South Tyrol: Bolzano and surroundings – what to do and how to get there?
Are you going to South Tyrol? We will tell you how to get there and what to do in the Bolzano area, assuming that winter madness is not on your way 😉
Recently, we showed you an interesting way to spend a vacation in South Tyrol – we wrote about agritourism farms affiliated with Roter Hahn, their offerings and diversity. We spent here only a few days, but we would love to stay longer, because the area has many interesting places to offer, and we were left quite unsatisfied (unfortunately, the number of vacation days severely limits our trips ;-)). You can come here and simply spend a few days in agritourism, taking care of animals, observing life on the farm, helping the hosts with chores, or relaxing in wellness. We, however, do not like to sit too long in one place and eagerly set off each day to see the most interesting corners of the area.
We spent the night in the village Barbiano (Barbian in German) and it was our base of operations. We had a beautiful view of the entire valley from here, with Bolzano in the lead. We moved everywhere with a rented car, and we write about how our trip was and what problem we had with the car at the bottom, because it is more important to show you what interesting things to do in the area, and then we will figure out how to get here 😉
We describe below the places we saw during those few days – there will be scenic views, mountain serpentines, city sightseeing, active recreation and… the four seasons! Yes, contrary to appearances, all the photos you'll see in the post were taken during one short trip: we had beautiful sunshine and more than 20 degrees, thunderstorms, rains and even snow and temperatures close to zero. Of course, you have to reckon with temperature changes and different weather conditions when you significantly change altitude in mountainous areas, but here even at similar altitudes the weather was very variable.
And we write about weather for a reason. Well, South Tyrol is considered a very sunny place and, as you can read in many articles, the sun shines here for 300 days a year. So much theory 🙂 This year is giving us a hard time and we have been pretty unlucky when it comes to weather on trips. We were counting on having guaranteed weather in this sunny place, but our "luck" again took the upper hand and we just happened to hit a few days of inclement weather. Even our hostess was surprised, because rains on May Day are found here, but not for days on end. According to her, as a rule, it rains until noon, and the second half of the day is sunny… There is nothing to complain about, however. We took both warmer and lighter clothes for the trip, plus a rain kit, so no weather was terrible enough for us to abandon our plans (we only slightly modified them ;)).
If you are planning a trip to South Tyrol and are looking for accommodation, pay special attention to the altitude at which the property you are looking for is located. It's probably no discovery that the higher you go, the lower the temperatures get? While in the Bolzano area, we were able to see it from a distance: well, more or less from an altitude of 1000 m.n.p.m. began the snow line and we were glad that our accommodation was located at about 900 m.n.p.m.
But let's get back to what is worth seeing in the area…
Bolzano and the cable car
Let's start with a tour of the largest city in the region, Bolzano, whose origins date back to the Middle Ages.
At the insistence of Christine, who hosted us, we went to Bolzano… by cable car! Instead of driving the car down the serpentines and then climbing back up, we decided to make the drive to the city more interesting. The train station is located in the village of Soprabolzano, and getting there anyway can be a challenge (or better call it an adventure). Leaving aside the issue of serpentines and precipices just off the road, to which we are already accustomed (at least in Madeira or Tenerife), the worst thing was passing other cars. The roads on the slopes of the mountains are often very narrow, so you have to be vigilant and often pull over to the side of the road or at passing places to accommodate a car coming from the opposite direction.
If driving through narrow streets doesn't turn you on, you can also get to Soprabolzano by vintage train, which pulls up right under the cable car to Bolzano 🙂
Once we reached the town of Soprabolzano, we started looking for a parking lot where we could leave the car. The problem was not paid parking lots, but parking lots with time limits. At these nearest stations, the car can stand for a maximum of 60 minutes, so we had to look for another place. We finally managed to park a little further away, but in a covered spot, which turned out to be quite an important aspect, because the moment we parked it started to sprinkle 🙂
However, we were not discouraged – after a quick walk we arrived at the cable car station, where we immediately, without any queues, boarded the carriage. They are large, fit a dozen people, and we had no problem with a stroller either. The route seems long, but it passed very quickly for us – we focused on the mountain views and the numerous wineries scattered on the slopes of the mountain.
