Walther square in Bolzano
Alone in December each year Walther square attracts almost a million visitors to Bolzano's Christmas market which takes place in the square, while hundreds of thousand of tourists sit at pavement cafes throughout the year to soak up the winter sun or enjoy the shade during Bolzano's hot, dry summers.
In the middle of the square is the statue of Walther von der Vogelweide (ca. 1168 - ca. 1228).
Walther square was build in the year 1808 on a vineyard which was owned by the Bavarian royal family. King Maximilian sold it to Bolzano's town council for 3,000 florins on condition that it was made into a square.
Initially it was a large area of packed earth, around which buildings grew up, above all hotels alongside Hotel Greif (Grifone), the successor to the inn "Zum Schwarzen Greif" which dated back to the 16th century. They were built to cater for the elite tourists which flocked to the town, especially from the court of Vienna.
By then the town was already becoming popular as a tourist destination due to its beauty, mild climate and its centre which had preserved its medieval character almost intact.
The square's most distinctive feature is the monument erected in 1889 in memory of the great poet and bard Walther von der Vogelweide. It was removed during the fascist era (1935), then returned after the Second World War.
The square's name also changed several times: from Maximilian-Platz in honour of the King of Bavaria, then Johanns-Platz, then Walther-Platz, followed by King Vittorio Emanuele, Madonna and finally once again Walther von der Vogelweide.
Various armies paraded in the square: Bavarians during the Napoleonic Wars, Austro-Hungarians, Italians, Germans and the present-day army of the Italian Republic. It has been the venue for appearances by Emperor Franz Joseph, then his successor Karl I and his consort Zita, King Vittorio Emanuele III and Mussolini.