South Tyrol (German: Südtirol, Italian: Alto Adige or Sudtirolo, Ladin: Sudtirol) is the northernmost region in Italy, bordering Austria to the north and northeast, Switzerland to the northwest, and the rest of Italy to the south. Together with Trentino, it composes the northernmost Italian autonomous administrative region of Trentino-South Tyrol. This is also the only region in Italy where the majority of the population speaks German as their mother tongue (with the exception of the areas surrounding Bolzano/Bozen and Merano/Meran). Therefore, South Tyrol is officially bilingual, including all road signs, menus and media, and moreover even trilingual in the scenic eastern Ladin-speaking valleys.
This Alpine region can offer a lot of cultural highlights, both large cities and small picturesque storybook villages – and huge areas of wild nature, including the most important Italian national park, and many more regional parks, lakes, valleys and mountains. Here one finds the famous Dolomites (inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List) and large important ski resorts near the Austrian border. Once a place of ethnic conflict, South Tyrol has emerged as an international model for inter-ethnic cooperation. German-speaking, Italian or Ladin, South Tyrolians are very proud of this grand accomplishment of inter-ethnic cooperation and compromise and serve as a model for the world. They are truly “European” in every sense.
- Bolzano – the capital and the largest city of South Tyrol with culture, business, shopping and nature
- Bruneck (Brunico) – the easternmost town in South Tyrol with an important medieval castle
- Brixen (Bressanone) – until 1803 capital of the Bishopric of Brixen; one of the most culturally interesting towns in former Tyrol
- Glurns (Glorenza) – considered as the smallest town (place with Stadtrecht, right of city) in Italy and one of the smallest in Europe with its 800 inhabitants
- Kastelruth (Castelrotto) – a small town about 20 km to the northeast of Bolzano. It serves as a nice base camp for exploring the adjacent Seiser Alm
- Klausen (Chiusa) – picturesque town of artists between Bolzano and Brixen; also included in the list of “most beautiful Italian small towns”
- Merano (Merano) – the former capital of the County of Tyrol (1418-1848) and health resort since centuries
- Neumarkt (Newmarket, Egna) – the most important cultural centre in Unterland
- St. Lorenzen (San Lorenzo di Sabato)
- Ortisei (Ortisei) – Alpine town that looks like a village out of a fairy tale, with skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer
- Sterzin (Vipiteno) – very important town near to the Brenner Pass; its historical centre is included in the list of “most beautiful Italian small towns”
- Seiser Alm (Alpi Di Siusi) – the region is also home to the largest alpine meadow
History of South Tyrol
It is known that people have lived here since the stone age – like Ötzi the Iceman, and the region was part of the Roman Empire from 59 BC until the Migration Period. From the 6th to the 9th century, the region was settled by the Bavarii together with the Langobards and the Romanised natives. As part of France and later the Holy Roman Empire, the region had a strategic importance as a bridgehead to Italy. Large parts of the province were donated to the Bishops of Trent and Brixen. After their caretakers, the earls of Tyrol (like Meinhard II of Gorizia-Tyrol) had gathered the province under their command, the region together with the valleys to the north was known as Tyrol.
In 1342, the earldom went over to the Bavarian dukes again when Emperor Louis IV voided the first marriage of Countess Margarete Maultasch. But already in 1363, the Wittelsbach released the country to the Habsburgs.
The Habsburgs ruled the region almost continuously until 1918, except from 1805-1814. In 1805, Austria was defeated by Napoleon and lost Tyrol to Bavaria in the Peace of Pressburg (Bavaria allied itself with Napoleon in the war). Tyroleans, led by Andreas Hofer, rose in rebellion against Bavarian rule. In 1814, Tyrol was transferred again from Bavaria to Austria at the Congress of Vienna.
In 1919, after the World War I, South Tyrol was annexed by Italy as a war prize. Government officials, soldiers and other settlers were brought in by the Italian state, especially the Fascist regime, from all over Italy and reached a third of the total population by the early 1950s. Their official efforts attempted to erase the German cultural element of the area’s history. Their descendants now make up about a quarter of the population.
As a result of the pact between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the German-speakers in the region were given the option to relocate to Germany. Only a few accepted, and most of them returned to their homeland after the war, anyway. During the end of the war, the region was briefly annexed to the Third Reich, briefly reuniting the Tyrol.
After World War II, the region was returned to Italy as a province, but with great administrative and legislative autonomy, starting in the 1970s and 80s. Since the 1970s there have been repeated calls for full independence or reunification with Austria, but the secessionist movement has yet to be embraced by any major German-speaking political parties, which prefer to embrace the very successful contemporary system of power sharing.
South Tyrol is the northernmost region of Italy and because of its history and location in the middle of the Alps it’s still considered a Central European region although Italy is in Mediterranean (or Southern) Europe – it’s also true that all regions in North-Eastern Italy consider themselves as Central European (and indeed they have more geographic similarities with Slovenia – which is considered fully Central European and on the southern part of the Alps – than with the rest of Italy). The region is composed of high mountains and their valleys. The best known part of South Tyrolean Alps are the Dolomites including Schlern (2,662 m) and Rosengarten (3,002 m). The Dolomites are in eastern South Tyrol while the highest mountains are in western South Tyrol with the Ortler Alps (highest peak – 3.902 m). The Dolomites offer some of the most dramatic mountain scenery on the planet with their striking appearance, which has evolved over millions of years as erosion and weathering shaped what were originally under-sea coral reefs. They take their name from Deodat de Dolomieu, the French geologist who first described them. The most important river is the Adige/Etsch which flows into the Adriatic Sea while the Eisack and Rienz are the two most important of the Adige’s/Etsch’s tributaries in South Tyrol. The Adige trench runs north – south, dividing the western (known as the Brenta) and eastern Dolomites. The only river which doesn’t flow into the Adriatic Sea is the Drava which passes through most of the Central European countries and enters the Black Sea.
There are a lot of different and strange climates inside South Tyrol – normally South Tyrolean climate is sunny and dry and warmer than on the northern part of the Alps. That doesn’t mean that the climate has to be Mediterranean – as local tourist guides say. The climate is of continental type (hot summers and cold winters with ambiguous springs and autumns) influenced by Alpine characteristics – for examples summer is the year’s most rainy season. On the mountains and in upper valleys the climate is strongly alpine (very cold winters and fresh summers). During the winter and the springs in the valleys blows often the föhn – a strong wind which is normally warm in the winter and cold in the spring. Summers in the lower valleys (Bolzano and Merano surroundings) can be very sultry. Annual average temperature in Bolzano is 11.6°C and the extreme records there go from -17 to +40°C. On the upper valleys the temperature is considerably lower (annual average from 3 to 5°C). Winter is the better season for skiing, spring and autumn for hiking and visiting places and summer for hiking in the woods – pay attention to the weather conditions!
