Bolzano is not a typical Italian vacation destination. It is far north in the foothills of the Dolomites and was part of Austria only until the mid-twentieth century. But even though you don’t hear much about it, Bolzano (or “Bozen” in German) is fascinating: it is a bicultural city — the population is equally split between Italian-speaking and German-speaking. In many ways, we felt like we’d left Italy for Austria or even Germany with the green rolling hills and the cooler temps.
I’d researched Bolzano ahead of our trip (true Ravenclaw right here) and was disappointed at how little I was able to find. I relied mostly on Rick Steves’ guide Austria Meets Italy in Bicultural Bolzano since our trip was short and his guide is pretty comprehensive.
We decided to stay at the Park Hotel Laurin, which looks just enough like the Grand Budapest Hotel for all my dreams to come true. Parkhotel Laurin is centrally located with lush, beautifully-kept grounds and a garden restaurant with a prix fixe dinner menu.
After checking in, we explored Piazza Walther, window shopped, and grabbed a leisurely lunch and (of course) gelato. It felt nice to slow down a bit rather than rush like we had in Florence and Milan.
After lunch, we headed to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology to see Ötzi the Bronze Age Iceman. Chris and I later realized that Ötzi is probably the oldest thing we’ve ever seen. (Pretty cool!) The museum was small and interesting — a great way to spend the afternoon.
Our dinners at Restaurant Laurin were incredible and a highlight of our trip.
On our second day, we rode the cable car into the small resort village of Upper Bozen. We loved the architecture and the stunning mountain views from the top! We stopped in the cutest restaurant and sipped prosecco while we looked at the Dolomites in the distance.
We had such a wonderful time in Bolzano and definitely recommend this lesser-known Italian destination.