Leaving the summit, the road led me downhill all the way to Bolzano, the capital city of the province of South Tyrol. Prior to World War I, Bolzano was primarily a German-speaking city belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the 1920’s, following Italy’s annexation of the province at the end of the war, Benito Mussolini initiated a programme designed to transfer as many German-speaking people as possible to the Third Reich, replacing them with Italian-speaking immigrants.
|An unusual outdoor gallery near the |
outskirts of Prato allo Stelvio.
With a population of just over 100,000, it didn’t take me too much time to wriggle my way through Bolzano’s busy streets. The attractive spa-town of Meran-Merano by comparison, was a different proposition. Thirty kilometres to the north, its 17th century stone bridge crosses the fast-flowing Passer River close to the centre of town. Half-walking, half-riding my bicycle along its crowded cobblestone streets, I patiently searched for the right road, the SS38 towards Bormio. Ironically, I’d passed a host of signs throughout the day directing traffic towards Passo Stelvio, the sentinel that separates the Venosta valley in the north and the Valtellina to the south. One hour and four kilometres later, having overcome the dangers of heavy traffic and impatient drivers, not to mention off-road encounters along gravel paths within fruit plantations, I finally reached the road I needed all along, the SS38.
|Road Sign out of Spondigna.|
|Stelvio; the road ahead.|