People and culture
South Tyrol is a region of multiple identities – South Tyrolean can differently feel themselves as Tyroleans, Austrians, of German ethnicity, Italians, Ladins or simply South Tyrolean – or “Altoatesini”. Normally German-speaking people feel specifically South Tyroleans and Tyroleans on an historical level while Italian-speaking people feel mainly Italians or Italian-speaking South Tyroleans (or eventually “Altoatesini” – people from Upper Adige). Ladin-speaking people consider themselves as Ladins but historically as Tyrolean Ladins. Ethnic tension has been a major problem in the past but it is not the main topic in South Tyrol anymore and nowadays ethnic tensions play themselves out more inside political parties. It is true that history and politics are strictly connected here. For the most part and particular within the younger generations all three groups coexist in relative peace and harmony with the Ladins playing the role of a kind of middle-man peace broker in the past. The success of multi-cultural South Tyrol is largely due in part to the generous cultural and political autonomy that the region has been granted by Rome with the seal of approval from Vienna.
For the descendants of native Tyroleans the national hero is Andreas Hofer who fought against the Revolutionary French in order to save their homeland’s freedom. Other famous South Tyroleans are Walther von der Vogelweide – the most celebrated of the Middle High German lyrics poet who was supposed to have been born near Bolzano – and the Medieval poet Oswald von Wolkenstein.
German-speaking (but often without ethnic distinction) South Tyroleans have stereotypes in common with Bavarians – from the Italian point of view: Lederhosen (leather pants), sausages and a lot of beer. From Germany they are seen as Mediterranean, singers and wine drinkers. Alcohol is though a problem in South Tyrol’s society for all ethnic groups – especially among the young.
South Tyrol has two unofficial anthems: one is the Tyrolean anthem – which is officially recognized in Austrian Tyrol – and the other is a famous song (known as “Bozner Bergsteigerlied” or “Südtirollied”) which begins with the words “Wohl ist die Welt so groß und weit…” (Surely is the world so big and wide…). Ladins have also their own anthems (Gherdëina Gherdëina for the Gardena Valley and a general anthem of Ladins). South Tyrol participate every year to the Gran Prix der Volksmusik which is broadcast in Eurovision – its first participation has been in 2001 and has won every year since then. The most known folk group are probably the Kastelruther Spatzen. Pop and rock are the preferred styles by the young.
South Tyroleans are almost all Catholics and quite conservative – but it depends on the areas. In the most touristy developed regions and in cities or bigger towns people are more open. It’s said that there is no big differences in behavior of Germans or Italians – forming a nice inter-ethnic regional identity, some tourists affirm that local Italians are a bit closer and different from other Italians.
Today the region is famous for its sporty people such as Isolde and Carolina Kostner, Armin Zöggeler (sled’s world champion) or Ylenia Scapin. Other famous people include the former journalist and now European parliamentary Lilli Gruber. Italian atheletes from South Tyrol often represent Italy in the winter olympics and won many times. This draws an interesting parallel to the Quebecois of Canada.
The majority of the South Tyrolean population is German-speaking and in some valleys it’s the totality. The Italian-speaking population lives mainly in the Bolzano/Bozen urban area and other larger towns like Merano/Meran. Ladin-speaking people live in the Gardena and Badia Valleys. Keep in mind that all South Tyroleans are taught Italian and that almost all Ladins speak German. Italians tend to be monolingual depending upon where they live. All the road signs have to be bilingual (trilingual where Ladin is spoken), and normally the first name identifies the majority language in the area.
In South Tyrol there is a trilingual media panorama and international newspapers are easy to find (especially from Germany). There are no local newspapers in English but the most popular dailies are the Dolomiten (conservative) in German and the Alto Adige (independent) in Italian. Other dailies are the Neue Südtiroler Tageszeitung (liberal) and the Corriere dell’Alto Adige (independent) – the local edition of the Italian Corriere della Sera. The most popular edition of Alto Adige is on Sunday – Dolomiten isn’t published on Sunday and at its place there is the Sunday tabloid Zett. The most important weekly is the ff (liberal) in German.
The Italian public broadcaster RAI has a broadcasting centre in Bolzano (called Sender Bozen in German, Sede di Bolzano in Italian and Radio TV Ladina in Ladin) which produces a trilingual program daily. The local radio of RAI (FM4) transmits in German, Ladin and Italian (news in Italian are transmitted on Radio 2). News in German every hour and news in Ladin two times a day. Many private radio broadcasters transmit in Italian, German or Ladin – a radio from Bolzano (Radio Tandem) transmits also for the immigrant population (Albanian, Spanish, Urdu, Arabic, Ukrainian).
Also television broadcasts in the three regional languages with five newscasts every day. News in Italian (Telegiornale Regionale) are broadcast in Bolzano and Trento and cover Trentino and South Tyrol and are on air at 14:00, 19:35 and at night with news only for South Tyrol. News in German (Tagesschau) at 20:00 and 22:10 and news in Ladin (TRAIL) at 19:55. German general programmes are broadcast every evening, on Thursday evening in Ladin and on Sunday morning in Italian. RAI Bolzano transmits on the regional frequency of the Italian State-run RAI3. Two private television broadcasters (Videobolzano 33 and TCA) transmit only in Italian (evening news at 19:30 on Videobolzano 33 and at 19:00 on TCA).
South Tyrol Marketing Pfarrplatz, 11 (+39 0471 999999, firstname.lastname@example.org) – Contacting the South Tyrol Tourist Board you can get information about the region and single areas and ask for catalogs and brochures.
Magazines, events calendars
Inside – events in South Tyrol bilingual (German, Italian) pocket calendar with all events in Bozen and in South Tyrol. The index is written in English. You can find it everywhere. Free. Also online available.
The best-loved holiday in South Tyrol is probably Christmas. The Christmas atmosphere begins the first Advent Sunday and the first Christmas-related unofficial holiday is on 6th December when the Nikolaus (St Nicholas) brings sweeties and small gifts to the children. In all South Tyrol there are ceremonies and the arrival of the Krampus – violent devils (be careful, they could hit if drunk). South Tyroleans celebrate Christmas on the eve night. Between Christmas and 6th January children dressed as the Three Kings (the Sternsänger, cantors of the star) go home to home to sing and collect money for charities. Differently as in other parts of Italy and commonly as in Catholic German-speaking countries, in South Tyrol the Whit Monday is a regional festivity. During Carnival (Fasching in German) there are a lot of events. Here a list of official festivities (shops and offices are closed):
- New Year’s Day (Neujahr, Capodanno), January 1 – shops are closed on December 31 afternoon too
- Three Kings’ Day (Epiphany) (Dreikönigstag, Epifania), January 6
- Carnival (Fasching, Carnevale), variable (February)
- Thursday Carnival’s Day (Fetter Donnerstag, Giovedì Grasso), shops are closed in the afternoon
- Tuesday Carnival’s Day (Fetter Dienstag, Martedì Grasso), shops are closed in the afternoon
- Easter (Ostern, Pasqua), variable (on Sunday) – date is the same as in other western countries. Also Easter Monday is holiday.
