Bolzano (Bozen), capital of the autonomous province of Alto Adige, is tucked among craggy peaks in a Dolomite valley 77 km (48 miles) from the Brenner Pass and Austria. Tirolean culture dominates Bolzano's language, food, architecture, and people. It may be hard to remember that you're in Italy when walking the city's colorful cobblestone streets and visiting its lantern-lighted cafés, where you may enjoy sauerkraut and a beer among a lively crowd of blue-eyed German speakers. However, the fine Italian espresso and the boutiques will help remind you where you are. The long, narrow arcades of its Via dei Portici house shops that specialize in Tirolean crafts and clothing, as well as many Italian designers. With castles and steeples topping the landscape, this quiet city at the confluence of the Isarco (Eisack) and Talvera rivers has retained its provincial appeal. Proximity to fabulous skiing and mountain climbing—not to mention the world's oldest preserved human body—make it a worthwhile tourist destination. And its streets are immaculate: after Milan, residents here have the highest per capita earnings of any city in Italy.
The Bolzano-Bozen Card (€38), on sale at the tourist office, gives free entry to 89 musuems in Bolzano and Alto Adige, as well as free transport throughout the region, guided tours, and bike rental.