|Once upon a time there was a closed and
hostile city that had great potential, which was suppressed by ethnic
conflicts and political stalemate by those who wanted it sacrificed on the
altar of the 'rich periphery.' Although all this took place quite
recently, it seems like a lifetime ago, because so much had changed since
then. Today, on the threshold of the third millennium, Bolzano is looking
to become a real European capital, a city of trade and business meetings,
a link between northern and Mediterranean culture. A border town, proud of
its origins and its own traditions but looking to the future in the
knowledge that it has much to offer.
'Sleepy' to some, 'busy' to others, what is the city really like? To give you a real feel for Bolzano take a look at the shop keepers of i Portici, who are inundated with customers or watch the young people at Bermuda Dreieck, the bar and pub area that fills up at weekends with voices and sounds. But there is much more: the Sunday bike rides or the university where students are taught in three languages.
Bolzano and its tourists feel the same way about each other. There are the attractive piazzas, the colourful markets, baroque palaces, medieval alleyways, or even the characteristic stretches of geraniums, the gastronomic delights, the two main languages (Italian and German) spoken throughout the city, the courtesy of the locals. It is not by chance that Bolzano has, for years, been top of the league in Italy for quality of life.
The cultural role of the capital of the Alto Adige is seen in the variety of its buildings and events which have an international flavour. Lets start in the world of music: the Conservatorio Monteverdi, where Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli taught, houses one of the most prestigious international piano competitions, the Busoni. Symphonies are the order of the day at the Auditorium Haydn, the permanent home to the orchestra of the same name, whilst you will find rock and pop on stage at the Palaonda and the Palaresia, with international stars such as Sting and Zucchero. Music week, jazz festivals, Le settimane musicali meranesi, the jazz festival, Gustav Mahler orchestral concerts and those of the 'European Community Youth Orchestra', the festival of holy music and 'Musicastello,' all contribute to a top class offering. Even theatre lovers can not complain. As well as Bolzanos Stabile prose season founded by Fantasio Piccoli, there is the comic theatre of 'L'arte del far ridere,' the Uilt and 'Nuovo Spazio' amateur and dialectal dramatics season, cabaret and alternative productions, 'Carambolage' and the 'Theater im Hof' for youngsters.
Dance is celebrated with an international festival that is held alongside a series of very popular stage shows, whilst the Capitol and Filmclub cinema complexes offer a literary café, a sala d'éssai and a library for cinephiles. Art lovers can admire the cathedral and the many churches, cloisters and convents, palaces rich in treasures such as the Mercantile and other sanctuaries, abbeys and convents only a few kilometres away. There are many museums, and the archaeological museum holds the famous Similaun mummy, a real worldwide attraction which has revolutionised the citys traditional tourist trade. The Museum of Modern Art, the Natural Science Museum and the Civic Museum are also of interest. There are plenty of art galleries from photography to figurative painting, whilst training and research are guaranteed at the Accademia Europea, the Accademia di Design and the Scuola di sanità. The most acclaimed centre of learning however, is the Università Europea di Bolzano, where studying is undertaken in three languages (Italian, German and English) with internationally acclaimed lecturers particularly in economics, marketing, design and industrial engineering.
The most popular sports in Bolzano are football and ice hockey. A game of hockey at the Palaonda is an experience not to be missed: handball and American football are also played at a high level. The Palaresia plays host to international events such as the world fencing championships, indoor trials, athletics meetings and cycle tours. Those who prefer active to passive sports will not be disappointed either: there is swimming in the indoor pool, and in the wonderful town lido, which also accommodates international diving meetings, and there are plenty of winter sports, with lots of tennis courts, a network of cycle lanes and cycle routes for tourists and an almost infinite number of climbing itineraries. Golf, too, can be played on the Monte San Pietro green. There are also plenty of saunas, public swimming pools and gyms.
In your spare time you are spoilt for choice with plenty of castles to visit in the surrounding area or the city itself (Castel Mareccio, Castel Roncolo, Castel Firmiano, Castel Rafenstein), a walk in the green meadows of Talvera, a trip around the orchards of the Oltradige and Batta Atesina as well as shopping opportunities in the Via dei Portici where Italys most rich and imaginative window displays invite tourists to come in and spend their money. Or you might like to take one of the three cable cars that leave from the city (Colle, San Genesio, Renon) to reach only a short distance away lovely areas immersed in woodland and surrounded by mountains, ideal for a day trip, either alone or with friends.
Bolzano has always been more of a business town with its railway, main road and A22 motorway from Brennero which place it right at the centre of the main route between northern and southern Europe. Now it also has a small but efficient airport with daily flights to and from Rome and a few other foreign destinations. And there are plenty of hotels with rooms for seminars and conferences, buildings such as the Castel Mareccio and Fiera congress centres which promise to increase business tourism; it is not by chance that many conventions, seminars and meetings are all held in this 'meeting point for language and culture' as a university slogan says. In short, Bolzano is small, but beautiful.