- Liberation Day (Italienischer Staatsfeiertag, Giornata nazionale della Liberazione dal nazifascismo), April 25 – nationalwide festivity although in South Tyrol American troops arrived on May 3, 1945.
- May Day (Tag der Arbeit, Festa del Lavoro), May 1
- Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag, Lunedì di Pentecoste), variable (end May, begin June)
- National Holiday (Italienischer Staatsfeiertag, Festa della Repubblica), June 2
- Assumption of Our Lady, August 15 (Mariä Himmelfahrt, Assunzione – slang in both languages Ferragosto)
- All Saint’s Day, November 1 (Allerheiligen, Ognissanti) – the night before many youths celebrate Halloween – it doesn’t belong to the locale tradition
- St Nicholas (Nikolaustag, San Nicolò), December 6 – shops are open
- Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfang, Immacolata Concezione), December 8
- Christmas (Christtag, Natale), December 25 – shops are closed on December 24 afternoon too
- St Stephen Day (Stephanitag, Santo Stefano), December 26
Italian foreign ministry has a page available also in English for entry documents required by foreign nationals. Because Italy is a signatory to the Schengen treaty there are no problems if you come with an Austrian or Swiss visa, as they are two member states of Schengen also – although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.
There are no border controls between Schengen Agreement nations – so also the last controls at the border to Switzerland have dissolved.
The only airport in South Tyrol is the Airport Bolzano Dolomites in the capital city Bolzano. Nearest major hubs are Munich Airport in Germany and Milan Malpensa Airport while other airports near South Tyrol are in Innsbruck, Austria and Verona. Low cost flights only to/from Verona, Treviso or Bergamo. Airport transfers are available. Normally Inghams offers direct flights from England in winter.
South Tyrol is well connected, you’ll most likely be coming from the rest of Italy via Verona or from the North via Innsbruck(Austria) and through the Brenner Pass.
The main connection from the North is over the Brenner Pass from Innsbruck (Austria). There are good connections via Innsbruck from Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Zurich and the rest of North/Central Europe through these cities.
Passengers coming from Graz, or South-Central Europe (Zagreb, Maribor) may find the connection via Lienz in East Tyrol and into the Puster Valley (Bruneck, Franzenfeste) useful. Its also possible to get in from Vienna this way, but connections are much less frequent.
It is often cheaper or necessary to buy two separate train tickets if coming from abroad (Austria, Germany, etc.) and then changing to a local train. The Northern most station in South Tyrol is Brenner and is exactly at the border. If you change trains here, you can buy local transportation tickets and the ‘Value Card’ at vending machines.
See ‘Getting Around’ getting around for more details.
South Tyrol is very well connected by bus mainly with Germany and Eastern Central Europe. Traveling by bus is cheaper than by train and it could be a good solution if you find what you are looking for. The local travel agency Gross organizes up to 12 bus connections every month between Bolzano and Munich (one-way ticket for €25). Almost every important city in Poland is connected with Bolzano through international bus connections – normally arrival is in Genoa. The Polish travel agency Wikel is the most known for this cheap connections. If you are coming from Romania your reference could be the Romanian CentroTrans travel agency which has also offices in England. Coaches from Romania stop in Bolzano but also in Brixen. In the Romanian website about bus stations you can find arrivals and departures from Romania/to South Tyrol at the Bolzano bus station. Connections with Slovakia from/to Bratislava are operated by the Eurolines agency in Bratislava. Connections with the Czech Republic are operated by the Tourbus agency (web site also in English available) with buses from Prague or Brno and other places. Prices are cheap – a return ticket from Brno to Bolzano costs €94. Tourist connections are also available from Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland – this connections are operated by the German travel agency Südtirol Tours or by the Swiss Südtirol Express. In winter bus transfers between low cost airports in Northern Italy and tourism destinations are available – for this check on the official tourism board web site.
You have to drive through South Tyrol, anyway, if you are coming from Germany to other part of Italy. The A22 motorway (also known as the Brenner Motorway) passes through South Tyrol and splits the region into two sides – west and east. In Austria the Brenner motorway is coded as A13 and while identification road signs in Italy are green, in Austria and Germany, they are blue. In South Tyrol there are 8 motorway exits (two of them in Bolzano) while tool booths are only at 6 exits – in Sterzing you will pay for the remaining itinerary. For a car which goes from Neumarkt-Auer to Brenner you will pay €5.40 and from Bolzano South and Bolzano North €0.60 (March 2020). On the web site of the A22 society you can check the fare you might have to pay. The motorway charges a fee except in case of strikes involving the staff at the booths. For driving on Austrian motorways you have to buy the Vignette (available for a 10-days, 2-months and 1-year-validity) – for a car a 10-days-validity vignette costs €7.60 (2020). An exception is on the route between Innsbruck South and Brenner – here you have to pay €8 for the whole itinerary at the booths. German motorways are for free.
On the same side of the A22 motorway there is also the Statal Road 12 (known also as Abetone-Brenner) which is for free. If you come from East Tyrol (nearest regions: Carinthia, Slovenia) you will pass the border at Winnebach and the route is for free, so it’s also coming from Switzerland with the border at Taufers im Münstertal and from other mountain passes through South Tyrol like Reschenpass. You could have to pay a fee for passing the Jaufenpass on the Austrian side.
Almost all places are very well connected by train or by bus (SII) and roads are considered to be the best well-kept in Italy and road signs are not an exception or ambiguous.
If you want to travel inside South Tyrol and up to Innsbruck or Trento by bus or by train you can buy the “Value Card” (“Wertkarte” or “Carta valore”) for €5, €10 or €25 and you will pay less with this card which has validity only in South Tyrol – in other parts of Italy you have to buy a ticket at the train station every time. In major cities and their metropolitan areas this tickets can be bought also in general shops like bakeries, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, other retail stores and in the tourist offices. All dealers have identification stickers. In smaller places you can find them at bus stations. For more information check on the web site of the regional transport system website.
All main valleys are crossed by trains and the two regional main hubs are Bolzano and Franzensfeste, while the main train route is that which goes from North to South and vice versa – the international one. Bolzano is the major hub in the region and also serves between Southern and Central Europe. Throughout the province transfers are well timed and even regional service is frequent (hourly). From Bolzano you can catch a train which arrives up to Mals in the Vinschgau valley and from Franzensfeste there are the trains that bring you to Lienz in the East Tyrol, Austria and passes through the South Tyrol. Traveling by train is relatively cheap if compared to Austria or Germany yet trains are punctual, unlike many regions in Italy.
Railway Streches: There are four railway streches in South Tyrol:
- Brenner Line The Brennerlinie, the main railway in South Tyrol, connects to Germany/Austria in the North via Innsbruck and the Austrian/Italian border at Brenner, crosses South Tyrol and connects south from Ala to Verona and the rest of Italy. The main stations north to south are Brenner-Franzenfeste-Brixen-Bolzano. (These are the stops for express trains like EuroCity.)
- Pustertal Line is a branch line from Franzenfeste to Bruneck and Innichen and continuing onward to East Tyrol in Austria.
- Meraner Line is a branch line that goes between Bolzano and Meran.
