Of all the places my husband and I visited when we lived in Europe, one that has always remained foremost in my memory is Bolzano, Italy. Having always intended to write an article about the area, I recently dug out my file folder of brochures and notes and sat down to complete the task.
Bolzano offers virtually year-round enjoyment as a great place to stroll historical streets, explore castles, and take in some winter skiing along with the Christmas markets and more. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the natural surroundings are nearly indescribable in their beauty, or that the town itself appears to the visitor like a picture-perfect postcard of European delight.
It’s accessible by car, bus, train and air, making Bolzano, Italy a destination easily arrived at by travelers of all sorts. Those who enjoy the Germanic and Austrian influences of northern Italy will find it particularly appealing.
THINGS TO DO IN BOLZANO, ITALY
This museum features numerous Roman artifacts in addition to the more than 5,000 year old world-famous ice man the locals refer to as “Frozen Fritz”. An entire section of the museum is devoted to this ice man, which features not only “Fritz” himself, but his belongs and other displays. For the Roman artifact section, visitors walk on a recreated rocky Roman road, complete with sound effects and magnified hands-on viewing displays for ancient coins. Kids dig it.
Walking Architectural Tour
The tourist office in Bolzano, Italy is excellent, and they provided us with a user-friendly brochure-style map featuring a recommended historical and cultural route to follow, along with detailed information about each stop on the route. Check out the numerous old churches with their detailed carvings, frescoes and other art. Most can be accessed for the entry fee of only a small donation.
In addition to the archaeological museum, Bolzano boasts a city museum, a museum of modern art, a mercantile museum and a museum of natural history. If you end up with an unexpected rain day on your trip, these would make a suitable entertainment alternative.
Bolzano has a network of bicycle trails radiating out of the city through orchards, past picturesque vineyards and up into the mountains. Keep it low key and simply tour a few wine cellars on lower ground, or go hog wild and bike up into the mountains. You can make this about romance, family fun or hard-core fitness travel. Your call.
A full one seventh of the city is devoted to grape vines, supplying nearly thirty (at the time of our last visit) local wineries. Make a full day of it, or work in one or two for each afternoon of your stay. Another fun way to go is to visit a winery to pick out a wine for that night’s dinner or later afternoon picnic.
Cable Car Cruising
Bolzano brings multiple options to the table for cable car fans, which can take you from the valley floor up into the surrounding scenic mountains in minutes.
There are more than four hundred castles in South Tyrol, with several being in Bolzano’s immediate area. These include Rafenstein, Maretsch and Sigmundskron castles, to name a few. Also of note are the frescoed Runkelstein Castle (also known as Castel Roncolo) and nearby Trostburg Castle. Castle Runkelstein also offers medieval-themed day activities designed with little people in mind, making this a great place for children to let their imagination run wild.
Enjoy the Arts
Bolzano has a long history of being involved in the arts. You’ll be able to enjoy year-round classical concerts by the Hayden Orchestra, live theater and cabaret performances, and numerous art galleries.
Family Farm Stays
Local family farm hotels make great lodging for people traveling with children, providing space to run and play as well as hay jumping, pony feeding and barefoot stream wading. Kiddos usually also get a kick out of the fact that the milk and eggs they eat come directly from the animals they get to see each morning. I think a night at one of these farms would be a particularly good idea for families after a day of museum and church touring.
Numerous festivals and exhibitions occur throughout the year, offering fun for the whole family. When Mom and Dad are ready for a little time to themselves, these events usually offer a “Children’s Hotel”, where the kids can hang out and relax under supervision and make friends, participate in structured play activities and more. Rather accommodating, wouldn’t you say? I thought so, too.
Jump Off to Nearby Destinations
San Genesio is known for being a hiking and equestrian get away for Bolzano locals and tourists alike. Brisk walking or horseback riding through pastures, meadows and ancient forests make this an idyllic place to escape the hustle and bustle. It’s also another great day for the kids, particularly if you’re normally an urban-dwelling family that doesn’t go to the country often. The nearby Schlern region with its Seiser Alm Meadow (considered to be the largest alpine meadow in Europe), provides hiking trails in the summer and ski runs and sled paths in the winter.
From Bolzano south to the provincial border of Trentino – Alto Adige, you’ll find The Wine Road, a series of wine tasting opportunities that’s part of The Garden of South Tyrol. This part of the province features not only The Wine Road, but also Lake Kaltern, Trudner Horn Nature Preserve, the world’s largest apple forest and Bletterbach Gorge.
Photography-Oriented Walking Tour
Skip the souvenir shopping and enjoy the atmosphere and architecture the town has to offer. Bring your camera to record beautiful scenes and cultural snapshots. You can enjoy them in a digital frame later at home.
Extended Stay Visitor Passes
These were quite popular when we lived there, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say they are likely still part of the tourism office’s outreach program. Various specials were offered throughout the year. Discounts included such things as free entry to certain attractions, guided walking tours, reduced prices on ski passes and even fifteen percent off all purchases in San Genesio if you were staying for more than a couple of days.
Every morning from Monday-Saturday, there was an open air market at Piazza delle Erbe. This was a great chance to purchase bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables for an afternoon picnic, saving splurge bucks for café coffee breaks and the occasional light snack. Families might choose to meander over to the children’s playground to enjoy a light repast after a morning of wandering the historic section.
Resources for Booking Ahead:
We’ve been there as a couple, with our parents and accompanying friends with children. So I feel comfortable recommending Bolzano, Italy as both a romantic getaway and family-friendly destination for relatives of all ages. For more information, check out the Bolzano tourism office.
Photo Credits: All Photos in this post are the property of Trek Hound. However, we have shared several creative commons images of Bolzano on a sister site that you are welcome to use in exchange for a link back to that site.
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11 Things to Do in Beautiful Bolzano, Italy has been submitted to Delicious Baby’s July 9, 2010 edition of Photo Friday.