughout the Dolomite mountain air. Biergartens rub elbows with pizzerias. Two names, Bolzano and Bozen can be seen on signs. Set up in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, Bolzano, or Bozen by its German name, sits in the middle of a cultural confusion. While technically apart of Austria up until 1919, the city is geographical a part Italy today. However, despite what you might see on a map, Bolzanoâ€™s cultural makeup will have you wondering just what country you are visiting. You can get cheap flight tickets to EuropeÂ so rather than the classic itineraries of Rome, Venice and Florence, consider visiting this culturally conflicted Italian city.
Visit The Oldest Backpacker
At the Museo Archeologico dellâ€™Alto Adige, perhaps the worldsâ€™ oldest backpacker makes his home. Ã–tzi was found in a glacier in between Austria and Italy in the 1990s. After careful examination, it was determined Ã–tzi lived 5,000 years ago. Along with his perfectly intact body, you can also see many of his belongings and gear, including his backpack. Before Alpinism, it is still somewhat of a mystery as to why Ã–tzi was traveling where he was. You can pay your respects to this fallen backpacker for an admission price of â‚¬9.
Leave Town With A Cable Car
Most budget travelers canâ€™t afford to pay for rented wheels, but in Bolzano that isnâ€™t a problem. The city features three different cable car routes that place the traveler up above the city and into those Dolomite Mountains. Pick up a map from the tourist center in Piazza Walther to scope out which of the three cable car routes you want to take. Funivia del Renon is supposedly the longest in the world, stretching 4,556 meters. Once you reach the top, you can utilize a number of hiking trails such as the Earth Pyramids walk. The Earth Pyramids are a geological peculiarity, a formation of rock dating back to the glacial era. Other cable car routes from Bolzano include the Colle-Kohlern, deemed the oldest cableway in the world, and San Genesio-Jenesien, boasting views of the Rosengarten Dolomite massif. All of the cable cars of Bolzano put you in far off mountain peaks in a matter of minutes and without need for a car.
Get Hungry at the Obstmark
In and around Piazza delle Erbe, you will find the Obstmark of Bolzano, in other words, the fruit and vegetable market in town. If you arrive in Bolzano on a Sunday, the wooden stalls will be eerily quiet and empty, but catch this market during the week and a bushel of activity waits. Due to Bolzanoâ€™s cultural confusion, the Obstmark sells hot off the oven pretzels you would find in Germany, right next to Italian delights. Even if you arenâ€™t hungry or looking to buy, any photographer will appreciate the eye candy of these old world stalls.
Play Queen and King For A Day at Bolzanoâ€™s Castles
Bolzano is home to three different castles right within its grasp. The two easiest to reach in the city include Castel Mareccio, the 12th century residence and Castel Roncolo, hailing from 1237. Whether you just want to appreciate the castles from outside, they are worth a look just to get a sense of Bolzanoâ€™s medieval importance.
Ways to Save in Bolzano
For travelers on a budget looking to spend some time in Bolzano, you will want to pick up the Bolzano-Bozen Card. At a cost of â‚¬28, the card lends access to the many museums in Bolzano, the Runkelstein Castle and free public transport. Transportation includes regional trains, local buses and the three different cable car routes of Bolzano. Also, the card will get you into around 80 museums in the region. You can pick up a Bolzano-Bozen Card at Tourist Information in Piazza Walther. The card is a good deal if you are planning on seeing all of Bolzano and the surrounding area.
As for accommodation, TripAdvisor is a good place to find unbiased reviews of places to stay.
Written by: Suzy Guese