- Vinschgerbahn Line is a continuation of the Meraner Line.
Tickets: Train service is now split between a ‘privatized’ operation and the Italian state company Trenitalia. This is rather new and even confuses locals, hopefully the situation will change again soon, but for now its best to be careful which tickets you have for which train. There are three main types of tickets:
- [Long-] Distance Tickets either for Trainitalia or for DB/ÖBB Italia are normally issued for specific long distance express trains like EuroCity Trains and may include connections to local trains. There are domestic and international variants. They are cheaper if bought in advance (online sales possible) and need to purchased for the specific train/operator.
- Single Tickets for regional trains (normally denoted with an ‘R’ or otherwise marked on the schedule), can be bought from point-to-point domestically. They are basically the same as the Value Card tickets, but may be easier for visitors for use.
- Value Card is indeed an amazing value, as it give a significant reduction over Single Ticket price. It is valid on all local and regional trains (including to Innsbruck in Austria). Cards are available in €5, €10 and €20 denominations from white vending machines and at sales points (train stations, small shops). You then need to validate the card before each journey by inserting it into a green stamping machine and entering the destination code where you’re headed. The codes are posted by the machines in all stations and buses. Locals know the system takes some getting used to and are very helpful.
Travelling across South Tyrol from Mals (West) to Innichen (East) will cost about €14 and it’s a travel of about 4 hours. The Value Card fare from Bolzano Central Station to Mals is €6.43 and it’s a travel of about 2 hours – while from Bolzano to Innichen costs €8.22 and it’s also travel of 2 hours. Between Bolzano and Mals or Innichen there are also direct connections during the day but travel time doesn’t change. Reaching Innsbruck costs €12.78 and the travel lasts 2 hours. (All prices using the Value Card.)
Operators: The operating companies and train-types:
- Trenitalia operate mostly regional services on the Brennerlinie between Brenner and Bolozano and onward to the rest of Italy. They also operate some regional/local trains on the branch lines, including the occasional connection from Lienz in East Tyrol (Austria) via Bruneck and Franzenfeste to Innsbruck (in the northern part of Austrian Tyrol). Many trains are old and not accessible to people with reduced mobility. Trenitalia do operate some express trains (EuroCity, InterCity, espresso, EuroNight) from Bolzano south–Be sure to have a Distance Ticket if boarding one of these (aboard these trains regional tickets are worthless).
- DB/ÖBB Italia(Italian) is a partnership between Austrian Railways (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) , Deutsche Bahn (Germany) and the Italian company Trenord (previously LeNORD). They jointly operate several daily EuroCity express trains that run Munich-Innsbruck-Brenner-Franzenfeste-Brixen-Bolzano-Verona/Milan/Venice/etc. You need a ticket specifically for these trains, Trenitalia tickets are not valid. Tickets are available (surcharge-free) aboard, at the public transportation vending maschines in South Tyrol or at specific DB-ÖBB offices and partner agencies in other Italian cities. Online, DB is the easiest place to buy them.
- Südtirol Bahn (also known as Vinschger Bahn[-operater] after their original strech. Operates most of the trains on the Pustertalbahn: Franzenfeste-Bruneck-Innichen-Leinz(A), and many trains on the other regional lines Meraner Linie and Vinschgerbahn. Their trains are all comfortable, new, and accessible (as well as the majority of stations they serve).
- ÖBB Regional & S-Bahn operate local S-Bahn trains that connect perfectly to the Trenitalia regional/local arrivals and departures in Brenner (for onward travel to Innsbruck). Also they operate some trains to Innichen on the border to East Tyrol, where services connect to Südtirol Bahn trains on the Pustertal Line
The local public transportation website has all the details, and the only understandable trip-planner for the region.
Buses reach places that trains can’t. South Tyrol has excellent bus connections inside the country with a very efficient transport system. Traveling by bus is not expensive and permit to go up to the most isolated village on the mountains. The major regional hub is at Bolzano bus station. From Bolzano depart buses to the places in the surrounding districts (metropolitan area and mountain villages) and to the most important distant towns. From the major local hubs (Meran, Brixen, Sterzing, Bruneck and Schlanders) depart buses to the nearest surrounding areas. On regional buses you can buy your ticket on board too – drivers sell also value cards.
Also the smallest and most isolated mountain village is well connected through a well-kept road. In South Tyrol there are three kind of roads: local roads, provincial roads(SP/LS meaning Strada Provinciale/Landesstraße) and statal roads (SS meaning Strada Statale/Staatsstraße) – however provincial and statal roads are run by the regional government of South Tyrol. Highway A22 is a toll road and paying is compulsory. In South Tyrol police seems to be much less tolerant than in other parts of Italy, so pay attention and keep to the rules.
Traffic signs are always very precise and the usage of pictographs is more common than in other parts of Europe since in South Tyrol two or three languages have to be used. In most parts of South Tyrol signs are written in the German/Italian order, while in Bolzano and other smaller Italian-speaking areas in Italian/German. Also complimentary information is bilingual. In the Ladin-speaking valleys road signs are trilingual – Ladin/German/Italian.
Speed limits are:
- 130 km/h on highways (green traffic sign);
- 110 km/h on freeways (blue traffic sign – similar to a free highway);
- 90 km/h on single-lane roads (blue traffic sign);
- 50 km/h inside cities (after the white traffic sign on which is written the place name).
Italian laws allow a 5% tolerance on local speed limit and fines are generally very expensive.
Motorbikes should drive always with the headlights on, for other vehicles that applies only outside cities. In mountain roads there are a lot of accidents involving bikers – so pay attention.
The tolerated limit of alcohol is 0.50g/L in blood. Being above this limit is thus illegal and can entitle you an expensive fine and license withdraw and maybe also a night in jail. Also driving after having taking drugs is illegal. All passengers are required to wear their seat belt and children under 10 must use the back seat.
South Tyrol has one of the most developed bike trail systems in Italy and especially in the valleys you can reach most of the towns in the region and also in the surrounding regions. Along bike trails there are a lot of lay over points. The majority of bike trails begin in Bolzano/Bozen. On the web site of the regional government you can find the maps of the bike trail systems in South Tyrol divided by districts or Bezirke.(German and Italian). In this region are different shops for the rental of bicycles, if you want come or extend your tour from the Veneto Region is recommended Venetian shop in Mira that can arrange with a small fee : deliver pickup, drop off and customized logistics support for move of your luggage/bike.
The official languages in South Tyrol are German and Italian. In general, everyone younger can speak and is taught Italian. One could say that most Ladin people can speak German as well but only a few Italian South Tyrolians can speak German depending on where they live. If they live in big cities they are unlikely to speak German. Really to get around outside of Bolzano or Merano one should speak German. All road signs and services to the public have to be provided in both languages. In the regional parliament deputies can speak their mother tongue and laws have to be published bilingual. In addition to German and Italian in South Tyrol there is a third semi-officially recognized language – Ladin. This ancient language originated after the invasion of the Ancient Romans in the Alpine region is spoken in the Gardena and Badia valleys – and also in the Fassa Valley in Trentino and Cortina d’Ampezzo area in Veneto. Ladin has a fully official status in the valleys in which it’s spoken and also in the capital it’s common to see trilingual signs – but not road signs. It is a sister language of Romansh, still spoken in eastern Switzerland and Friulian, spoken in north-eastern Italy.
