Ask a local: what should I do, see, and eat in Bolzano, Italy?

by Gigi Griffis

Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Klaus Sparer, a winery owner, cyclist, and hiker here to tell us all about Bolzano – a German-speaking city that ranks high for its quality of life.

First, tell us about you.

I live in a little village near Bolzano and every day (for the past 25 years), I go into Bolzano for work. In my free time, I like cycling, books, and mountain excursions.

If someone is visiting Bolzano for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?

Bolzano is a nice little city with a lot of possibilities. There are museums, the cathedral, Piazza delle Erbe (with its daily market full of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and groceries), Via Portici (the most ancient street here, full of shops), churches…We are very proud of our Museum of Archeology with Ötzi, the ice man who was found in 1991 near the Tisa Pass in Val Senales; his life period was about 5,300 years ago.

What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?

There are a lot of little villages near Bolzano in the valley and the hills (in particular, I like San Genesio and Renon). Inside Bolzano, I recommend Gries or the historic part of the city.

Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?

I recommend Renon, which is reachable via cableway from Bolzano and from which you have a wonderful view of the city and the Dolomites. Also, Oltreadige and Bassa Atesina with their expansive apple orchards and vineyards.

Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?

Our dishes are a mix of light Italian dishes with fish and vegetables and the traditional Austrian dishes (meat, sauces, and side dishes). In Bolzano, you should try canederli (balls made of old bread, eggs, milk, etc.), schlutzkrapfen (beef and potato ravioli), and bauerngröstl (fried potatoes with beef).

What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?

Hotel Mondschein, in the historical part of the city at Via Piave 15, has a nice garden restaurant. Hotel Laurin (at Via Laurin 4) has a great piano bar. Restaurant Vögele (at Goethestreet 3) is the best place for typical side dishes. And Restaurant Hopfen, at Piazza dell’Erbe 17, is a great place for beer (they brew their own).

Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?

White sport socks with sandals is a little bit strange.

What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?

Go out during happy hour for a glass of wine and some finger foods in the different wine bars around the city and you will know a lot of people!

What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?

In the historical part of the city: the Piazza Walther.

Anything else you want us to know?

Alto Adige is a particular little region and in every valley you will find varying traditions and dialects (we’ve got three languages spoken widely in the region: German, Italian, and Ladin, an old Rhaeto-Romanic language spoken in the northeastern part of South Tyrol).

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