Situated on the junction of the rivers Talvera (Talfer) and Isarco (Eisack), BOLZANO (largely known by its German name, Bozen) is the capital of the autonomous province of Alto Adige. In both winter and summer, the town's 100,000 population swells with tourists although it manages to maintain a relaxed pace of life and is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding mountains. An unmissable pleasure is the local wine: Bolzano is at the head of the wine road (Strada di Vino/Südtiroler Weinstrasse) which runs south to the border with Trentino.
Located in a predominantly sunny, sheltered bowl, for centuries Bolzano was a valley market town and way station whose fortunes in the Middle Ages swayed as the Counts of Tyrol and the Bishops of Trento competed for power. The town passed to the Habsburgs in the fourteenth century, then at the beginning of the nineteenth century Bavaria took control, opposed by Tyrolese patriot and military leader Andreas Hofer. His battle in 1809 to keep the Tyrol under Austrian rule was only temporarily successful, as in the same year the Austrian Emperor ceded the Tyrol to the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy. More changes followed, as Bolzano was handed back to Austria until after World War I, whereupon it passed, like the rest of the province, to Italy.