Every 10 years during the census South Tyrolean have to declare their ethnic affiliation in order to decide the percentage which has to be given at working places to German-, Italian- or Ladin-speakers. In the last census 69.15% declared to be German-speaking, 27.65% were Italian-speaking and 4.37% were Ladin-speaking.
Italian-speaking South Tyroleans live mostly in Bolzano – about 55% of the whole Italian-speaking population, and they are a majority in 4 other municipalities: its metropolitan area – the three metropolitan municipalities of Laives, Bronzolo and Vadena, and in the village of Salorno which borders Italian-speaking Trentino to the south. There are other big Italian-speaking communities in the most important towns such as Meran, Brixen, Sterzing and generally in the Wipp Valley. Ladin-speaking people are a majority in 8 municipalities and there are small minorities in Bolzano (0.71%), Brixen and Bruneck. German-speaking South Tyrolean are the dominant group in 103 of 116 municipalities – the most German-speaking village is Sankt Pankraz with a 99.81% german-speaking population. In general the more rural, the more likely the inhabitants speak German.
In everyday life most German-speaking South Tyroleans speak their local dialect, generally called Südtirolerisch, but this has a lot of varieties from location to location. The South Tyrolean German dialect is related to the Bavarian dialects spoken in Austria and Bavaria. Some loan words have been taken from Italian – especially bad words, though! A local Italian dialect exists only in the area of Laives in the Bolzano metropolitan area – here Italian-speakers of Trentinan ancestry speak a dialect of central Trentino mixed with local German dialect (this dialect is commonly called Laivesòt). Only old Italian-speakers can speak the dialect (mostly Venetian) of origin being the others born in South Tyrol where the literary standard was the solution in order to communicate – however in local Italian there is a regional Venetian substrate as well as German influences. Ladin has no officially recognized literary standard – but it exists – and Ladins speak in South Tyrol two different dialects: Gherdeina and Badiot.
So, if you’re going to go to South Tyrol it would be better to know some words of German instead of Italian, especially if you decide to visit villages and the mountains – in some valleys some local populations could have problems understanding foreigners speaking Italian, which is for them a foreign language too, particularly if they are elderly.
English is spreading fast and especially younger people can speak it, but this depends on their education level. English is a compulsory subject in South Tyrolean schools. In hotels, tourist offices and tourist places English is well known. In other places it would be better if you know some words of German (or Italian). French is not so popular but especially in Bolzano and other towns some young people can speak a little French.
As South Tyrol is a part of Italy and consequently of the Eurozone, the official currency is the Euro. The best rates for changing money are offered by banks. Nobody will accept foreign money anymore, though at the time of national currencies, German Marks and Austrian Schillings were quite accepted.
The prices are a bit higher than the Italian average but it depends on the area – and for example they are in any case cheaper than in the United Kingdom. Most touristy developed areas are more expensive than the regional average. For example accommodations in the Bolzano metropolitan area town of Laives are cheaper. There is big differences also in prices between hotels of the same category – so a three star hotel could have similar prices to four but also two star hotels. Four and five stars hotels could ask more than €100 for a night staying but two stars hotels ask less than €40 (except in highly touristy developed areas). If you want to save money avoid to reserve a room in famous places and prefer near but less popular locations. Youth hostels are cheap if you see that the quality is much higher than European standards.
In South Tyrol tipping is not so common – however in tourist areas it’s quite normal and accepted. If you also were satisfied of the service you could round up the bill.
Shopping in South Tyrol
South Tyrol is the souvenir paradise: loden, traditional hand-crafts and regional delicatessen. Especially if you want to buy some delicatessen like speck (a kind of smoked ham), dairy products, confectionary, apples, bread, honey or wine, grappa and apple juice you can find them also in supermarkets where they are far cheaper than in tourist shops – but they have a greater choice. All typical products from South Tyrol have a distinction mark within is written “Südtirol”. It’s to note that also typical meals are to be found frozen in supermarkets like e.g. spätzele, knödel and schlutzkrapfen. A local company called Nägele produces a lot of popular juices but also local coke and spetzi (coke mixed with lemonade). You can find the South Tyrolean coke in glass bottles in some supermarkets and in their store in Algund near Meran. The most famous South Tyrolean biscuits are probably the wafers of Loacker: in Bolzano there is an official store which sells all kind of Loacker biscuits.
ATMs in South Tyrol are called Bancomat. They are wide-spread and you will find them even in smaller, rural villages. The majority of shops, restaurants and hotels accept ATM cards and credit cards.
Bargaining is absolutely not common and considered strange – only with the immigrant pitchmen is possible to bargain.
Opening hours can be different in tourism destinations and in towns. In tourist places during high season shops are open also on Sunday for example. Seasonal sales begin first in the valleys and after in tourist places. Normally in Bolzano winter sales begin around 7th January and summer sales after the 15th August. On Sunday shops are closed – sometimes hypermarkets in Bolzano are open.
- Supermarkets (in Bolzano and major centres): 08:00 – 19:00 (sometimes until 19:30, on Saturday sometime until 18:00)
- Supermarkets (in other centres, also some chains in Bolzano): 08:00/08:30 – 12:30/13:00 in the morning and 15:00-19:00 in the afternoon
- Hypermarkets (in Bolzano): 08:30/09:00 – 20:00
- Department stores: 08:30 – 19:30
- Small and middle shops: 08:30/09:00 – 19:00/19:30
- Petrol stations: along the highways usually 24 hr a day, along the freeway Bolzano-Merano 06:00-23:00
South Tyrolean cuisine is typically Austrian (Tyrolean) with Mediterranean influences but today also Italian stereotyped specialties like pizza and pasta with Bolognese sauce are offered as local dishes in Tyrolean-style restaurants – however portions are big and flavor sometimes better than in other parts of Italy. Chives here is almost everywhere.
Typical South Tyrolean products include Speck (a kind of smoked ham), a lot of sorts of bread, strudel, apples and a lot of pastries. During Christmas typical cakes are Zelten and Christstollen.
The regional dish par excellence is the Knödel. Knödel are bread balls with speck or other ingredients, and were a complete meal in the past. There are also sweet knödel which are made with apricots (Marillenknödel), with plum (Zwetschgenknödel), with chestnuts (Kastanienknödel).
Other known entries include specialties such as Herrengröstl (potatoes, beef, onions, speck), Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy pancake with raisin and sugar), Gulaschsuppe (typical dish in all of Central Europe), Schlutzkrapfen (a kind of dumpling with spinach or other ingredients), Spätzle (a kind of spinach dumpling), pork roast or sausages with sauerkraut.