Down in Bolzano, we were greeted by completely different weather. Immediately some 10 degrees more, sunshine, and the first thing we started doing was taking off our outer clothes.
From the train station we set off on foot to explore the capital of South Tyrol. More than the specific sights, we were interested in seeing and getting a feel for the city. Instead of rushing to the museum, we preferred to saunter along stalls overflowing with local wares, seek out Italian ice cream or sit in a cafe. We walked cloisters, We peeked at store windows and absorbed the bustle at restaurant tables. We didn't get to see the city in full, as at one point a thunderstorm broke out and we were forced to stay under the cloisters (we highly recommend the walk Via dei Portici).
As for interesting places, it is definitely worth directing your steps to the square Piazza Walther and the cathedral located here (Duomo di Bolzano). Looking at the cathedral with its soaring tower and ornate roof, it's hard not to compare it to similar, albeit larger, structures such as Vienna's Cathedral or St. Peter's Church. St. Matthias in Budapest.
Have you ever heard of Ötzi'm? This is the famous Ice Man, or human remains found on the border between Italy and Germany. It is estimated that this man died around 3,300 B.C ! Based on the remains found, an incredible amount of facts have been established about what this individual's life was like, what his health was like, what he ate (even his last meal was determined), what kind of lifestyle he led, etc. It also became the source of a dispute between two countries, on the border of which remains were found. In the end, the rights to the mummies were awarded to Italy, and so we can see them at the Archaeological Museum of Bolzano.
Staying on the theme of museums, on the outskirts of Bolzano, in the Sigmundskron Castle, is the main branch of the Reinhold Messner Museum of Mountaineering (a famous mountaineer and Himalayan). In this section, the focus is on the relationship of humans in different cultures with the mountains.
Earth Pyramids in Ritten
There are several places in South Tyrol where you can admire the earth pyramids, which are rock formations shaped like cones with rocks on their tops. Although they are shrouded in mystery and legends, their creation was a completely natural process, and several factors contributed to it simultaneously. Anyway, visitors to the pyramids can encounter such information boards on their way describing the process of the earth pyramids:
We went to the most popular pyramids, and it was by no means the popularity that was crucial, but their accessibility. The pyramids in question are located near the village of Longomoso, On the slope of the Ritten mountain. Already from the road you can spot it, but we encourage you to stop the car in the mentioned village and take a very short and easy walk to the viewpoint. It is located on the opposite side of the pyramids and can be reached by two paths. We walked from the village of Longomoso, and the entrance to the route starts right at Cafe Erdpyramiden.
As we mentioned the route is easy, short and pleasant. It takes about 10 minutes one way, and the road is flat and wide enough that even with a stroller you can easily get there. The only thing that bothered us was the falling snow, which took away our hopes of seeing the pyramids.
Once we arrived at the viewpoint, we could barely see the pyramids. Fortunately, it was enough to wait a while, and the sun began to slowly break through the layers of clouds and illuminate the famous spurs, which are about 30 meters high.
For those more demanding and hungry for mountain trails, and those traveling with children, we recommend the trail to the Barbiano Waterfall (Barbianer Wasserfälle). We spent the night in Barbiano and it was a stone's throw away, yet we didn't take the tour until the end of our stay, as we had been putting it off for better weather. Initially, the route is trivial, but once you enter the forest, it becomes narrower, with rocks, roots, steps.
The trail climbs upwards and for those not very seasoned in battles (that's about us 😉 ) it can be tougher. Along the way we passed various wooden elements fixed on the stream to take advantage of the health benefits of soaking in cold mountain streams.
It took us about 20 minutes to reach the first close encounter with the waterfall, with us walking slowly, stopping frequently for photos. The views were unearthly, and the weather was most good for us that day!
Fortunately, right at the waterfall, we were refreshed with cold water – you have to be very careful here, because the stones are very wet and slippery.
This is the so-called. lower waterfall. Continuing along the trail (another 20 minutes) you can still reach the upper waterfall.
Dolomites tempt, fascinate and attract. So we could not resist and had to set off along the mountain serpentines.
