Dan and I kicked off our 2023 Oktoberfest Eurotrip with a four day stay in Bolzano, Italy. Bolzano, or “Bozen” in German, is the capital of the Italian region Trentino-Alto Adige and the third largest city in the Alps. I had been wanting to visit this area forever, and its only a four hour train ride from Munich, so we made it our first stop on the trip! This article details what we did with our limited time in Bolzano.
Bolzano is located in the Northeast part of Italy, very close to the Austrian border, and historically was part of the Austrian Tyrol region. As such, while in Italy, Bolzano feels very much Tyrolean and most everyone in town speaks Italian and German (and English, and there is also a third indigenous language, Ladin, that a few people speak). The prevalence of multiple languages is due to the fact that Bolzano was part of Tyrol prior to the World Wars, which shook up the border and made this area part of Italy rather than Tyrol (this is a super brief explanation, you can find much more information online). In addition to the history, Bolzano is considered by many to be the “Gateway to the Dolomites,” but we found them to be a bit far from Bolzano…
DAY ONE IN BOLZANO: DRIVING TO BOLZANO AND ITALIAN PIZZA FOR DINNER!
Our vacation began landing in Milano (flying in from JFK on Emirates) and taking a private transfer from Milan Malpensa directly to Bolzano. The drive was quite pretty and took a little over three hours, including a stop at the AutoGrill (IYKYK)! We booked our car through City Airport Taxis – it was a little pricey but saved us hours over taking the train.
By the time we located our hotel and checked in (no, Bolzano is not that big but the historic center has limited streets with easy car access), it was nearly time for dinner. We strolled around the historic center of Bolzano for a bit before deciding on a pizza place for dinner, as we were, indeed, in Italia. The restaurant we selected was Forneria 38 and served Napoli style pizza. Forneria 38 was delicious, and this turned out to be a good idea since we would not have quality pizza again until the end of our trip in Milano.
We ended our evening on the early side (hello, jetlag) with a cocktail at one of Bolzano’s “best” cocktail bars, The Black Sheep. The Black Sheep offered an odd menu featuring naughty named cocktails based on the the 90s….very Hot Tub Time machine vibes. I opted for essentially a Negroni and a gummy bear garnish.
DAY TWO IN BOLZANO: A DRIVE THROUGH THE DOLOMITES AND A TYROLEAN DINNER
Our second day in Bolzano was largely comprised of a private day trip through the Dolomites, which are realistically about a 45 minute drive from Bolzano. I pre-booked this online and our driver was waiting in a taxi outside our hotel right at 8:00 AM. Our tour began with a brief stop in Ortisei, where we walked around and had a quick breakfast of cappuccino and a Nutella pastry. We could have stayed longer in this tourist town, as it was beautiful, but we had some Dolomites to see. I would note that Ortisei offers lots of stores selling name brand hiking gear if you need it.
Back on the road, we drove a bit more and stopped at Passo Gardena for a short hike on our own. The hike was not steep or anything, but we wished we had worn our hiking boots. The views were insanely beautiful.
We made another quick hiking (well, this one was more walking on high ground) stop in front of Mount Lagazuoi. We could have taken the cable car up the mountain here, but we opted to wait a little longer.
We did go up a cable car a short while later at Sass Pordoi, which cost about 26 euro per person RT and only take a couple minutes. It was sunny at the bottom of the mountain but once we reached the top at 2950 M, we were in the clouds. And, side note, this was almost the same altitude we were at in Bolivia earlier this year!
We spent a bit of time on top of Sass Pordoi walking around and also eating lunch at its restaurant, Rifugio Maria. I would note, we were the only people on the mountain not in serious hiking clothing…whoops!
Just as we finished our meal, the clouds broke for a moment and we had a decent view before taking the cable car back down.
Our day tour ended with a stop at the small but gorgeous Lago Carezza, which was only about 20 minutes from Bolzano. There was a look out spot and we only spent about 10 minutes here.
