Bolzano (Bozen) is a small town located in South Tyrol, in the Alto-Adige region of northern Italy. Because of its close proximity to Austria, this area has a unique cultural flair and a special emphasis on family and local traditions. This place is particularly spectacular during winter, when the atmosphere buzzes with the Christmas spirit. Check my list below for all the reasons Bolzano is a must this Christmas season!
The Christmas Market is Magical
In the main square of Piazza Walther, you’ll find 80 stalls, all selling beautiful handmade, handcrafted, or home baked Christmas delicacies.
The Christmas market is the perfect time to show your appreciation for the 80 local artisans selling everything from handcrafted items made of ceramics, wooden nativity scenes, homemade candles, and glass ornaments. Vendors also sell holiday decorations, specialty food items, and cauldrons full of mulled wine. Best yet, the market has an incredible backdrop with its location in relation to the Italian Alps.
What set this Christmas market apart from others is it’s certification as a “Green Event.” Essentially, the Christmas market is eco-friendly and sustainable in the following ways:
- separates all waste
- uses only regional products
- energy efficiency
- provides shuttle services to/from the market to encourage public transport use
- offers hand-made products
- food products are seasonal, regional, organic, and fair trade and include vegetarian options
- workshops on traditional crafts like wreath-typing and felting
Monday – Friday: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
December 24: 10:00 am 2:00 pm
December 25: closed
December 31: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
January 1: noon – 7:00 pm
There is a daily Farmer’s Market
In Piazza delle Erbe and the nearby streets, there is a daily farmers market with fresh fruit, vegetables, crafts, bread, candy, and more! For those who enjoy going for a stroll, this is definitely the area to do so.
It’s also noteworthy for me to mention how relaxed the vendors were. I took my time, tried samples, and snapped tons of photos and I was not harassed, cat-called, or even looked at in an annoyed way.
While you are on this road, make sure to take a look at the Fountain of Neptune, made by G. Mayr of Fiè in the eighteenth century.
Monday – Friday: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm, Saturday 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
It’s Not as Cold as the Rest of Europe
If you’re looking for Christmas markets, Italy may not be the place to go, per-say. In fact, the tradition of having lights and a tree is not actually an Italian tradition. Though, compared to the rest of Western Europe, Italy is notably one of the warmest places to be.
That’s what made Bolzano perfect! It wasn’t too far north, yet it had enough Christmas spirit to make it even more enjoyable for me. While there is some snowfall in Bolzano during winter, the weather is overall very good and the skies are blue and sunny.
The Churches are Beautiful
Chiesa dei Francescani
Just past Piazza delle Erbe, you will find this Franciscan monastery and church built by the first settlers, Franciscan monks, in around 1300. Unfortunately, I was unable to enter, because there was a service during my visit. I was, luckily, able to catch a glimpse of one of the monks as he entered the church.
Address: Via Dei Francescani 1, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, 2:30 pm – 18:00 pm; Sunday 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Duomo di Bolzano
This Gothic style duomo was built in 1948 and is dedicated to Saint Maria Assunta. The church had existed before 1948 but was badly damaged during the Allied bombing of 1944. Still before then, the church is built on the foundations of three other churches, which date back to the IV century AD.
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The People were Exceptionally Kind
Whether they spoke German or Italian, or both (yes, some people only spoke one or the other) the people all had a certain friendliness and hospitality about them that is hard to find in other places (like Rome). Perhaps their kindness was in part due to their rank as #1 for quality of life in Italy.
There’s a Palace
To me, the Mercantile Palace was spectacular. Apparently I was the only one to think so, because I had the entire building to myself! It was also an excellent escape from the cold weather outside. The room below was particularly breathtaking.
As you can see from the root of the word, the Mercantile Palace has close connections with Bolzano’s history as a city for merchants. Many of the documents, paintings and furnishings found here are from the 17th and 18th century. The palace used to be a seat of the Mercantile Magistracy, founded by Claudia de‘ Medici.
Address: Via Argentieri 6 or Via Portici 39 – 39100 Bolzano
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm. Closed Sundays
Ticket Price: 4 euros
The non-Italian cuisine is amazing!
Food from Tyrol can be characterized as Austrian with a hint of Italian. South Tyrol is famous for its apples, speck, cheese, and wine. Basically, load up on the ever-flowing warm apple cider, apple strudel, and mulled wine.
And have a platter of meats and cheeses while you’re here! Of course, while the flavors are Austrian, the plates themselves can be very Italian – pumpkin gnocchi, polenta, biscotti, and tiramisu.
The Whole Town has Christmas cheer
I found Christmas spirit in each and every street, church, museum, and shop. Young children’s eyes sparkled as they rode their first merry-go-round (or better yet, first pony!). Christmas music permeated every street corner, and the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg from the mulled wine wafted through the air.
Ready to book you trip?!
Take any train to the “Bolzano-Bozen” station and the Christmas Market is directly 100 meters from the exit.
Parkhotel Laurin – a classy hotel located with very accommodating and polite workers, directly in the city center, and a minute’s walk from the Christmas Market. This place also has a bar and restaurant, to fit your every need.