Italy: South Tyrolean metropolises: What makes Bozen and Meran so special - and for whom a visit is worthwhile

A place in the sun with a view of the rippling waters of the Passer, an iced coffee in your hand and a mixture of birdsong and quiet café music in your ears - it doesn't take much to feel comfortable in Meran.

Italy: South Tyrolean metropolises: What makes Bozen and Meran so special - and for whom a visit is worthwhile

A place in the sun with a view of the rippling waters of the Passer, an iced coffee in your hand and a mixture of birdsong and quiet café music in your ears - it doesn't take much to feel comfortable in Meran. It is this simple, little happiness that makes up the secret of the South Tyrolean health resort. Spa guests and tourists come here to enjoy the inviting Italian joy of life with a good dose of serenity in front of an impressive mountain backdrop. “Don’t think too much about tomorrow, just enjoy this sunny day on the promenade,” could be Meran’s slogan.

There are certainly enough promenades in South Tyrol's second largest city. The Sissi Promenade, for example, leads along the Passer - the wild river that runs right through the spa town and supplies it with a certain pinch of "sea" air - under trees and palm trees and past shady places, always with a view of the many Cafés and restaurants on the other side of the river. The spa promenade leads directly past the city's sights - the spa theater, the thermal baths and the promenade with many cute bistros and bars that invite you to linger.

The Tappeinerweg is probably the most famous promenade in Meran. The popular walking path leads from the city center along the slope of the Küchenlberg and, above all, offers a great view of the Meraner Land. On the total distance of almost six kilometers (there and back), walkers pass numerous plants, for example Himalayan cedars, cork oaks and various types of bamboo.

Fans of botanical delights should definitely take a detour to Trauttmansdorff Castle. The picturesque garden is open from March 29th to November 15th. If you want to stroll through palm gardens and flower beds in peace, you should get there early - the castle is considered a popular destination. From the parking lot, the flowery views are just a short hike away. A little tip for all romantics: pack a picnic basket and make yourself comfortable in the garden. Alternatively, there is also a restaurant and a café.

Meran means splendor of flowers. The spa town also shows this every year at the Merano Flower Festival. This year the event will take place from April 25th to 28th. On these days, many exhibitors on the spa promenade in the center show everything related to botany and gardens, there is live music and visitors can admire artistic flower sculptures along the Passer.

With around 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, Meran is one of the sunniest places in all of South Tyrol. And yet, even in this seemingly paradisiacal health resort, dark clouds sometimes gather – and it rains. A walk on the promenade no longer sounds so tempting for many holidaymakers. But how about a visit to the Merano thermal baths? There you can unwind in 25 pools and saunas.

If you're more in the mood for culture, you can take a covered walk and explore the many paintings in the Wandelhalle or take a detour to the Women's Museum. This is still a real insider tip – but a very worthwhile one.

Located somewhat hidden on the third floor of an official building, you will find an educational and lovingly prepared collection of paraphernalia from different eras of women's history. The exhibition takes an authentic – and feminist-tinged – look at the development of society and takes you on a special kind of journey through time. A touch of Merano politics and an exciting change of perspective.

If you want to come into contact with the locals, the best place to do so is on Fridays at the weekly market. From Praderplatz in front of the train station up to Meinhardstrasse you can find market stalls with regional fruit and vegetables, handicrafts and other goods from eight o'clock. But the visit is most exciting because of the colorful hustle and bustle around the stands: here spa guests, tourists and locals meet and exchange ideas - about the products, the weather or the beauty of South Tyrol.

Change of location. Off to Bolzano. It is around 35 kilometers from Meran to the state capital of South Tyrol. The expressway leads past small suburbs, picturesque vineyards and green valleys. Once you have arrived in Bolzano, there is hardly any trace of the leisurely hustle and bustle in the idyllic health resort of Merano. Instead, there is a lot of activity in the old town. Tourists and locals bustle about in the narrow streets, strolling from one shop to the next or sitting chatting animatedly in one of the many cafés and restaurants. Life is flourishing in Bolzano – in many different ways.

The central point of many city tours is the Laubengasse. The largest alley in the old town is lined with picturesque medieval houses. These typically have a round arch that frames the open ground floor - the so-called arcades are a popular photo motif for good reason. If you don't just want to enjoy an architectural excursion into a bygone era, you can also buy beautiful souvenirs here or indulge in culinary delights in the surrounding area.

Typical Alpine cuisine and a unique view over the old town can be found in "Restaurant 37", for example. The restaurant is one of the most popular fine dining cuisines in South Tyrol and, in addition to South Tyrolean classics such as semolina dumplings, also serves modern variations such as black bread ravioli. If you like something a little simpler, the Vogele inn around the corner is in good hands. Good traditional cuisine with a lot of choice, great service and a cozy atmosphere – that’s what guests like best here.

For a strudel for breakfast or a sweet afternoon snack, it's worth visiting the Pasticceria Café Lindner on the edge of the old town. The bakery is also popular with locals, which is mainly due to the large selection of chocolates, strudels and cakes. And where to go in the evening? In Bolzano the lights only go out late at night, at least in some places. For example, you can enjoy an aperitif in Banco 11, try out the wine list in Lisa's wine bar or dance the night away by dancing in the Disco Mirò Club.

Yes, Bolzano means enjoyment. Bolzano is also culture. In Runkelstein Castle, also known as the picture castle, you can immerse yourself in times long past through well-preserved wall paintings. For example, they show scenes of Tristan and Isolde at court. The castle can be reached by bus from Bolzano's Waltherplatz. By the way, you can also find the Walther monument there - a popular attraction. And what would a visit to South Tyrol's capital be without paying homage to Ötzi? The Iceman can be found in the South Tyrolean Archeology Museum on Museum Street.

A detour to South Tyrol's landmark: Sigmundskron Castle is particularly worthwhile. Nestled on a small hill and surrounded by picturesque vineyards, the popular excursion destination on the outskirts of the city of Bolzano is best reached on foot via a small hiking trail (starting at the stop of the same name) through the forest, which can also be cycled. If you don't want to undertake the small mountain climb, you can alternatively take the bus to the castle border.

Anyone who walks through the archway enters a world that particularly delights mountain lovers. The castle now serves as the location of the Messner Mountain Museum Firmian - and takes visitors on the site through the world of mountaineering. A tour on steep metal stairs and paths leads past antique hiking sticks, artistic representations of the Dolomites and lots of stories about the highest peaks in the world.

It goes up, it goes down, and again and again you come across wise words from people who dedicate their lives to the mountains. “To live is to risk,” is written on a staircase. “Mountains hold mysterious treasures,” it reads on a staircase. “I wanted to climb high to look deep into myself,” is written beneath a corridor. A quote from Reinold Messer himself - the founder of this special museum, which shows a completely different side of the city of Bolzano: the philosophical silence of the mountains.

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