Bolzano: not only Ötzi, the man from Similaun
Malè – Bolzano by Passo Mendola: km 62, on Highway: km 75
By train: Ferrovia Trento – Malè to Mezzocorona + state railway to Bolzano
Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander were hiking along a 1000 km itinerary around South Tyrol (from 10 September to 20 October 1991), when, on 21 September, they happened to make an outstanding discovery: a mummy was coming out of the glaciers near Similàun. It was the corpse of a prehistoric hunter, equipped with an axe, an arch and quiver; he was wearing straw-padded leather footwear on his feet. The mummy of “Ötzi, the man from Similàun” was moved several times (including a stay at Innsbruck), to eventually come back to South Tyrol. Today it is housed in a special section of the Bolzano Museum, where it draws thousands of visitors, fascinated by the mythology of a man coming from prehistory.
However, Bolzano is something more than a mere mummy: well known under the Longobard rule, the South Tyrolean centre had previously been a Roman military centre (Pons Drusi), and then a Bavarian dominion. The town subsequently became part of the Bishop County of Trent (1004), to which it belonged for centuries. As a consequence of usurpation and donations, it subsequently became part of South Tyrol, but still kept close contacts with Trentino (it still belonged to the Tridentine diocese).
The oldest area in town includes the gothic Cathedral by Piazza Walther, dedicated to the Assunta and dating back to the 12th and 14th Centuries, featuring a 65 m high bell tower. The church, built with one nave and two aisles, boasts several works of art dating from the 15th to the 20th Centuries, including the magnificent baroque main altar. A late 13th Century Dominican church is met not far from the Cathedral. It houses outstanding frescoed paintings (in the 1340 chapel dedicated to St. Giovanni) and boasts a beautiful 15th Century frescoed cloister.
At the most typical core of Bolzano you will find Piazza Erbe, home to a lively fruit and vegetable market, that used to house the pillory for thieves. The arcades starting in Piazza Erbe are the little town’s shopping centre. Dozens of elegant, well-supplied shops follow one another on both sides. They are located in buildings dating back to the 15th – 18th Centuries featuring decorated jutties (Erker) and fine portals. At the middle of the arcade covered road rises Palazzo Mercantile, where the four renowned fairs of Bolzano used to be planned. The meeting room houses a rich collection of works of art.
In the surroundings of Bolzano, apart from several castles that have been recently opened to the public (like Castel Róncolo), there are plenty of evocative walking itinies. In the outskirts of town, you may visit the Gries Benedictine abbey, boasting a magnificent baroque church. The old Parish church features a carved altar piece completed by the Tyrol artist Michael Pacher.

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