Lake Carezza is one of the many reasons to spend some days in South Tyrol, in the North-East of Italy, and visit Bolzano. I’ve always liked this town. It’s small, but not too small; quiet, but not too quiet; surrounded by mountains. You can park next to the train station and you’re already in Piazza Walther, where the Duomo stands. Bolzano reminds me of Austrian towns. I’ve always had the (very pleasant) feeling of being on the border between two cultures, two styles, two worlds. Order and cleanliness characterize the streets of the historic center, in which are lined up the typical pastel coloured houses with a bow-window. Their facades are often decorated with frescoes, and the oldest ones, the colours of which have faded, are even more fascinating.
The church with its golden-green roof is a perfect example of the encounter between two cultures, the Gothic from the North and the Renaissance from the South: inside you can still admire some frescoes by Giotto’s workshop (14th century). Imagine what it should have looked like when the entire church was covered in frescoes.
The network of pedestrian streets is one of the things I most appreciate in Italian towns. You can wander about without having to avoid cars or worrying about pollution. Most of the people stroll under the arcades, packed with shops which are the same all over Europe. It’s kinda sad how historical centers are quickly turning into shopping malls.
This is why I prefer the colorful, loud, authentic markets. One of my favourite is Bolzano’s Obstmarkt in Piazza Erbe, with stalls selling fruit, vegetables and bakery products. Everything is clean, vegetables are arranged in nice boxes and harmonious compositions. This market reminds me of those I’ve seen in Northern Europe, Paris, Stockholm, Helsinki.
Coffe and Apple Cake
Needless to say, in Bolzano I have my selection of cafés. In the region influences by Austrian cuisine, pastry shops resemble Wien’s patisseries, with inviting cakes displayed in the windows and blonde waitresses serving slices of Sacher and Linzer wrapped in shiny, greaseproof paper. A historical patisserie is Café Lintner, ideal for breakfast, just behind the Ötzi Museum.
My latest discovery, however, was Café Monika in via Goethe, a few steps from Piazza delle Erbe. After my weekend in Trentino, on my way back I stopped in Bolzano and came here, unable to resist their apple pie, a successful mix of pastry, crumble and strudel filling, and their cream and ricotta cheese, a lighter version of a cheesecake. Even coffee is good, so much so that, in South Tyrol, I always prefer it to tea. It was Saturday and the city was immersed in a cheerful, lively atmosphere.
I wonder if these people know the meaning of the word “stress”. Talking to the locals, in restaurants or guesthouses, I realized that their lifestyle is very different from the one I’m used to. South Tyroleans are practical people, and they know what they want. They do not waste time and yet never seem to be running. They can speak two languages, often three, and travel a lot, while at the same time being attached to their land. They care for the environment and their echo-friendly architecture proves it.
I like their houses with wooden interiors, which display a mix of tradition and modernity, and I share their passion for kitchen tools: there’s no town in South Tyrol where you won’t find a big home & kitchen shop, which in winter will be filled with Christmas decorations. If you are looking for a particular cake pan, or a veggie cutter, or a coffee maker, you’ll find them here.
Back to Bolzano: this time, by chance, I’ve discovered a special place, via Dr Josef Streiter, which is accessed through an arch and along which parade curious wine bars with outdoor tables, protected by colorful umbrellas and surrounded by plants and flowers. On the way back to Piazza Walther, I suggest taking via Argentieri, packed with delightful shops (including Peter’s Teahouse), quiet and inviting bistro like Humus and Wirthaus, where it’s worth stopping for lunch.
And what about museums? You can visit the Museum of Natural Science or the Archaeological Museum, which is renowned for the exhibition dedicated to Ötzi the Iceman, who was found still frozen in the glacier in 1991.
Carezza, an Emerald Lake
A few kilometers from Bolzano, towards Val di Fassa, there’s a lake with an unbelievable emerald green color. The road to Lake Carezza winds through the mountains, and once you get there, you’ll see that there’s a path running around the lake, so that its blue-green surface can be admired from all angles.
According to the myth, long ago Lake Carezza was home to the nymph Undine, loved by the Latemar sorcerer. Following a witch’s advice, the sorcerer conjured up a rainbow over the lake to attract Ondina, but as she emerged from the water, she was frightened by the wizard and ran away. The angry sorcerer destroyed the rainbow, that has been in the pond ever since.
COFFEE & SHOPS
Wirtshaus, via Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 3 – organic South Tyrolean dishes served in rooms with vaulted ceilings and frescoed walls
Café Monika, via Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 13
Franziska, via San Quirino 8 – a bakery selling bread and Tyrolese cakes
Athesia – this is a shop that can be found in every town in South Tyrol, a paradise for those who love the paper, multipurpose bags, recipe books (in Italian and German), calendars, notebooks, cups.