"So Italian it felt like Austria" Top 5 Page for this destination Bolzano by GentleSpirit

Bolzano Travel Guide: 241 reviews and 638 photos

Bolzano, also known as Bozen

Bolzano is the provincial capital of the Italian state of Alto-Adige. It was annexed by Italy following World War I, before which it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In German this region is known as Sud-Tirol (South Tirol)

To dilute the German speaking majority, the fascist government came up with a program of forced Italianization that flooded the area with Italian speakers. It apparently didn't work very well since only about 5 municipalities in the province are majority Italian speaking. Today, Bolzano is the center of a bilingual, bi-cultural province. Though Bolzano itself is no longer majority German speaking you can spend your time here speaking exclusively German and never have much of a problem.

Coming in on the train

Coming north from Verona you will see a different culture pass before your eyes. Up until about Trento you would notice the churches were traditional Italian structures, squarish or rectangular. After Trento you saw that place names were in both German and Italian. The churches you saw all suddenly had the Austrian onion domes.

I used Bolzano as a jumping off point to the mountains. Really, the main thing to see was Oetzi the Iceman, in the outstanding Museum of Archeology. Bolzano was more of a gateway to the neighboring mountain communities. Bolzano has good train connections to the rest of Italy and the region has an excellent bus network that calls at even the smallest villages. Even 10 minutes on the road up to Kastelruth you really notice the change. And driving up that mountain road is quite something, it hugs the mountains tightly, not much room for error unless you have a parachute, so you won't see anyone driving like maniacs there.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Oetzi, beautiful bilingual-bicultural community, gorgeous setting surrounded by the Dolomites
  • Last visit to Bolzano: Sep 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (11)

Comments (8)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 30, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    Nice tips! My one visit to Bolzano was 35 years ago to take part in a conference on bilingual education in kindergartens. This was a controversial topic at the time, because people had to be bilingual to get a civil service job in Alto Adige. This meant that the people of Austrian descent got all the jobs, because they also spoke Italian. So the Italian parents wanted their children to learn German as early as possible.
    Another thing I noticed at the time was that the high school kids tended to pair off with people of the other ethnic group. The Austrian girls all wanted to have an Italian boyfriend, and visa versa. I don?t know if this was just a way of rebelling against their parents or if they actually inter-married later.

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      May 30, 2013 at 5:01 AM

      My understanding is that german is no longer the majority language in bolzano.
      it would indeed be interesting to see about the inter marriage issue you bring up..
      and particularly now during harder economic times, how viable is having two entirely different school systems?

  • Maryimelda's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Val, You have given me an idea here. I'm looking for a stopover to break the train journey from Munich to Venice, this might just be the place. Another good page.

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Feb 12, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    Nice page! I was very curious about Bolzano as both of the people I work for will be at a conference there this fall. I have been to Bellagio but never to Bolzano. The archeological museum would be very interesting!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Feb 12, 2013 at 7:41 AM

      Unfortunately, my bosses aren't taking me with them but hope to visit there while exploring more of Italy in the future!

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      Feb 12, 2013 at 8:10 AM

      I will takea look at your italian/cruise pages a bit later today, speaking of bosses:)

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Oct 25, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    I would have loved to see Oetzi. I have read about this incredible discovery. Also would love to have seen the bus driver who looked a lot like Richard Gere.

    • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
      Oct 25, 2012 at 4:29 AM

      the fun part of that was that the guy honestly had no clue who richard gere was

  • yooperprof's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    I've passed through South Tyrol twice while taking IC trains through the Brenner Pass - it really does look like a region I would enjoy. It still seems interesting to me that it is Italian and not Austrian!

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jun 1, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    I love the Church roof! It must have been amazing to see such an old mummy!

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Hi, Val! You have managed to pay a visit to great places I must say... Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge here!~

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    Sep 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    I've been to Bolzano several times, but I haven't visited the archaeological museum. Ciao!


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