Land of castles
South Tyrol has more than 800 castles, mansions and fortresses, most of which are located near the capital, Bolzano / Bozen. This is hardly surprising as the Dolomites route was for a long time the only route linking northern and southern Europe. It is still possible to see where the Roman legions, the barbarian cohorts, as well as the Napoleonic and Austrian troops left traces of their battles, and even today, ramparts, watchtowers and dungeons stand atop the peaks or hide in the valleys.
Tyrol/Tirol Castle, near Merano / Meran was the cradle of the Counts of Tyrol and Merano was the capital of Tyrol until the 15th century. The first castle was built before 1100, the second phase of construction took place around 1139/40 and the third towards the second half of the 13th century. The castle includes frescoes from the chapel and magnificent Romanesque portals whose marble sculptures represent mythological creatures as well as religious and geometric motifs. Its remarkable Gothic polyptic altar is a replica, the original being in the Ferdinandeum Museum in Innsbruck. Since 2003, the castle has become a museum dedicated to the history and culture of South Tyrol.
Built in 1234 in a Gothic style, Runkelstein/Roncolo Castle near Bolzano is highly regarded in South Tyrol because it houses the largest secular cycle of frescoes from the Middle Ages. Particularly interesting are the green earth paintings illustrating Tristan and Iseult and the very rare Garel cycle of the flower valley, one of Arthur's famous knights. The importance of the frescoes lies in the fact that they are a unique source for understanding the history of the aristocracy and especially the fashion of the late Middle Ages (14th century). The castle is now transformed into a museum and it can be visited all year long.
Ötzi the Iceman
The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano/Bozen, South Tyrol, was opened on the 28th of March, 1998. In its 1,200 square meters of exhibition rooms, it documents the prehistoric and ancient history of South Tyrol, beginning with the end of the last glacial epoch (15,000 B.C.) and continuing to the reign of Charlemagne (ca. A.D. 800). The greatest of these archaeological finds is undoubtedly the discovery of the fully preserved 5,000 year old Iceman, Ötzi.
Ötzi is a glacier mummy from the Copper Age, who, thanks to extraordinary circumstances, has been preserved down to the present day. Over 5300 years ago, Ötzi was crossing Tisenjoch/Giogo di Tisa in the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley, South Tyrol, where he was murdered and preserved naturally in the ice - he is therefore older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.
The mummy is stored in a specially devised cold cell and can be viewed through a small window. Ötzi’s numerous pieces of equipment and clothing have been painstakingly restored. Visitors have been amazed by the skills of Stone Age people. The mummy was dubbed Ötzi by the Austrian journalist Karl Wendl, who was looking for a catchy name. The name refers to the discovery site in the Ötztal Valley Alps. In July 2018, a film was released about Ötzi’s life and received global recognition.
In a unique project, world famous explorer and mountaineer Reinhold Messner has created a network of museums dedicated to mountains and the mountain culture. Located in six extraordinary places in South Tyrol and Belluno, the Messner Mountain Museums are places of encounter with the mountains, with mountain people and ultimately with ourselves.
Designed by the famous Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, MMM Corones is perched at an altitude of 2,275 meters, at the top of the Plan de Corones / Kronplatz with magnificent views from the Dolomites to the Austrian Alps. Dedicated to traditional mountaineering, it tells the story of its evolution, the triumphs and tragedies that took place on the flanks of the most famous peaks, through relics, photos, objects, paintings and films. The museum consists of mostly organic architecture with raw materials, such as a burrow or a bunker design which is dug in to the surrounding rock. The three openings and the belvedere are focussed around the Dolomite peaks which particularly influenced the life of the climber, Messner.
As the centrepiece of the Messner Mountain Museum, MMM Firmian in Sigmundskron Castle near Bozen addresses the subject of man’s encounter with the mountains. In a setting dominated by the various peaks between the Schlern and the Texel range, the museum is spacious enough to be organized as an itinerary between the various works of art, installations and relics that it houses. The paths, stairs and towers lead visitors from the depths of the mountain, where their origins and exploitation are brought to life, and the religious significance of the peaks as an aid to orientation and a bridge to the beyond, to the history of mountaineering and the alpine tourist industry that we know today.
The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy
Since February 2018, the village of Castelrotto/Kastelruth has entered the list of "The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy”, taking its place alongside other South Tyrolean gems including Vipiteno/Sterzing, Egna/Neumarkt, Glorenza/Glurns and Chiusa/Klausen. The Club was born in 2001 on the initiative of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) to promote the great heritage of art, history and culture of small Italian centres.
Situated within the stunning Sciliar Natural Park, the language Castelrotto is that of the "picturesque". Many of the village’s facades were decorated by a painter, Eduard Burgauner (1873-1913), whose intent was to transform Castelrotto in a work of art. Even today the image of the village is that of an interesting union of Art Nouveau style and local traditions of Baroque taste, as can be seen at the edge of the village, where the frescoes of Villa Felseck - the house of the Burgauner family - illustrate the months so cyclical, following the rituals and work of the peasants.
The northernmost town in Italy, Vipiteno’s many churches are home to art treasures from the Gothic period. Just a few kilometres from the old town, fortifications and castles highlight the importance of South Tyrol in the Middle Ages, with the view from the Rosskopf over the city particularly breath-taking. Standing proud in the centre of the city, the 46 metre high Zwölferturm tower has connected the old town with the new town since 1472. Near the tower is the splendid hall of the Rathaus (built 1468-1473). In the large courtyard of the town hall, there is a stele of the god Mithras as well as a Roman milestone.
The oldest market town in Tyrol: celebrating 1,250 years of San Candido/Innichen
Italy is full of historical towns, but few have been around as long as San Candido. Celebrating its 1,250th anniversary, this charming village nestled in the heart of the Dolomites has an abundance of cultural delights, from the beautiful Collegiate Church of San Candido - one of the most significant sacred structures in the eastern Alps – to the glorious thermal springs that made the town a haven for the leisure-seeking elite since medieval times.