Bolzano is the capital of the South Tyrol and its old, cobbled streets are a maze of alleyways and squares with centuries old buildings set amidst the glorious surroundings of the Dolomites.
This is very much a wine growing region and as you wander the streets you come across small bars and wine shops which have visitors and locals alike standing at tall tables outside drinking wine by the glass. I must admit they do things elegantly here and you’ll be served your wine in a lovely shaped tall glass accompanied by a few snacks in small glass bowls. We took to going out before our evening meal, asking about the wines on offer and taking our time drinking in the last of the evening sunshine. There was a great buzz about the place, especially around six pm when the locals came along, presumably to wind down after a day’s work.
But it’s not just drink on offer, there is a wonderful food market to wander along full of vegetables and fruits, all manner of funghi, breads, cheeses and cured meats and nuts, spices and more besides. An epicurean delight no less.
But, much as we enjoyed wandering the streets, the mountains beckoned. One of the great things about much of Europe is the integrated nature of the transport system and we soon discovered that we could buy a ‘mobilcard’ which would enable us to use trains, buses and cable cars in the South Tyrol area at will. A 7 day card costs a reasonable €28 and we quickly made use of it.
From Bolzano you can take a lovely cable car ride up to Soprabolzano – Upper Bolzano. From here a whole network of footpaths take you through farmland, past pretty alpine vilages all the time giving glorious views of the surrounding alps. For our first day in the mountains we chose to follow the Freud Promenade. The famous psychoanalyst had a summer hut in these parts and apparently did a lot of his thinking here. Along the promenade were placed benches and resting points at which various homilies by the great Sigmund were written. Interesting at first, but by the time we had reached Klobenstein/Collalbo we were ever so slightly tired of his words of wisdom. However, the views were glorious, especially as the autumn colours are now starting to show.
Beyond Collalbo signs enigmatically point to ‘Erdpyramiden’, or Earth Pyramids. These rather strange structures formed about 25,000 years ago from moraine clays left behind when the glaciers melted away. Boulders sitting on top of the clay acted like umbrellas so that they protected the clay underneath from being washed away by rain. In time, many of the boulders slipped off but some pillars of clay still wear their boulders like protective hats and it’s a most strange sight to see large rocks sitting above a pointy column of earth.
For our return journey we took the rather delightful old fashioned train which runs between Collalbo and Soprabolzano. It’s obviously very much a tourist ride but it is a great way to travel the ridgeline looking down into the valley below.
The following day we wanted to go further afield so took the cable car once again from Bolzano to Soprabolzano, a bus from there to Pemmern and from there another smaller cable car up to Cima Lago Nero, a panoramic path just below the Ritter Horn where you get a virtually 360 degree view of the mountains surrounding Bolzano. And what a view it was.
The weather was fabulous and we immersed ourselves in the joy of just being out in the open air, on top of the mountains and feeling at peace with the world. We even managed a two part rendition of a wonderful Maori song, E Te Ariki.