In pubs and cafés snacks are offered – among them there is a local invention called Bauerntoast (farmer’s toast), which is toasted local rye-bread stuffed with speck and cheese (sometimes also with salami or small tomatoes) and dished with ketchup and mayonnaise.
Bread is very important and there are a lot of local bakery chains. In the Bolzano area there are e.g. Lemayr, Eisenstecken, Franziskaner, Hackhofer. In bakeries it is possible to buy cheap sandwiches and pastries. Bakeries operate also in supermarkets – here prices are even lower.
Restaurants in small places close very early (around 21:00), while in major centers and tourist areas the kitchen closes around 22:00/23:00.
In Bolzano and major towns there are a lot of different kind of restaurants including ethnic specialties. In the most conservative parts of South Tyrol the only choice is the Gasthof, the typical Austrian-style restaurant with local dishes. The most traditional are quite cheap but there are some Gasthof which was transformed into a luxury local restaurant. A meal could cost between €8-12. Menus are written in German and Italian, sometimes also in English. In all restaurant in South Tyrol menus are at least bilingual, while in the more expensive restaurants menus are normally also written in English and in some places also in Dutch. It’s common to split up the bill in a group, except in very expensive restaurants.
‘Imbiss’ means fast food, and is what you will see on the sign of stands that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. In South Tyrol, the variant known as Currywurst is very popular. It is a sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Imbisse are found in major centres and on the roads. They are cheap. Beer and often harder liquor are available in most. ‘Döner Kebab’ is lamb or chicken with Turkish origins stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. In Bolzano it’s very popular and was imported from Austria and Germany by Montenegrin immigrants years ago – Bolzano is maybe the first city in Italy where a kebab stand was opened. There are a dozen kebab stands there. In other towns kebabs are more difficult to find. McDonald’s has a location only in Bolzano.
Vegetarianism is not common but many restaurants offer dishes which don’t contain meat. A lot of hotels and restaurants offer a vegetarian menu for their guests, but only Bolzano has more choices with restaurants for vegetarian diets.
The legal drinking age in South Tyrol is 16. Local alcoholic drinks include wine and beer. Nightlife can be found mainly in Bolzano – other towns are a bit more sleepy, but you can find discos, disco pubs and pubs in major centres and in tourist areas. However, the most popular ones are in the Bolzano metropolitan area. Pubs are open until 01:00 or 02:00 in the morning and begin to be full of people after 20:30-21:00 on Saturday. Discos are open until 06:00 and people go there around midnight.
Beer in South Tyrol is a very popular drink among all ages. The local brewing company Forst is the leader in South Tyrol. Forst produces six kinds of beer and the Premium is the most known and drunk. In South Tyrol there are also small brewhouses (pubs that produces their own beer). In Bolzano the Bozner Bier is very popular and can be found only in the pub in which it’s made and in a restaurant.
In pubs and restaurants you could have a big choice of beers, the majority of which is imported – especially from Germany. In some hypermarkets in Bolzano there is a big choice of local and export beers also from Australia, Japan and Mexico. Normally there is no price difference between local or export beers in pubs or restaurant – however Guinness could be a bit more expensive. Irish pubs are spreading in all South Tyrol and especially in the capital.
South Tyrol is a renowned wine producer. The three most known local types are Lagrein and Magdalener both from Bolzano and Gewürztraminer from Tramin. Especially in the south of South Tyrol there are a lot of cellar in which you can taste the wine from producer. Other sorts of wine include pinot blanc or vernatsch. Despite the fact that South Tyrol has one of the smallest vineyard surfaces in Italy it’s considered to be in the top 5 regions in quality.
South Tyrol is the ideal place for people who love coffee. Here you can find typical Italian espresso and Viennese cappuccino, or Irish coffee and American coffee. Normally small bars offer only Italian-style coffee and in some cases German coffee, though. The best American coffee can be found at McDonald’s in Bolzano (ask for take away if you want to have the paper glass) for only €0.90 – here you can drink the cheapest coffee in South Tyrol. Coffee in South Tyrol is the most expensive in Italy with an average of €1 for an espresso (in the Bolzano city centre or in exclusive bars also €1.20) but it’s far less expensive than in neighboring Austria or in Germany.
If you are visiting South Tyrol in winter you can drink the very popular Glühwein (mulled wine), a spiced wine served very hot to comfort you in the cold of winter. You can find it especially in the Christmas markets or in ski resorts’ après ski.
In South Tyrol there is a big production of grappa which is very good quality. However in South Tyrol you can find all kind of spirits.
Cocktails and aperitifs
The most popular local cocktail is the Flieger which is Red Bull and vodka and it can be red (with strawberry vodka), black (with raspberry vodka) or white (with normal vodka). The aperitif time begins at 17:00 but a lot of people drink an aperitif also in the night. The most popular drink is Veneziano which is white wine and Aperol.
In South Tyrol you can find all kinds of soft drinks but the most popular soft drinks are Spezi (pronounce: “sh-peh-tzi”) which is a cola-lemonade mix and Spuma which is an aromatic soda, very similar to Austrian Almdudler (which sometimes also can be found).
Where to stay in South Tyrol
South Tyrol is a tourist region and all options for accommodation are provided. You can find without problems hotels, B&Bs, youth hostels, campings and farm holidays. Tourist offices can help you in finding your ideal accommodation. During the Christmas market period accommodations are full in fast all the region – advanced reservation is required.
International hotel chains like Best Western, Sheraton and Steigenberger have franchises in South Tyrol, most of them especially in Bolzano. In South Tyrol there is a local international chain for wellness hotels which has locations also in Austria, Croatia and in the Czech Republic and it’s called Falkensteiner. Among hotels are included e.g. luxury, international, typical, big, small, and cheap hotels. There are a lot of pensions (small familiar hotels) and gasthofs (restaurant with rooms for guests). Quality is very high also in small 1-star pensions, so price are not the cheapest in Europe. Category is given in stars (from 1 to 5 where the 5-stars are the most expensive).
- Granpanorama Hotel StephansHof 4-star hotel. St. Stefan 12, Villanders • Tel. +39 0472 843 150 • Fax +39 0472 843 348 • email@example.com
B&Bs, Garni and Residence
B&Bs are more common as Garnis which are very closed but they are more similar to small hotels. Residence are small apartment houses which offer most times also breakfast.
In South Tyrol there are six youth hostels (Jugendherbergen in German, Ostello della Gioventù in Italian) which are budget accommodations but have high standards. They are good places to get to know other travellers. Of these six hostels, four are international youth hostels and two are independent hostels.
There are hostels in Bolzano, Meran, Brixen, Toblach, Salorno and Neumarkt.
In South Tyrol there are a lot of campings with a lot of services – so they could be a bit more expensive than in other parts of Europe.
One other possibility in South Tyrol is the holiday on a farm (Ferien am Bauernhof). Here the farm is a small familiar company and it’s simple to find farmers which made a guest house in their farm. Farms with beds can be found also in city or town outskirts.
