It has had many names over the centuries: Muster-Gasse, Herren-Gasse, Archduke Rainer Gasse, and, once again, the Muster-Gasse. In the 18th century it was the town's most elegant street.
Before the old town wall was demolished in 1277 the street was an insignificant outlying area, though afterwards it became a natural extension of the medieval town centre to eventually become Bolzano’s most prestigious street where wealthy merchants built their noble residences.
The Muster-Gasse gained its present-day appearance during the 17th and 18th centuries. The mercantile classes and nobles bought existing houses and transformed them into prestigious residences, adding baroque (later classic) style facades.
These unassuming baroque facades concealed sumptuous interiors. Called "Palais", the names of these noble residences create history of their own: Palais Menz (now a bank), Palais Campofranco (the present-day Goethe Gallery, once the residence of Archduke Rainer of Austria), Palais Pock (now occupied by an insurance company). With the exception of Palais Menz, which can be visited at 10am each Wednesday, these splendid residences are only open once a year.
The end of World War One saw the decline of the Muster-Gasse and the former magnificent, now vacant edifices, were sold off, in several cases to Italian companies and became offices and commercial buildings.
Palais Campofranco was the medieval residence of Florentine bankers Cocci - Botsch (1760).
In the 19th century Palais Campofranco became the residence of the archduke Rainer of Austria and of his granddaughter, Princess of Campofranco.
Palais Menz was built in 1670. The palace was purchased in 1753 by the Menz family, prestigious members of the merchant patriciate of Bolzano.
Palais Menz was considerably renovated, it still preserves the ball room with rococo style frescoes (between 1776 and 1784) by Karl Henrici inspired by Tiepolo. At the time Henrici was regarded as the best painter in Bolzano.
Bolzano's merchants such as the Menz family and Franz Anton Pock brought art treasures back from their journeys from both Italy and the Orient. For the wedding of the family's son Georg Paul with Klara Amort in 1776, the Palais Menz was decorated with frescoes by Karl Henrici whose works were influenced by the Venetian school, especially Tiepolo. The ceiling is embellished with the triumph of love featuring Cupid depicted without his bove, while medaillons on the walls feature the ancient gods, Neptune, Pluto, Bacchus and Aeolus. The wall pictures are classic examples of the baroque, and above all Venetian, attitudes towards life: groups of people dancing, playing music and coquetting in a garden landscape.
Other attractions include oriental art, especially Chinese art which was popular in the late 18th century, again painted by Henrici. Menz was a mercer who imported fine floral fabric from the Orient, though the materials on display also include Peruvian, Indian and other textiles dapicting imaginative sea landscapes with exotic vegetation and surrealistic, exquisite birds.
Today Palais Menz accomodates a bank and on request the frescoed assembly hall on the first floor can be viewed.