The provincial capital of Alto Adige (Südtirol, or South Tyrol) is anything but provincial. Once a stop on the coach route between Italy and the flourishing Austro-Hungarian Empire, this small city is worldly and engaged, a long-time conduit between cultures. Its quality of life – one of the highest in Italy – is reflected in its openness and youthful energy and an all-pervading greenness. A stage-set-pretty backdrop of rotund green hills sets off rows of pastel-painted town houses. Bicycles ply riverside paths and the aroma of Middle Europe lingers around the wooden market stalls laid out with cheese and speck (cured ham). German may be the first language of 95% of the rest of the region, but Bolzano is an anomaly. Its Italian-speaking majority – a legacy of Mussolini's Italianisation program of the 1920s and a more recent siren call of education and employment opportunities – embraces a history linked intrinsically with the Austrian Tyrol and today looks both north and south for inspiration.