In South Tyrol there is an international and trilingual (English, German, Italian) university – the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano which exists since 1997. In Bolzano there are a lot of students from all over the world. The university has also a location in Brixen (Faculty of Education) and Bruneck (Major in Tourism Management). The university has a very important library.
In Brixen there is also the High School of Theological Studies , while in Bolzano there are also other high schools like the Academy of Music and the College for Health-Care Professions.
There are also Italian and German courses provided by the University in Bolzano.
In South Tyrol, the unemployment rate is less than 2.5% and there are many job possibilities if you know both German and Italian. It is easy to find a seasonal job during winter or summer. Language schools and other institutions need qualified people at these times. The regional government provides a job finder on the web (only German and Italian).
EU citizens can work without visas but people from other countries have to ask for a visa and a permission to the Italian authorities.
South Tyrol is one of the safest regions in Italy and in Europe. There is practically no violent crime. You only need to be careful of pickpockets in crowded places.
Venturing out of town for outdoor activities, especially in winter, there are dangers related to cold weather and mountaineering. Know what you are doing. Especially note the danger of avalanches.
If you need the police, call 113.
Stay healthy due to COVID-19 in South Tyrol
South Tyrolean hospitals and health service are among the top ranked in Italy and for emergencies call 118. There are no dangers for your health.
The tap water is of exceptional quality and safe to drink in 100% all over South Tyrol.
Most of South Tyrol is mainly German speaking and some tourists may have problems understanding the diversity of this region. Guests interested in the (recent) history of South Tyrol are appreciated but try to stay neutral when discussing the topic and avoid asking to German-speaking people for an explanation as to why German is official language in an Italian region by affirming to them ‘But this is Italy!’. Don’t ask to people you don’t know very well what he/she feels or identifies (Italian, South Tyrolean, German, Austrian, European etc). If you are speaking with German speakers don’t use Italian place names – the same goes for Italian-speakers, better to use the Italian and not the German names. Especially speaking about the Fascist and the Nazi period you have to be very careful: don’t show any swastikas or other symbols of Nazism or Fascism, such as shouting “Heil Hitler” or showing the “Roman salute/Nazi salute” in public, even if it is only meant as a joke. If you are showing the “Roman salute” to a German-speaker he could think you are a neo-fascist, while an Italian-speaker may think you are a neo-Nazi. So it’s better not to do this. Also making jokes about Adolf Hitler can be considered vulgar.
In South Tyrol there is an Austrian style mixed to Italian etiquette: for example when entering and leaving public places South Tyrolean always say Grüß Gott or Buongiorno when arriving Auf Wiederschauen or Arrivederci when leaving. Don’t say ciao or hallo to people you don’t know. It’s very impolite. Don’t raise your voice or shout in public, especially on public transportation, as this is considered extremely impolite and aggressive. Eye contact is very important if introduced to someone or toasting. When toasting say prost in German or cin cin in Italian – normally, Italian-speakers use both.
Complete nudity is forbidden in public especially if there are children, but it’s common to see topless women in beaches and recreational areas.
When eating knödels, note that because they should be tender, if you use a knife for eating them you are saying to the cook that the knödels he/she cooked are not good.
If you are walking in the mountains, it is common to greet the people you meet.
Telecommunications in South Tyrol
Calling South Tyrol
International code for Italy is +39 while the code for South Tyrol is 047. The final number is 1 for the Bolzano area (0471), 2 for the Brixen area (0472), 3 for the Meran area (0473) and 4 for the Bruneck area (0474). Also calling from abroad you have to put the 0 of the local code.
Public phones are available in the offices of telecom. Phone boxes are to be found on street and from phone boxes you can also send SMSs. Phone boxes usually operate with prepaid cards which can be obtained from kiosks and tobacco/newspaper stores (German:Trafik, Italian and local German dialect: Tabacchino).
Phone numbers have an area code followed by the phone number itself. Mobile phone numbers use the prefix prefix without 0 and the first two digits being 32…, 33.., 34.., 38… Toll-free numbers are denoted by 800, numbers starting with 166 or 899 are usually expensive lines.
In the tabacchini you can buy also prepaid cards for calling outside Italy. Especially in Bolzano there are a lot of phone centers run by immigrants where you can phone.
South Tyrol has a perfect GSM and 3G (UMTS) network coverage of nearly 100% in the valleys, in remote mountainous areas you might have problems.
In Italy there are not so much cell network providers which are only four: TIM, Vodafone, Wind and Tre (3G). There is no big difference between them and they are all expensive related to other European countries. In Italy there was a fee for prepaid cards – after a consumer fight this was outlawed.
Internet Cafe’s in South Tyrol
You can find internet cafes mainly in Bolzano. Hotels in cities do normally have internet terminals, more expensive hotels provide internet access in the rooms itself.
Already eleven Corona Infections at the Pope’s Swiss Guard
In the Vatican, seven other members of the pope’s Swiss Guard tested positive for the corona virus . This increased the number of demonstrably infected guardsmen to eleven, as the Swiss Guard announced on Thursday. All infected people had been isolated, the message said. The brightly uniformed guards protect Pope Francis and his residence.
A major corona outbreak among the guards could therefore also be dangerous for the Pope, 83 years of age belongs to the risk group. The Argentinean pope had part of his right lung removed at the age of 21 due to severe pneumonia but he is considered relatively healthy for his age.
The Catholic media platform “Vatican News” reported in early October that the guardsmen had been asked to “be careful when dealing with the Pope” because of Corona. Face mask and social distancing are required, however a young man who was interviewed about his recruit swearing in (October 4th) said that Francis had already shaken his hand.
Corona measures in Italy – Italy reacts to the 2nd Wave of Covid-19
Italy introduced a nationwide facemask requirement in the open due to the increase in new infections. If you don’t wear a mask when leaving your apartment, you risk a fine of up to one thousand euros, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced. You do not need to wear a face mask when you are doing sport. The regulations do not apply in private rooms or in places where only one family is staying. Children under six years of age are also exempt from this obligation.
In view of the rising numbers, Italy’s Minister of Health Roberto Speranza also ordered mandatory tests for travelers from Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Another measure taken by the government shows how deep the shock of the first wave of more than 30,000 deaths still sits: It passed a law that prohibits the Italian regions from adopting measures that are less restrictive than those taken by Rome. However, you have the option of setting even stricter rules. Some regions, such as Lazio and Campania, had already decided that the public must wear a facemask.
Lombardy Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Italy
Lombardy or Lombardia is a northern region of Italy, and with 10 million people is the most populous one. Producing 1/5th of Italy’s GDP, it is also the mightiest economically. Geographically, Lombardy encompasses both Alps and Prealps in the north, and relatively flat plains in the south along the river Po and its tributaries. Between them there are many scenic lakes, and the alpine backdrop makes even the low-lying cities picturesque and the air rather fresh.
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Lombardy is heavily industrialized, although most of the industry is actually not heavy, but rather mid-sized specialized machinery-building and other assembly and engineering firms, as well as consumer industries such as foodstuffs and apparel. The regional capital, Milan, is Italy’s second-largest city and the foremost centre of commerce and a global fashion capital. Smaller cities also have considerable economic might, and have had so for many centuries, hence Lombardy is the region of Italy with the most UNESCO World Heritage List sites – and simply, a lot of history and scenic views to explore and enjoy.
