Sterzing - Vipiteno in South Tyrol

The town of the Fuggers

Sterzing, the town of the Fuggers, lies in the heart of the old Tyrol in the midst of historical grown landscape with archaic roots and rich tradition. Since the earliest days Tyrol has above all been a pass country which owed its importance to its geopolitical location. The sensational discovery of the iceman Ötzi (given the name Ötzi after the Ötzal Alps, nicknamed Frozen Fritz) at the boarder of the South Tyrolean Schnalstal to the North Tyrolean Ötztal gives testimony to the traffic over mountain passes of the main ridge of the Alps being the most important discovery of a corpse of archaeological research after Tutenchamun.

The settlement area was limited, the heights were inhospitable, impenetrable the canyons and the wide valley and basin were contaminated with diseases. The first settlement in today’s town area was found at the Custoza-Bühel in the South-east of Sterzing. It is assumed that the Roman field names of this area are an account for settlement continuity. If also the Roman fort “Vipitenum” was located there, which gives the town its Italian name, must thitherto stay open.

Not until the migration period bigger Germanic groups came to our area like the Bavarians, who were looking for settlement here. They settled down in an autonomous community in the area of today’s old town and with it, one could say, there existed already something like a shared existence in society between the ethnic groups in the early medieval time.

Admittedly a numerically stronger German element prevailed soon. The name “Sterzing” came to the fore and by and by replaced the old “Vipitenum”. Named after the legendary founding father of the town “Sterzl”, the settlement received its town charter under Mainhardt II in around 1280. Provided with regional baronial privileges the rise of the town as trading centre and opponent of the Episcopal town of Brixen began. The flourishing of mining in the surroundings helped the township to gain prosperity and extensiveness.

The early Modern Age is the golden age of the town with an extremely booming construction activity. After the fire that damaged or destroyed some of the houses of the town, the townsmen decided on a reconstruction which should be testimonial and memorial at the same time for the town’s prosperity. The boulevard of old and new town with its lordly private town houses, which combine prestige and utility in a harmonious way, goes back to that time.

While the prosperity of mining was fading, the town remained the centre of commerce. And so, a certain affluence was maintained that was enough to cultivate tradition and to open up to new things. Today Sterzing is a jewel, a harmonious whole of old and new, unique and amiable, with all its peculiarities and its being petit bourgeois.

Here every building tells its own story and behind each corner traces of a long gone world are displayed. And those who step into the big arc of the old town-hall reckon themselves captured therein for a short moment …