The next stop on our Epic Road Trip was Bolzano, Italy (AKA Bozen). It didn’t start out very well.
We stayed at a big hotel on the outskirts of the city that was basically an Austrian (or Bavarian) outpost. Nothing against Austria, but if I want to go there, I’ll go there. And if I want an Austrian pizza, I’ll order one. I was not super-excited about ordering a pizza in Italy and getting a huge, over-salted, folded-over cheese thing sitting in a lake of cold tomato sauce. Or a hotel that (cheaply!) turns off the air conditioning all night in 90+ degree weather and only offers winter duvets for bedcovers!
At least the wine was good, and the view was nice.
Anyway, the moral of that story is, if you go to Bolzano, pick a hotel with an Italian name, reviewed by actual Italians, if you want Italian hospitality!
The best I could tell, the center of the city is Italian, and the outskirts are German/Austrian. Most of the holiday housing and hotels were clearly built to German tastes. We heard only German spoken in the hotel except for a few of the waiters. The area that we stayed in was practically indistinguishable from the Austrian wine country, as a matter of fact, and was equally beautiful.
Since there was a mountain, of course the first thing we had to do the next morning was to climb it. We walked up to Schloss Runkelstein, AKA Castel Runcolo. It was a good hike with great views, but I am glad it wasn’t any longer than it was, given that we were there during a heat wave. (And, note to self: do more incline cardio at the gym!)
Runkelstein is small, but interesting, with really well-preserved 14th century frescoes depicting scenes from daily life, and from the legend of Tristan and Iseult.
Once we walked down to the center of town, things started to look much more Italian.
Bolzano is an odd place. I’ve been to other town and cities in the Tirol, but never one that was so heavily German. It was hard to tell how much of that is baked-in, and how much is due to really a lot of tourism. I think for outdoor activities—hiking, skiing—it would be a great vacation spot, with a bit of research on hotels and restaurants beforehand. Otherwise, as a tourist destination, it did not impress me overmuch. But it was a good stop on the way to Bologna, which was very cool indeed.