We first visited Bolzano before Christmas last year. In just three hours of wandering around the old town, warming myself with local ale and chilli laced Gulasch and later weaving around the Christmas market, my wife and I decided that we'd like to make this beautiful town our home. A rash, mid-life crisis fuelled decision perhaps, but so far we are yet to be disappointed.
We arrived with our few worldly belongings in May and were greeted by a Bolzano much different to the frozen commune we had discovered in December. Warmed by a Spring Sun and bright blue sky, the streets of the Old Town were buzzing with tourists who thronged between the bountiful market of Piazza Erbe and the central, cafe lined Piazza Walthar.
The arches of Via Portici provided a shaded sanctuary to grateful shoppers filing down the parade while the old fish market on Via Streiter offered a cool glass of glistening golden wine beneath a canopy of flowering umbrellas. However it was the architecture of the Old Town that was the real attraction. Coloured and often frescoed Austrian styled facades give Bolzano a unique place in Italian cities and like the German language you will hear spoken around you it reminds a visitor that Bolzano is the capitol of South Tyrol.
Yet despite the glory of the old town, it was the passigiata to the nearby Schloss Runkelstein that humbled me. Spring had created a stunning gallery of nature framed by a lush green vineyard, a medieval castle and snow tipped peaks on one side and a rumbling crisp green river backed by steep hills adorned with homely Alpine dwellings and apple trees in bloom on the other. It was a sight to soothe any soul.
From the road bridge preceeding the Schloss it is possible to discover a hidden path which winds its way up the hillside nearest the Old Town. Its not hidden intentionally, infact it is marked on any tourist map, but it is hidden from casual view amoungst the vines and pines that quilt the ascent. Its a rewarding walk if you can forgive the necessary exercise and there are numerous benches and other strategic rest points enroute where you can recharge. But really, its not too bad even for a sloth like me and the viewpoints over the city and whole valley are spectacular. Previously I had only seen the region skipping by my train window, a wintry scene of drab grey fields sprinkled with frost and leafless vines. Now as I gazed over it the region felt alive, a sea of green vines patchworked by blossoming apple orchards all racing for a brilliant blue sky.
Continuing on the path in the direction of St Magdalena church you will eventually stumble upon the hotel Eberle. This oasis is perched on the hillside and has an enviable view of the Rosengarten mountain range. Its the perfect excuse, if one is needed, to relax with a beer or lunch and to savour the view. The Renon cable car that passes overhead may inspire you to venture further too.