Back in Bolzano, we did a tiny bit of walking around and after changing, went to dinner at one of Bolzano’s best known restaurants, Franzistakerstuben, which was conveniently located directly across from our hotel (and possibly owned by the same family). Franzistakerstuben is a traditional Tyrolean restaurant with a bit of Italian flair (meaning wine and dishes). Our food was great and the portions large. We would absolutely return here, and it will be receiving its own post in the future!
DAY THREE: A BOLZANO FOOD & HISTORY TOUR, WINE TASTING AND ANOTHER TYROLEAN DINNER.
Our third day was our big day out in Bolzano! We began our morning with a historical walking and food tour around the old town of Bolzano. Our guide, Claudia, actually grew up in Bolzano and touring around town with here was really interesting. Claudia lived in the US for a number of years, speaks perfect English, knows everyone in town and was great at explaining the complicated history of the area, past and present. The food tour will receive its own post but in short, I highly recommend it.
After our food tour, I did some shopping on Via dei Portici, which was lovely, and so much more relaxing that shopping in a bit city like Milano.
We took a taxi in the afternoon to Weingut Loacker, which is a gorgeous winery located on the hillside overlooking the historic center of Bolzano. At Weingut Loacker, we took a quick tour of the wine cellar and then proceeded to taste about six wines, both red and white. We obviously purchased some wine to bring home, as well as take approximately 1,000,000 photos of the surrounding area.
While it was supposed to rain all day, the rain actually did not start until right before dinner. As such, we decided to eat indoors at Ristorante Anita, another Tyrolean restaurant in Bolzano. Ristorante Anita was more casual than our previous night’s dinner, but very good. We felt like we were in the owner’s home. As we were feeling the Tyrolean at this point, we opted for two types of dumplings – beet dumplings in Gorgonzola cream sauce and spinach dumplings with brown butter – and weiner schnitzel. We also ordered a dessert with fresh berries.
DAY FOUR: DEPARTING BOLZANO VIA THE BRENNER PASS FOR THE OKTOBERFEST
Our fourth day in Bolzano was our final morning in Bolzano, and we really only had time to walk from our hotel to the train station, which was about a ten minute, easy walk. It was a beautiful morning and we were really sad to leave. We will absolutely be back to Bolzano!
While we were sad to leave Bolzano, I was quite excited about traveling over the Brenner Pass from Bolzano to Munich via train. The Brenner Pass is one of the most popular (and lowest, i.e. accessible) Alpine passes, which goes through the most gorgeous parts of Northern Italy and Austria (honestly, Austria are where the best views are located). We took lots of pictures!
In sum, that was our trip to Bolzano! I highly recommend it if you are in the area – Bolzano is fantastic!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Goldenstern Guesthouse: Via Dr. Josef Streiter, 53, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Our boutique hotel in the center of Bolzano. Staff only available until 6 PM (they do accommodate late check-in via a lock box) and there are many stairs in the hotel (and no, the lift does not go to all the rooms). Be prepared to carry your own luggage up narrow stairs if staying here.
Forneria 38: Piazza delle Erbe, 39, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Closed Monday. I suggest a reservation on the weekends. This restaurant was very popular with locals.
The Black Sheep: Piazza delle Erbe, 46/A, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Closed Sunday.
Hidden Dolomites Private Tour: This is the link to the tour that we took of the Dolomites. We were driven around in a luxury sedan and our driver was very nice. The tour returned to Bolzano around 5:00 PM.
Franzistakerstuben: Via dei Francescani, 7, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Closed Tuesday. Reservation recommended.
Tours by Locals Private Bolzano Street Food Tour: This is the link to our food tour, which lasted 3 hours and was enough food for breakfast and lunch!
Weingut Loacker: Via Santa Giustina, 3, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Reservations recommended for a tasting.
Ristorante Anita: Piazza delle Erbe, 39100 Bolzano BZ, Italy. Closed Sunday and for dinner on Saturday. Reservation probably not necessary. Casual and traditional.