The renowned Arcades, Via dei Portici with its arcades begins at the western side of Town Hall Square. This is definitely one of the most visited streets of the town.
Not only are the Arcades the heart of commercial life in Bolzano, but they are also regarded as one of the best known shopping centres, thanks to the uninterrupted sequence of elegant, traditional and modern shops with their particularly attractive windows.
Details to note: the facades of the buildings-one of them richly decorated with floral patterned plaster work in the Baroque style and embellished by the characteristic "Erker" (wooden shutters on the wall).
The town of Bolzano was founded around 1180 AD. Its first street, the Lauben-Gasse or "Arcaded Street", has remained the pulsating centre of the flourishing trading town. It runs for 300 metres from east to west.
The Arcades, once Bolzano's only street, came into being all at once. The prince bishop of Trento provided the building ground (former venyards), awarded the intentionally narrow buildings plots to tradesmen and craftsmen, and gave exact instructions as to how they were to be developed.
The new town consisted of the Episcopal administrative seat in the present-day Korn-Platz and the houses beneath the arcades. It lay along the "Emperors' Route" from Brennero to Rome, which "Holy Roman Emperors" travelled along on their way to the crowned in the eternal city.
On they northern side the houses of the arcades abutted the old town wall built in 1277 by Count Meinhard II of Tyrol, while the present day Silber Gasse (Argentieri road) was on the southern side comprising two towers, a wall and defensive ditch.
The street was entered at both ends by a gate. Market women sold fruit and vegetables in front of the Upper Gate, the present day Fruit Market (Obstmarkt), from 1180.
Initially the Romanesque-style houses were single-storey with an arched stone portico in front. The ground floor had to be built of stone; the upstairs floor could be timber-framed. However, after several devastating fires the first floor also had to be built of stone with an arched ceiling. On the street side the cellar area was often three levels deep, though only one at the rear.
A water channel called the "Ritsch", diverted from the River Talvera, ran along the southern side of the street.
A typical house beneath the arcades is only four strides (four yards) wide, 50 metres deep and consists of a section facing the street, plus a central and rear section separated by atriums. The houses are packed together with a space of around one foot required for the statics of the Romanesque stone walls, visible in the passageway to the Troilo house, from the arcades side (no. 51) to the Silber-Gasse (Argentieri road).
This passageway was from the very beginning a direct access route to the cathedral, while other passageways to the present day Silber-Gasse (Argentieri road) and Dr. Streiter-Gasse (Streiter Road) probably came into being as a result of rebuilding works. The fabric of the Arcaded Street houses can be clearly seen in these passageways.
Numerous houses in the Arcaded street had their own wells.
Old Town Hall
The street-side facade of the old town hall (seat of the town administration until 1906) features a Gothic pointed arch framed with sandstone, and remains of the original facade painting can be made out (executed around 1491 by Conrad Waider).
Presumably all houses in the Arcaded Street and their vaulted interiors were decorated with paintings.