Bolzano is known as the Gateway to the Dolomites, a 3,000 meter mountain range formed 200 million years ago from the primeval ocean. Defined by their unique composition and staggering beauty, the 18 peaks of the Dolomites have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their geomorphology and spectacular spires. Bolzano is also known for exceptional local food, a wide range of outdoor activities (skiing, cycling, snowboarding, hiking, climbing), traditional Tirolean handcrafts (like the famous chubby cheeked Bozen angels from Thun) and ice.
Located in the Northern Italian province of Trentino- Alto Adige (Sudtirol), Bolzano is a cross-cultural mélange that takes most travelers by surprise. Bordering on Austria and Switzerland, the region combines food, customs and language to create a unique taste and travel experience that is often overlooked by conventional tourists. Italian specialties like gnocchi take on the distinctive flavors of the SudTirol where gnocchi becomes canederli in the form of a speck flavored bread dumpling. There is a strong German influence in the region so foods like wurtzel (German sausage), stinco di maiale (braised pork shanks) and German inspired pastries are favored and it’s not uncommon to see apfelstrudel as well as studel di mele on restaurant menus along with plenty of German birra and regional Italian wines like ruby, red Teroldego.
Traveling in this region of Italy is all about extremes. Rare chamois and mountain goat pick their way along rocky crags and edelweiss bloom in Alpine meadows alongside some of the highest vertical rock walls in the world. Adventure travelers look for unprecedented experiences ice climbing, mountain biking and hiking the via ferrata, “iron path”, where steel cables cemented in the rock assist climbers along the mountainside. If your idea of adventure travel is more about extreme sights than extreme sports plan a visit to Hopfen and Company for some stinco and bozen bier.
Then vist the South Tirol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano to see the Iceman, one of the world’s best known and most important mummies.The Iceman was discovered in the Ötztal Alps of Italy’s South Tirol in 1991 by two hikers who found the back of a human figure jutting out of the ice and melt water in a rocky gully. Finding and recovering the Iceman with his clothing and equipment intact provided a natural diorama over 5000 years old. Today a sealed refrigerated chamber exhibits and conserves the mummy of the Iceman. Visitors file through a darkened room to view the Iceman through a small window that measures 40 x 40 cm. A larger opening would result in excessive temperature fluctuations inside the controlled cell that would cause the mummy to be destroyed. Read more about the 5,300 year old mummy’s 20th year as a global sensation.