History of Bolzano

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Ancient times
In prehistoric times the Bolzano area was not habitable as it was marshland and was often flooded by the three nearby rivers (Adige, Isarco and Talvera). The first human settlements were therefore on the mountainsides and other high ground. In 15 BC. Druso, the adopted son of the Emperor Augusto conquered the Val d'Adige and Val d'Isarco areas building a bridge (Pons Drusi) and a road outlook or post in the Bolzano area. The exact location of this station is unclear, but must have been of average size and importance. Some say it must have been near to Castel Firmiano on the Adige, others say the area of Rencio Isarco, whilst there are some who maintain that the first settlement was near to the old town between the cathedral and the convent of the Cappuccini. The name Bolzano only appeared in 680 in its Latin form of 'Bauzanum', in the 'Historia Longobardorum' by Paolo Diacono. However the name did not refer to a real urban settlement. According to some interpretations the name actually derives from a Roman landowner, Baudius, whilst others say it referred to the original swampy area at the bottom of the valley.

The Early Middle Ages
After the fall of the Roman Empire the region was invaded several times by the Goths, the French, the Longobards and the Bavarians. In the 11th century the Emperor Corrado II gave the area in fief to the Bishop of Trento Ulderico II who took the area occupied by a vineyard belonging to the monastery of Tegernsee, and promoted the foundation of a small urban nucleus corresponding to what is now the Via Portici, a road full of commercial activity (a central communication point between North and South). The city was built between the 12th and 13th centuries equipping itself with a wall and moat and obtaining municipal rights. In 1222, it was devastated by fire with around 1500 deaths. In 1277, Bolzano came under the control of the Tyrol counts and passed to the Habsburgs in 1363, increasing its commercial prospects and expanding in the area which is now the old town. At the beginning of the 13th century, the city had 3000 inhabitants. It was from the original nucleus of the Via dei Portici (a road set between two rows of houses with shops and arcades, surrounded by walls), that the city and its commercial activities and fairs began to develop, a privileged meeting point between merchants from the Mediterranean area and those of Northern Europe.

The Asburgo dynasty
In 1363, Margherita di Maultasch, the last Tyrolian countess, abdicated in favour of the Duke of Austria, Rodolfo d'Asburgo who took care not to damage the commercial aspects of the flourishing city which in 1450 obtained the right to have its own mayor. At the beginning of the 15th century, Federico Habsburg thanked the city for its support during the struggle with the rebellious Tyroleans with the insertion in the Diet of the Tyrol of two Bolzano representatives. At the height of its prosperity the citys destiny crossed with that of Claudia de' Medici, widow of the arch duke Leopoldo V, who set up the merchants' magistrate, a sort of bilingual tribunal to decide commercial disputes which has now evolved into the modern day Chamber of Commerce. Claudia de' Medicis intuitions were very exact: even today, Bolzano is a primarily commercial city with many fairs all year round. The meeting of two cultures has developed not just in the commercial sector but can also be seen in its culture, gastronomy and traditions.

The 19th century
In 1797, Napoleons troops invaded the city but they were driven back by the territorial armies that became todays Sch├╝tzen, or defenders of the homeland, the beloved fatherland. In 1805, the Tyrol passed to Bavaria together with Bolzano annexed to the Italic kingdom, or the Napoleonic collapse when the Tyrol was returned to the Asburgos. The medieval urban structure remained almost intact to the middle of the 1800s when the civic architect Sebastian Altman di Monaco was placed in charge of the plans for a new district, Gries, a spa centre renowned among the bourgeoisie of central Europe, initially an autonomous town, only becoming part of Bolzano in 1925.

A history of winners and losers
After the First World War the treaty of Saint Germain moved the borders to Brennero, assigning the Alto Adige to the kingdom of Italy: a splitting of the historic Tyrol area (which stretched from Borghetto, between Trento and Verona, to Kufstein between the Tyrol and Bavaria) the effects of which were felt for many centuries and still are today. A little before the march on Rome (October 1922) fascists arrived in Bolzano and occupied it, removing the Perathoner syndicate which had governed the city since 1895. Mussolini wanted to 'Italianise' the Alto Adige and its capital, Bolzano. The objective was to integrate immigrants coming from all over Italy. The final result - a city of 100,000 inhabitants. In the '30s the construction of the industrial area began, which led to a further influx of workers. Teaching of German was forbidden and punishable, Italian was declared the official language, the use of the name 'Tyrol' was banned and the German language was banished from public life. With the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria, Nazi Germany arrived in Brennero. And it was here that the alliance with Mussolini began. The Duce obtained solemn declarations on the intangibility of the borders of Brennero, as well as the renunciation of the Reich of clams on the former Southern Tyrol. In 1939, Italy and Germany signed an agreement for 'options': South Tyrol was to decide whether to go back to Germany or remain part of Alto Adige, renouncing all ethnic protection. A sharp split.

The roots of "special autonomy"
With the Second World War over, a group of South Tyroleans founded the S├╝dtiroler Volkspartei (Popular Party of South Tyrol) in Bolzano requesting the right for self-rule for the German speaking population. In April 1946 the foreign ministers of the four great powers (United States, England, France and the Soviet Union) rejected the Austrians' requests for a plebiscite for Alto Adige. On the 5th September of the same year, the president of the council of Italian ministers, Alcide Degasperi and the Austrian foreign minister Karl Gruber signed the Treaty of Paris, which assured special measures for the South Tyroleans for the maintenance of ethnic character and Economical and Cultural development. It was agreed that primary and secondary schools would provide teaching in the mother tongue, that both languages would be used along side each other in the areas of public administration, official documents and place names. In 1948, the Italian constitution ratified the first Statute of Autonomy with which the two provinces of Bolzano and Trento would be unified in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, but in 1956, regional autonomy entered into crisis: German protests exploded into what would become a long wave of terrorism. On the 11th June, 1961, South Tyrolean Irridentists recruited among country people, artisans, students and workers carried out dozens of attacks on high voltage pylons and other installations. International repercussions were widespread. The terrorism continued intermittently until 1988 with dozens of deaths and a few hundred wounded. On the 1st September 1961 the Council of Italian Ministers created the Commission of the 19: a new body who were assigned to study the Alto Adige problem and were to present their findings to the government. In November 1969, the Svp congress approved the 'pact' of 137 laws of ethnic leadership: the second statute of autonomy came into effect in 1972. The latest regulations were passed twenty years later (30.5.1992), with Italy informing Austria that it had carried out its promises: with Vienna pacified, international confrontations are definitively closed. Any violations of the Statute of Autonomy can be dealt with by the International Court of Aja.