A sword fight in the name of fame and honour. Defeating the dragon that captured the damsel. The noble knight who goes to great lengths to conquer his beloved. Sounds familiar? Even if our swords were actually gnarled branches, the dragon a complete figment of our imaginations and the brave knight never turned up in the end, the Middle Ages hold a peculiar fascination, and not just for children! The many fortresses and castles in South Tyrol bear witness to these bygone times, with their mystical stories of heroes and relicts of history.
Exploring the walls of history
No matter in which corners, valleys or mountains you find yourself, you come across castles, fortresses, country houses and ruins at every turn. There are around 800 such strongholds in South Tyrol, each with their own little idiosyncracies and contributing in their own small way to the greater picture. Anyone wishing to follow these traces of history cannot miss Schloss Tirol. This historical seat of the Counts of Tirol played a decisive role in the history of the area. Nowadays, the castle houses an interesting museum: as well as information on the intrigues surrounding the Counts, remnants of the Bronze Age and a reappraisal of the turbulent history of South Tyrol in the 20th century.
Where castles abound
Even if there are magnificent castles to be found all over the region, nowhere else is there such a high density of manor houses and fortresses as in the district of Eppan. Around 200 buildings of art-historical interest stretch across the Überetsch area, with the 'Three Castles Walk' between Schloss Korb, Schloss Hocheppan and the ruins of Boymont castle. The chapel of Hocheppan castle featuring old frescoes is a particular highlight. The ruins of Sigmundskron Castle, which have become well known beyond the borders of the country mainly for housing a museum set up by the mountaineer Reinhold Messner, are located not far from this triangle of castles. There is another Messner Mountain Museum in his private castle, Schloss Juval, in the Vinschgau valley.
Calling all fans of brave knights!
So much about old castle walls and historical museums, but what was a knight's life like? You can find out on a tour around the Churburg fortress: a unique collection of knights' armour is housed in a considerable armoury. The noble arcade courtyard and the splendid halls of the Renaissance castle take visitors back to times gone by. Likewise, there is Schloss Prösels, in which an impressive weapons room may be found. Those keen on the less bloody side of history, on the other hand, should pay a visit to Schloss Runkelstein near Bozen, which is well known as the 'fairytale castle'. Its impressive cycle of frescoes tells of exciting knightly legends and damsels in distress.
Just like castles, there are plenty of private hosts to be found all over South Tyrol, who will be happy to hand out even more tips and tell more tales – to make your holiday a fairytale adventure.