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Country  Italy
Population  103,582 (2010)
Province  South Tyrol
University  Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
Area  52.34 km2
Region  Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol
Mayor  Luigi Spagnolli (PD)
Points of interest  South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Bolzano Victory Monument, Talfer, Eisack, Montiggler Seen

Bolzano    (German: Bozen, historically also Botzen; Ladin: Balsan or Bulsan; Latin: ) is the capital city of the province of South Tyrol in northern Italy.


Map of Bolzano

Bolzano is the seat of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, where lectures and seminars are held in English, German and Italian. The city is also home to the Italian Armys Alpini High Command (COMALP) and some of its combat and support units. It is one of five mainly Italian-speaking municipalities in the Germanic province of South Tyrol.

In a 2010 quality-of-life survey by the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Bolzano was ranked first among 107 Italian cities on the surveys list. In the 2011 edition of the survey, Bolzano was ranked number two and came after the top-ranked Bologna. In the 2012 edition, Bolzano regained the top place as the city with the Best Quality of Life in Italy.

Along with other Alpine towns in South Tyrol, Bolzano engages in the Alpine Town of the Year Association for the implementation of the Alpine Convention. The Convention aims to promote and achieve sustainable development in the Alpine Arc. Consequently, Bolzano was awarded Alpine Town of the Year 2009.


Bolzano in the past, History of Bolzano

Prehistory and Roman Settlement

The modern-day Bolzano was in ancient times a marshy region inhabited by the Raetian Isarci people, traditionally believed to be descendants of Etruscan refugees fleeing Italy from the invading Gauls. The Romans built a settlement after the area had been conquered in 15 BC by General Nero Claudius Drusus. The military settlement, Pons Drusi (Drusus Bridge), was named after this Roman General. During this time the area became part of the region Venetia et Histria (Regio X) of ancient Italy.

In 1948, excavations of the current Cathedral led to the discovery of an ancient Christian basilica from the 4th century. Also discovered was a Roman cemetery, including the tomb of "Secundus Regontius" with Latin inscriptions dating to the 3rd century, making him the oldest known inhabitant of Bolzano.

Bavarian Settlement

During the gradual decline of the Romans influence in the 7th century, Bavarian immigration took place and the first mention of a Bavarian ruler in Bolzano dated from 679. At that time, the Bavarians named the nearby villages around Bolzano Bauzanum or Bauzana. German populations have been present in the region of Tyrol since this time.

Bishopric of Trent

In 1027 the area of Bolzano together with the rest of the diocese was conferred, by the emperor Conrad II from the Salian dynasty, upon the bishops of Trent. In the late-12th century, the bishop founded a market town, along the Lauben thoroughfare. The town therefore became an important trading post on the Transalpine Augsburg-Venice route over the Brenner Pass, elevation 1,371 metres (4,498 ft) above sea level, within the Holy Roman Empire.

County of Tyrol and Holy Roman Empire

In 1277 Bolzano was conquered by Meinhard II, the Count of Tyrol, leading to a struggle between the Counts of Tyrol and the bishops of Trent. In 1363, the County of Tyrol fell under the influence of Habsburg Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. In 1381, Duke Leopold granted the citizens of Bolzano the privilege of a town council. This gradually eliminated the influence and power previously held by the bishops of Trent over the next few decades. In 1462, the bishops eventually resigned all their rights of jurisdiction over the town.

From the 14th and 15th centuries onwards, a large market fair was organised four times per year to greet tradesmen and merchants en-route the Brenner Pass. The Mercantile Magistrate was therefore founded in 1635 by the Austrian duchess Claudia de Medici. During every market season, two Italian and two Germanic officers, who were appointed among the local tradesmen, worked in this magistrate office. The establishment of an official trade organisation strengthened Bolzano as a cultural crossroad in the Alps.

Part of Italy

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Bolzano became part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and was incorporated into the Dipartimento Alto Adige. After the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) Bolzano returned to the County of Tyrol, within the Austrian Empire and subsequently the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1866. The County covered both modern-day South Tyrol and the Federal States of Tyrol and East Tyrol in Austria.

