Bolzano – The best from two cultures

Bolzano. Bolzano lies in the middle of South Tyrol between Austria and Italy. You can feel that. A lot is very Italian; but also South Tyrolian. But it is not a melting pot. The cultures do not mix but exist peacefully side by side. You can see that everywhere.


All the signs are bilingual: German and Italian. Everything and really everything which can or must be labeled is bilingual. Whether the sticker on the fuse box or just the note „push“ at a door. Does not matter! Every advertisement exists double and also the announcement for the next stop at the bus. Only graffiti we have not seen in double language. This might be the only exception…

Bozen is really cozy. Here you will slow down like in the whole valley. Also here you will find old houses to admire. Not only in the old town. There are also some monumental structures. At least at the Street of Freedom it is quite nice, because due to the covered pavement you can walk dry shod. In the summer times it must be nice and shady. Coffee places put out their tables and chairs. So you can enjoy the typical short black coffee.

Like one guy from Bolzano told us: „Here you pick the best from two cultures.“


Concerning coffe the Italian variation has fortunately won. For food there is a coexistence of South Tyrollean Bacon and Italian pasta. There is pizza but also roast beef. What you won’t find is a fusion of both culinary arts where Italian and South Tyrolian is mixed. On the menu they are listed side by side. But it is not diluted.


With the desserts the result is about 2:1. There is a lot of ice cream and Tiramisu and stuff but also nearly every time apple strudle is offered. The ice cream is purely Italian though. Here you find real ice cream parlours. But they are not about  sundaes with decoration and tiny umbrellas. Everything is about the variations. No! You won’t find exotic sorts like beer-icecream or smurf. But it will be about the chocolate that is used for the ice-cream. Mammamia! That is exactly like the region and the grape variety of wine. The selection is everything.


Let’s talk about language. We overheard talks where some people spoke South Tyrolean and some spoke Italian. Naturally. Sometimes the whole group spoke German, sometimes Italian. And sometimes they changed the language in the middle of the sentence. As a matter of course. Again – no mixture. Okay sometimes there is a word in German that is a straight translation from Italian. But that happens always when you don’t speak your mother tongue.

The first approach in Bolzano is always Italian. But there is everywhere someone who also speaks German. Even for more complicated matters.

Concerning fashion the Italian won through. In Bolzano you can enjoy shopping. There are also some shops from bigger or global chains but also very nice and special boutiques and selected shoe shops can be found. Here you will find thing that you will see nowhere else. The offers in the shops you can only buy here and you won’t find them also in Helsinki or Cologne.


For the drinks wine has won. There are two breweries in Bolzano but if you want to become a brewer you have to go to Austria or Germany. Though they brew according to the German purity law. And there is the aperitif which was invented in Italy.

It came to perfection in Bolzano as the ‚Aperitivo‘. That is an event which is all about coming together. Like an after work party or a networking event. You meet before a meal for an aperitif to open up your stomach and get prepared for the following but most of all for talking. To exchange, to chat and to be together. Eating is of minor importance. Up to non existing. Like with the ‚Aperitivo Lungo‘. Which means long. And it lasts so long that you won’t make it to the meal at all. But you won’t starve. With the drinks come snacks – each time you order. Like crisps or olives. And there is a buffet. It is supposed to come from the farmers who served in former times there products to visitors. A bowl of olives or a piece of fresh baked bread. While nibbling they talked.

This is a really nice custom that is celebrated in many places in Bolzano. Where? You have to find out. It won’t be announced. In no language at all. But if you happen to see a lot of people standing around with a glas in their hands with live music in the early evening it might be a Aperitivo. Just join. Some events have a fixed schedule.

Theater plays are offered in both languages. And there are different schools. Church services are offered in German or Italien and newspapers are in on or the other. And they have different namens. There is no double issue. Some brochures are half in German and the other half is written up side down in Italian. Everybody will understand it.

Talking about architectural style nothing has won through. Different styles coexist. It can be seen for example at the Dominican Church. There is an inornate nave and right beside a baroque one and right beside the St Johns Chapel which is over and over decorated with frescos.

Or there are the famous arcade houses which were enlarged or heightened during the last centuries. They are still impressive with their small fronts and very long backs. Sometimes an artist came from the south and sometimes from the north.

Bolzano has more to offer than historical or interesting buildings. Bolzano is also green. Once posh with the promenades where you can easily imagine ladies jaunting with their parasoles and on the other side sporty and active in the parks where there are a huge offer of sports facilities like a skating park, football fields, basket ball grounds or an open air fitness area. Everything is available. There are several promenades which lead high up the mountain so that you have a nice view over the town and the valley.

Vegetation is similar. There are all kinds of plants. And all coexist. Palm trees right beside roses. At the Guntschnapromenade this is striking. Each plant bears a sign with the right name. Of course in German, Italian and Latin. Concerning landscape there is also everything available. High mountains with snow covered tops and palm trees in the garden.

Musically Italian got through. Everywhere service staff is loudly singing along the radio. Opening hours though picked the best from the different cultures. The long lunch break is from the south and the early closing time from the north.


Traffic though is Italian. You honk and you go fast. On the other hand Bolzano is good for riding a bike. There are special cycle paths and exceptional rules.

Bolzano is for everyone.