Wednesday, August 17, 2011


While in Northern Italy some years ago, my husband and I visited Bolzano or Bozen—a former Austrian town lost after World War I to Italy—is often called the “Gateway to the Dolomites.” Located in the northeastern Italian Alps, close to the Adage River, the longest stream in Italy after the Po, Bolzano is surrounded on three sides by awesome, towering mountains composed of vividly-colored limestone, jagged clefts and plateaus—Nature’s skyscrapers. In winter, the region invites skiers, in spring and fall a brisk hike beckons, in summer there is nothing like a romantic stroll.

The pedestrian center of the town offers restaurants, both Italian and Austrian, beer gardens, a Piazza named for a troubadour—Piazza Walther—and for the studious, streets named for Dante and Goethe, a Conservatory named for Monteverdi and an orchestra named for Haydn. Bolzano is also the home of the ice-man, affectionately known as Oetzi, a 5,300-year old gentleman who receives callers at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology.

Oetzi discovered in the Oetz Valley region between Austria and Italy became the object of a heated discussion between the two countries. Was Oetzi an Austrian making his way to Italy or an Italian heading to Austria? By examining his teeth, scientists have now decided that Oetzi was from the Eisack Valley in the South Tyrol in Italy and lived during the early copper age.

In his backpack Oetzi carried a flint knife. Dapperly dressed in leather and hide, he carried a bow, a fur quiver holding fourteen arrows made of viburnnum and dogwood and a copper axe. Forty-five years of age, poor Oetzi suffered from arthritis and stuffed his shoes with straw to keep out the cold. He now lies in a special glass walled fridge at a temperature of six degrees centigrade.

DNA samples from his stomach show he took pleasure in a dinner of venison before being killed by an arrow and enjoyed berries and mushrooms. He also chewed on bones no chewing gum in those days. Wounds on his hands and head indicate Oetzi was involved in a fight for his life. He suffered a wound from an arrowhead that severed a major blood vessel. He managed to escape for a short period of time but died in the gully where he was found millenniums later. Scientists later discovered wounds on his hand and new X-rays show major bleeding in the back of his brain and a skull fracture. Doctors now believe Oetzi may have been attacked twice.

The museum at Museumstr. 43, 1-39100 Bozen-Blozano, records the history of the South Tyrol from 15,000 BC through 800 AD. Archeological finds, exhibits and reconstructions and videos are both captivating and illuminating.

From the Bolzano’s train station the Dolomite peaks glow as the sun sets. Located close to the station is the cable car that takes visitors to the mountain woodlands and to meadows with dazzling views of the Dolomites.



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