In 1915, the Triple Entente powers promised Italy territorial gains if she would enter the First World War on the side of the Entente instead of siding with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. When Italy abandoned the Triple Alliance (1882), the Entente offered her territorial promises in Tyrol and Istria. This secret arrangement was confirmed in the Treaty of London (1915).

No fighting took place in the County of Tyrol during the First World War. Germany and Austria-Hungary, however, lost to the Entente and signed an armistice in 1918. The transfer of South Tyrol to Italy took place in 1919. At the time of Bolzanos annexation by the Kingdom of Italy, the town was settled primarily by a German-speaking population. As of 1910, 29,000 inhabitants were German-speaking and only 1,300 Italian-speaking.

In the 1920s, along with the rest of South Tyrol, Bolzano was subjected to an intensive Italianisation programme under the orders from the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. The aim of his programme was to outnumber the local German-speaking population by tripling Bolzanos population with Italian-speaking immigrants drawn from the rest of the country. In 1927, Bolzano became the capital of the province of South Tyrol. In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in the Weimar Republic. There was worry among Mussolini and the Fascists that Hitler, in facilitating his extreme ideology of all ethnic Germans under one Reich, would reclaim South Tyrol from Italy. Consequently, Mussolini and Hitler secured an agreement, the Option Agreement, in 1939. Hitler would renounce his claims over South Tyrol as Germanys Lebensraum (living space). Nevertheless, those Germans who opted to stay in South Tyrol and refuse to relocate to the Third Reich would be regarded as traitors and subject to a full-scale Italianisation.

Second World War

During the Second World War, Bolzano was the site of the Nazis Bolzano Transit Camp, a concentration camp for persecuted Jews and political prisoners. After 1943, heavy fighting against Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers took place in the Dolomite Alps once the Allied Powers had liberated Italy.

After the War, independence movements gradually gained popularity among the Germanic population in Bolzano and South Tyrol. In the 1960s, a series of terrorist attacks and assassinations were carried out by the South Tyrolean Liberation Committee – a German secessionist movement – against Italian police, officials and infrastructure facilities (one notable incident being the Night of Fire on 12 June 1961), forcing the United Nations to intervene in the negotiations with the Italian government in Rome. After 11 years of mediation and negotiation, a resolution was reached between Austria and Italy on granting considerable self-government to South Tyrol.

Euroregion Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino

In 1996, the European Union approved of further integration of the Austrian state of Tyrol with the Germanic province of South Tyrol and Trentino (Welschtirol) in Italy.


The city thrives on a mix of old and new high-quality intensive agriculture (including wine, fruit, and dairy products), tourism, traditional handicraft (wood, ceramics), and advanced services. Heavy industry (machinery, automotive, and steel) installed during the 1930s has now been mostly dismantled. On the downside, the local economy is very dependent on the public sector and especially the provincial government.

Main sights

Its medieval city centre, Gothic and Romanesque churches and bilingual signage give it the flavour of a city at the crossroads of Italian and Austrian cultures. This and its natural and cultural attractions make it a popular tourist destination.

Among the major monuments and sights are:

  • the Walther Square, with a statue of Walther von der Vogelweide, a German minstrel (minnesinger)
  • the Laubengasse or Via dei Portici, a street 300 metres (980 ft) long, in the city centre with medieval carcades along its entire course, now housing countless high-street shops
  • the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which has the mummy of Otzi the Iceman
  • the Gothic Cathedral, started in 1184, expanded in the 14th century by architects Martin and Peter Schiche and completed in the early 16th century by Hans Lutz von Schussenried
  • the old parish church of Gries, with an altarpiece by Michael Pacher
  • the benedictine monastery of Muri-Gries, with baroque paintings by Martin Knoller
  • the Chiesa dei Domenicani/Dominikanerkirche (13th century), with a series of 14th-century Gothic paintings
  • various castles, including Castle Maretsch, Runkelstein Castle and Firmian/Sigmundskron Castle
  • Victory Monument, a triumphal arch built on the order of Benito Mussolini in 1928, site of a permanent exhibition on the regional history in the context ot the two dictatorships of the Italian fascism and the German nazism
  • the Museion, a museum of modern and contemporary art
  • Messner Mountain Museum of Reinhold Messner

  • For more historical and geographical information see South Tyrol.


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