We do not consider ourselves mountain experts, it's been several good years since we conquered Polish peaks. Lately we have been focusing more on valleys and trails that are also accessible to children. So from the beginning we assumed that we would not hike in the mountains, but focus on admiring them from valleys and passes accessible by car or trekking routes that do not require much effort.
We planned to reach the pass by car Passo Gardena, where there are not only beautiful views, but also the start of many trekking routes. Climbing the serpentines, we arrived at ski resorts completely extinct, where all stores, hotels and service outlets were closed to the elements. We still saw snow-covered ski slopes and ski lifts, but none of them were working anymore. Our car, by the way, was one of the few that ventured here, and as it turned out later, it wasn't just the end of the season that made car traffic limited.
When we reached Passo Gardena it turned out that the road further on was closed and we had to turn back. Threads of picturesque views! So many kilometers and climbing for nothing… Nothing though 😉 We decided to go out at least for a while, throw snowballs at each other, take a few shots of the after all beautiful views and returned to the car. The vision of the drive so blinded us that we failed to see the beauty and ruggedness of the surrounding mountains. It was wonderful, but this is not the end of the hunt with the camera for the Dolomites.
As a consolation, we set off towards another pass – the Passo Sella Right on the border between South Tyrol and Trentino. Here, fortunately, we managed to arrive without any obstacles, and along the way we had to pick our jaws off the floor of the car every now and then 😉
The Dolomites are electrifyingly impressive, especially those jagged mountain ridges. We couldn't get enough of the view, and we have so many photos from each view that it's hard to limit ourselves to just a few.
Be warned, the routes are very winding, plus the changes in altitude and pressure can make your head spin. If you have motion sickness it's worth taking medication with you.
How to get to Bolzano from Poland?
Finally, some more practical advice on how to easily get to Bolzano and South Tyrol from Poland. You can take a fairly long trip by car. From Lodz, the navigation shows almost 12 hours, so it's quite a trip. Fortunately, along the way there are many interesting places where you can stop for accommodation and rest.
We, however, decided to travel by plane. True, there is an airport in Bolzano, but it is a small regional port and there are no direct flights from Poland. So to get to Bolzano you need to fly to e.g. To Munich and from there by car to Italy. But soon! Fly to Germany to then drive such a long distance still by car?! Yes, and it is still one of the more comfortable options. We chose Munich, because we can fly here directly from Lodz, and the tickets are not cosmically expensive. Other options include arriving in Italian destinations, such as. Bergamo or Venice and further travel by car, which takes 2.5 – 3 hours (from Munich about 3.5 hours).
Surprisingly, the journey from Munich went quite smoothly for us. Most of the road is highway, so you can speed around, but also have to reckon with toll roads and the purchase of vignettes in Austria (although this one, compared to Polish highways, is mega cheap and can be easily purchased at a gas station in a self-service machine).
In addition, you need to add the cost of renting a car. At the end of the day, everything, as always, is limited to choosing the most economical and comfortable route for ourselves.
We booked the car, as always, through Rental Cars. This time, for the first time, we took a much larger car, not only to accommodate luggage, but also to comfortably fit two car seats in the back. We rented one locally and took one (a baby carrier) with us from Poland. We were very lucky, because the plane from Lodz was not 100% full so we even had a few seats to ourselves and were able to take the car seat on board without any problem.
However, we had less luck when it came to the rental car. We were informed that we would get a class upgrade and a better vehicle, which we were initially very happy about. However, when we went to the parking lot to pick up the car, it turned out that we were given a large, seven-seat Ford Tourneo Connect…
The lady in the rental shop was surprised when we announced that we would thank her for such an upgrade, though 😉 In the end we got a Ford S-Max, which enchanted us! The car in the richest version (including a heated steering wheel), incredibly roomy, only a little muddled … but we drove it through the mountain serpentines with no problem.
We consider the topic definitely endless! The Bolzano region has a lot more to offer, especially when it comes to active recreation. Especially since many routes are suitable for families with children, and some are even suitable for baby strollers!
So you don't need to stock up on you don't know what kind of equipment or hiking carriers for children, because you can also enjoy the amazing views, routes and just spend time together without it.
And time passes peacefully here and we already know that we definitely have to come back here 🙂