My first visit to Bolzano almost ended in complete disaster before it even started. I had taken a train from Kufstein Austria to Innsbruck and thought it would be a great idea to spend a day there before taking a late train to Italy. In hindsight, this was probably not the best idea, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I arrived in Bolzano, a little Tyrollean town at around midnight, only to discover that almost every pension and hotel had locked its doors for the night. I looked all around the train station, which is where all the reasonable pensions are usually located in Europe, but to no avail.
Then a car pulled up outside the train station and a young guy asked if I needed any help. He was well dressed and drove a nice car and Northern Italy is not really known for its dangerous element. So when he told me his uncle had a pension nearby, I gladly accepted a ride. We drove around to the pension, but I was disappointed to see that it was one that I had already tried. After 15 minutes outside, making all kinds of noise, he drove me back to the station apologizing the whole way. Just before we arrived 5 police cars came from every direction. They had been looking for him. For what, I have no idea, but after taking my passport for an hour and some serious questions in broken English, they believed I was just a traveler in the wrong place at the wrong time. The cops were even nice enough to take me to a hotel they knew was open, though it was on the edge of town and way out of my budget. “Oh well” I thought… “I need to sleep and why not have a bit of a splurge”.
I awoke the next morning to find a magnificent little town nestled in the mountains. Bolzano is filled with little squares lined with cafes, museums and gothic churches. You can wander through the Lauben, a charming mile-long street in the city centre with mediaeval arcades and visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which has the mummy of Ötzi the Iceman. About 75% of the residents speak Italian, the rest German, which makes getting anywhere interesting if you speak neither language very well. But it is beautiful and relaxing, a place you can easily spend a few days wandering. Just stick with the age-old advice from moms the world over. Don’t accept a ride from a stranger.
This is an entirely true story that I wrote for a website called “Best Hotel Stories“.
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