- Lombardian Alps and Prealps (provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio)
- Lake Como (provinces of Como and Lecco)
- Southern Lombardy (provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Mantova and Pavia)
- Grande Milano (provinces of Milan and Monza and Brianza)
- Milan (Milano, the capital of the province) – shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world, and is Italy’s second city.
- Bergamo – a fairytale pastel-coloured city perched atop a hillside, and the gate to Bergamo Alps
- Brescia – a major industrial powerhouse since the Ancient Roman times, and a UNESCO World Heritage List
- Como – the city that gave the name to the popular lake
- Cremona – home of Stradivarius violins, but also a wealth of ornate romanesque architecture
- Lecco – a little and charming city situated on Como’s lake.
- Mantua (Italian: Mantova) – the Ducal Palace has a cycle of frescoes by Mantegna that no art lover should miss.
- Sondrio – the northernmost provincial capital situated amidst alpine mountain ranges
- Varese – capital of the namesake province full of lakeside resorts, just 30 minutes from Malpensa airport
- The magnificent lakes of Lake Como – take boat trips in the shadow of the Alps to the picturesque villages of Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo – Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda and Lake Lugano.
- The tiny village of Erbusco, home of the award-winning wines of Franciacorta and L’Albereta, the country inn of Gualtiero Marchesi, one of Italy’s premier chefs
- The peninsula of Sirmione, on the south shore of Lake Garda
- The Caves of Catullo, an archaeological site of a former Roman villa situated on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula
- The Sirmione Spa, the largest privately owned thermal treatment centre in Italy
- Val Camonica : UNESCO heritage site, medieval towns, castles, holy art in churches, roman sanctuary and theatre/amphitheatre, ski sports.
- Oltrepò Pavese : Wine region in the utmost southern part of Lombardy, 70km from Milan, part of the Pavia province, medieval towns, castles, stunning views.
The Longobardis occupied the Peninsula in the 6th century, and the territory has been named after them ever since.
Lombardy is a prosperous region with fertile soil and a temperate climate. As in Piedmont, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry. High mountains in the north, marking Italy’s frontier with Switzerland, provide excellent skiing and climbing.
Three of Italy’s four busiest airports are in Lombardy:
- Milan Malpensa Airport is an intercontinental airport, and Italy’s second aviation hub after Rome Fiumicino. It has multiple direct connections to Africa, Asia and North America, as well as across Europe, where it is served by both full-service and low-fare carriers.
- Milano Linate is Milan’s city airport, served by business-oriented flights to European major commercial centres, as well as a dense Italian domestic network.
- Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport is served almost exclusively by low-fare carriers, taking advantage of its proximity to both Milan and the Alps.
Despite only Linate being in the city and province of Milan, all three airports are marketed as serving the city. One can easily get to other destinations in the province from them, without necessarily changing in Milan. There is also a small airport in Brescia, which in recent years has seen next to no scheduled traffic.
Travel by train to Lombardy
Road and train links connect the region with Switzerland. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, there is a possibility that you will be delayed by checks at the border, although these are infrequent and usually not rigorous. Remember your passport.
There is a relatively dense railway network connecting cities and towns in Lombardy, although the layout is intricate and getting from one place to another may not be straightforward. You should be able to reach your destination within 1 or 2 hours by train. Otherwise, buses and minibuses link important destinations, especially those popular with tourists. Hubs are usually in regional centres, as well as near major railway stations and airports; you can try to change there if there are no direct connections. Regional train network is entirely managed by Trenord.
Regione Lombardia offers a good travel planner that lets you query the whole public transportation system.
If you plan to travel a lot, it might be worth buying a io viaggio ovunque in Lombardia pass ticket. Those tickets let you travel without limit on the entire public transport system in Lombardy, including regional trains, buses and city public transportation systems, but excluding some ferry boat lines. Although expensive, they can easily be a cheaper option than regular tickets if you travel long distances. Passes are sold at railway stations (at ticket box or automatic vending machines) and at ATM automatic vending machines. You can buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes (16€, 27€, 32.5€, 43€ respectively – February 2020).
The railway company Trenord offers some good travel packages, under the Trenord Free Time name. The package usually includes a ticket to an attraction or a trip proposal and a train ticket to get to the destination. Most of them are really useful only if you depart from Milan. It’s worth to take a look at the offers as they can also suggest you some new or lesser known itinerary that you may like.
As the Autostrada A4 runs across Lombardy, with the road system radiating from its junctions, you can get around by car as well. The A4 frequently gets congested though and traffic jams can be long and excruciating, especially around Milan. Be aware that Italians drive fast and make no allowances for foreigners, so be sure you are OK with keeping up with the traffic and occasional displays of impatience from other drivers.
Milan, Bergamo and Brescia have efficient and extensive public transportation systems.
What to see in
- Milan Fashion Weeks draw crowds of fashionistas to Milan every year.
- La Scala in Milan is a mecca for opera aficionados.
- You can enjoy water sports or more relaxed boating on the lakes.
- The Alps offer opportunities for hiking or skiing.
Lombardy’s most famous culinary inventions are minestrone soup and osso buco (literally “ox knuckles”). To the west of Milan lie miles of rice fields, where the rice for risotto alla milanese is grown. Other typical dishes of the area include salumi (cold cuts) and polenta.
As in many other areas of Northern Italy, the aperitivo (pre-meal drink with appetisers, for which a small supplement might be charged) is very popular.
The wineries in Franciacorta, around Erbusco, produce many excellent wines. The region has been elevated to the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Other remarkable zones for wine are Oltrepò Pavese (which is the zone around Pavia on the south banks of Po river) and the countrysides around Garda Lake.
Valtellina also produces excellent wines, famous for their strong taste and flavour.
As every big city in the world, Milan has also many high quality restaurants, wine bars and Enoteche (wine store) where you can find high class wines from all over the world.
Where to stay in Lombardy
Large cities, like Milan, Bergamo or Brescia, are important business centres, so they have sizeable bases of business-oriented hotels. They are local hubs with connections to destinations within their provinces, and getting between them is also reasonably quick via a variety of means of transportation (trains, express buses or cars across the A4). Do note that accommodation in Milan is generally expensive, and prices skyrocket during major events or fairs, such as the Milan Fashion Week.
Destinations along the lines of the lakes, as well as those in the Alps, are popular with tourists, so you will find a variety of accommodation options there, from luxurious resort hotels to simple B&Bs.
While Milan features many of the usual tourist traps and con acts, as well as sizeable number of pickpockets due to the number of tourists there, other destinations are generally safe, and you can feel secure and welcome there. Do note, however, that in case you need to contact the police they can have very limited English skills and also may not be able to help foreigners much.
To the east is Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, to the south is Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont is to the south and west. Switzerland lies to the north.
Current Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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