Trentino Alto Adige - Places to visit - Bolzano
Rising 262 m. above sea level on a vast plain near the confluence of the Isarco and the Adige rivers, all traffic must pass this way to the Brenner Pass.
Bolzano was a Roman settlement with the name of Pons Drusi, then became a town called Bauzanum. It was first the object of dispute between the Lombards and the Baiuvari (7th to 8th centuries) and subsequently between the Baiuvari and the Franks.
At the start of the 11th century it came under the rule of the Bishop-Princes of Trent who held it until 1278 when it passed to the Counts of Tyrol, who exerted a Germanic influence on the town. In 1363, together with the entire County of Tyrol, it was annexed to the provinces of the Duchy of Austria.
This was the beginning of a period of great prosperity linked to its extensive trade. It remained under the Hapsburgs, apart from a brief Napoleonic period (1805-1814), then in 1918, after the First World War, became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
The old town centre is very interesting. The influence of German architecture can be seen, especially in the narrow Via dei Portici, which threads between 15th and 16th century buildings, of which the most important are: Palazzo Mercantile (early 18th century, Baroque), seat of the ancient Magistratura Mercantile which regulated the fairs and settled disputes between merchants.
Also in the old historic centre is the Duomo (14th century, remarkable frescoes) beside a high pointed bell-tower (16th century, 65 m.), the chiesa dei Domenicani (13th century) with the chapel of San Giovanni (13th century frescoes) and the cloister (12th-15th centuries), the chiesa dei Francescani (14th century, Gothic).
The Gries district has a parish church (15th-16th century, with an altar-piece carved and painted by M. Pacher in 1471-5). Near the town is Castel Roncolo (13th century) on a steep rock over the Talvera River with beautiful 13th and 14th century frescoes, and also Castel Mareccio, with its wine cellars.
The town's economy has been based on prosperous trading since medieval times, favoured by its location at the crossroads of important natural lines of communication. Since the unification of Italy, industry has also developed. There are engineering, steel, chemical, wood processing and food factories. Vines and fruit are cultivated on the hills round the town.
Events: International Trades Fair (September), Local Wine Exhibition (March to April), Flower Market (1st May), Ferruccio Busoni piano competition (September).
Famous People: Michael Pacher (artist and sculptor, 1435-1498), Walter von der Vogelweide (poet, 1170-1230), Andreas Hofer (patriot, 1767-1810).
Cultural Institutions: State Archives, Civic Library, Conservatory, Civic Museum (art gallery and archeology), Alto Adige Culture Centre.
In the Province: Merano (holiday resort), Bressanone (environmental interest), Brunico (environmental interest), Ortisei (mountain holidays, seat of the Union of Rhaeto-Romanic people in the Dolomites), Dobbiaco (holiday resort).