The How You Living Interview Series: Bolzano, Italy

I wanted to try something new, so I created this interview series dubbed “How you living?!” that will feature glimpses of city living through the lens of some friends of mine. Hopefully 10 to 13 questions are enough. Ciao! This week, we’re in Bolzano, an Italian city with German roots, to learn about the best places to eat, hiking and cable cars, medieval architecture, and the warm-hearted people!! Enjoy the interview and leave a comment using your Facebook or Twitter account!

Interviewee: Garfield Hunter
Location: Bolzano, Italy

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter

The Interview

Phil Rodriques (PR): Where are you originally from?
Garfield Hunter (GH): I am from Clarks Hill- located in Golden Spring, a small farming community in Rural Saint Andrew, Jamaica.

PR: Why did you move to Bolzano?
GH: Funnily enough, I keep getting this question a lot (given the location of Bolzano), because Bolzano is located in the Alps region of Italy, and is the capital of South Tyrol in northern Italy. It is a small town of 100,000 people. They are surprised that I would leave a large city as Shanghai [China] for a small town as Bolzano. I am currently a PhD Student in Shanghai and I applied for a Research Fellowship at the European Research Academy (EURAC Research) to gain more insight on Renewable Energy and Sustainable Urban Development. So now, I am a research collaborator for year.

PR: What’s the best part about living in Bolzano?
GH: This has to be the surrounding environment. Bolzano is a sustainable city. It epitomises greenery, walkability, pedestrianisation (the entire town centre is car-free, with exceptions made for public transportation and people with disabilities); healthy lifestyle through jogging and running with bicycle, jogging and walking paths clearly demarcated.  It is also remarkable to see men in business suits, women, and kids riding bicycles going about their daily tasks. The environmental awareness and historical knowledge of the people is amazing, and the social and political environment stimulates order and heightened quality of life for its citizens.

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter

PR: What’s the worst thing about living in Bolzano?
GH: Two things come to mind, one is a result of the other. Bolzano is the city with the highest quality of life in the whole of Italy; therefore, the cost of living is higher than other cities in the country. Therefore, the price for goods and services will undoubtedly be higher. A major hindrance though is finding inexpensive accommodation, so most people combine to rent apartments. I am not used to renting a room within a flat, so this is relatively new to me and I did not adjust easily to this.

PR: You’re an urban planner and Bolzano is known for its medieval city centre. What is your favourite historic building(s) and streetscape feature(s)?
GH: There are several historical buildings, which are aesthetically pleasing to me, the Museion, (the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Bolzano), the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology that has the mummy of Ötzi the Iceman. However, my most favorite is the Bolzano Cathedral, which incidentally is located next door to my apartment. The Cathedral, which was constructed in 1180, is magnificent, and brings you on a journey where medieval meets contemporary architecture, with it’s with uniformity in design, attention to detail, and Gothic style of the Suevian mastery.

As an urban planner I was most pleased to see brick roadways in the historical centre of the city. This is in keeping with the historical nature of Austrian towns in South Tyrol (given the history of Bolzano, between Italy and Austria in the WWI).

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter

PR: What would you describe as the most “touristy” thing to do in Bolzano?
GH: I am looking forward to the winter season to start skiing lessons, but there are many more activities that visitors can do such as visiting all the historical sites, river rafting, and climbing by the cable cars. However, what separates this city and region from others is the availability of pristine natural environment, which facilitates hiking and camping (I do those every weekend). The major scenic spot is the Dolomites [watch the video], which is several kilometres outside of the town centre. If you do not feel like walking through the rugged terrain, you can take the cable car to Ober-Bozen and then a train, which goes further into the forest region for a day of sightseeing.

PR: What city districts or neighbourhoods in Bolzano would you say have the best places to eat?
GH: The historical centre for sure, but to be more specific Walther Plaza, which is the main square, so it is usually a busy outdoorsy area with numerous restaurants, which maybe a little pricey. However, if you are on the go, you can find various official Kebab stalls around the town centre, my favorite is Donerland by Skampini, located at Piazza Domenicani.

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter

PR: Where are the best places to go for the nightlife experience?
GH: Technically, the library for me. However, there are several events happening in around the city centre on a weekly basis. The theatre usually has dancing and drama production from local and international groups. The Bolzano Cinema although not internationally friendly (as it only shows English movies once a month), provides entertainment for young people who speak German and Italian. There are several clubs and bars in the historical centre, which are usually abuzz with activities after work, but especially on the weekends.

PR: Where’s your favourite part of the city and why?
GH: My favorite part of the city is the promenade as this is where I jog, ride and walk. I usually ride my bicycle to work over two (2) km per day (as this is customary for everyone in my research group).

PR: How do you get around the city on a daily basis?
GH: I love my bicycle and it is the main means of transportation for me. However, during the summer months it is impossible to ride to work so public transportation (bus or train) was the alternative. Most of the activities takes place within the city centre so walking is ideal when undertaking activities in this zone.

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter

PR: What’s the most horrific or memorable thing you’ve seen since living there?
GH: Bolzano is the last regional stop between Innsbruck, Austria and Munich, Germany, so there has been a steady influx of migrants to Bolzano who want to go to these countries. I am broken by the desperation of these people and my heart is warmed by the reception that is given to them by the people of Bolzano. There is a voluntary reception centre at the train station, which provides shelter, hot meals and guidance to the migrants. The volunteers are very warm and friendly and treat the migrants as human beings.

PR: Tell us one stereotypical thing about Italians that’s true.
GH: Italians are hardworking and very humble. Most of my professional colleagues at the research centre are doing a PhD or have actually finished. Most are also well-accomplished scientists and researchers whom have contributed to international best practices and projects. However, most times you will never know, as they will never highlight these achievements. My colleagues said this is not so for southern Italy.

PR: What’s the one thing every visitor must do before leaving Bolzano?
GH: Tough question. I thought about it for a while, so I am sure about it; everyone should visit the Dolomites region of Bolzano. This will give you contrasting appreciation of the historical centre and the pristine natural environment that surrounds the urban landscape.

Photo credit: Garfield Hunter
Photo credit: Garfield Hunter