To say that Bolzano is a unique part of Italy would be an understatement – in fact, it doesn’t seem like a part of Italy at all. Everything, from the Austrian architecture to the German speaking citizens, makes Bolzano and the surrounding region of South Tyrol particularly diverse from the rest of Italy.
The small city is nestled between the Italian Alps, providing excellent opportunities for hiking, skiing and stunning panoramic views. Bolzano is known for its annual Christmas Market held in Piazza Walther until December 23rd. Here, one can find typical German, Austrian and Italian products, such as handmade ornaments, soaps, and other trinkets, as well as local food products. There are also stands where one can taste Vin Brule, hot apple cider, Wurstel, and German beer. While there are Christmas markets such as this located all throughout Italy, what makes the one in Bolzano particularly special are the festive lights and decorations, as well as the surrounding views of the Alps and beautiful architecture.
What struck me most interesting about Bolzano was the quality of life. Even though it is only a short 3-hour train ride from Bologna, the air is considerably cleaner and cooler and the number of traffic jammed streets fewer. There are several surrounding parks with the most amazing playgrounds and trails. One can easily go for a run without thinking twice about getting run over by a car or bike, and there are trails that run for miles around the city and into the mountains.
I didn’t do much while I was in Bolzano, but quite frankly I didn’t need to. At night, I visited a few pubs, enjoyed a humble meal of Wurstel and sauerkraut, and sipped warm mulled out of a mug while listening to the Christmas time conversations and celebratory reunions. During the day, I found myself curiously drawn to the lush green hills dotted with houses and churches that seemed perfectly fit for any Hansel & Gretel storybook. One curiosity lead to another and before I knew it, I was catching my breath after an hour long hike through a vineyard mountain that overlooked the entire town and gave glimpses of snow-capped mountains and vast, blue nothingness. Such was my Bolzano experience, a calm, quaint and simple little vacation – a vacation that would be impossible to have anywhere else in Italy.