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Innsbruck: journey into the history of the Habsburgs

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Innsbruck, the capital city of the Tyrol in the heart of the Alps, is a small medieval village surrounded by ancient walls and imposing buildings that delimit a historic center characterized by arcaded streets and intersections of small alleys overlooked by houses painted with pastel colors and frescoes that tell the vicissitudes of one of the most powerful dynasties in Europe: the Habsburgs.

Innsbruck, in fact, is linked to the one who called history “the last knight” of the Middle Ages Maximilian I of Habsburg who, with his war and marriage policy, characterized the beginnings of the Renaissance. Bold and cultured man, he promoted the arts and sciences and established his residence in Innsbruck, leaving his traces throughout the Tyrol over time.

Massimiliano I. Photo TripOrTrek

Massimiliano I D’Asburgo had two wives: the first Mary of Burgundy, married for love, the other, Bianca Maria Sforza married for convenience.
If the happiness of the first marriage was interrupted by a fatal hunting accident for the young Burgundy, the second was marked by unhappiness.
In fact, the Emperor was never in love with Bianca Maria. He used to say that Sforza, despite being as beautiful as his beloved first wife, was not so “wise”.

The quality of Bianca Maria, in fact, was all in her rich dowry with which Massimiliano, to celebrate their union and the power of his kingdom, had the Neuer Hof of Innsbruck adorned with the “Goldenes Dachl” (the Golden Roof) , a loggia whose roof is made up of over 2,500 small golden copper tiles that have now become the symbol of the city. Bianca Maria never participated in political life, she lived in court castles in Tyrol and died of anorexia in 1510.

Her image as a sad queen is depicted in a bas-relief preserved in the palace of the Golden Tettuccio where she appears with the emperor and the his beloved and never forgotten first wife Maria of Burgundy.

Hofkirche, photo TripOrTrek

In 2019, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Massimiliano I, the city will celebrate the figure of the emperor with a rich program of events (www.maximilian1.at/en/) and itineraries that will start from its symbolic place, the Tettuccio d ‘ Gold while in the Tyrolean Folk Art museum, housed in a former Franciscan convent of the city, a multimedia video accompanies visitors to discover the historical, political and religious background of the era of Maximilian I before leading them to the Hofkirche court church, note also as “Church of the black men”, in which the sumptuous sepulcher of the emperor is kept.

Castello di Ambras. Photo TripOrTrek

Between myths and legends, Innsbruck also hides the traces of a timeless fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast. A love story really lived and told in a painting contained in the chamber of wonders of the Ambras castle on the outskirts of the city.

The picture depicts the beast man. He was called Petrus Gonsalvus, he was a Spanish nobleman with hypertrichosis, which made him a beast in appearance, but human in feelings and refined intelligence. The doctors of all the courts of Europe studied him for years, but only a woman was able to look beyond that aspect of “monster” by falling in love with her soul: her name was Catherine. Their story became a legend, their love a fairy tale to be discovered in the castle of Ambras which also preserves other curiosities and memorabilia from around the world collected by the great-grandson of Maximilian I, Archduke Ferdinand II.

Hofburg. Photo TripOrTrek

The testimonies of the Habsburg life in Innsbruck are also preserved in the halls of the Hofburg imperial palace, nearby is the Café Sacher where you can taste the famous cake. Before being emperors, the Habsburgs were a family.

A large family led by a woman, Maria Teresa D’Austria, who left a visible sign in the imperial palace: the room of the Giants. The empress restored the castle in the Rococo style and transformed the ballroom into an art gallery that celebrated every member of the Habsburg-Lorenza with large portraits. Faces and looks of emperors who changed Europe, portrayed in their prime, when their destiny was none other than being the children of one of the most powerful women of all time.

Rathausgalerien. Photo TripOrTrek

The baroque splendor still present in many buildings, such as the congress hall of the Grand Hotel Europa among the oldest in Innsbruck, coexists alongside the contemporary lines of the new buildings that give the city a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

During the visit to the galleries of the Rathausgalerien town hall it is a must to take the lift and go up to the top floor to enjoy the panoramic view from the 360 ° Café, while for those who want to immerse themselves in the Tyrolean food and wine culture, dinner at the Weisses Rossl.


Olympic trampoline Bergisel Ski Jump. Photo TripOrTrek

If Innsbruck is an important tourist destination due to the architectural beauties of its center, it is not possible to pass by the Austrian city without stopping at the vertiginous Olympic ski jump Bergisel Ski Jump. A place on which history has passed: here in 1809 the Tyrolean independence war was fought which saw opposing the local army, led by Andreas Hofer and composed of civilians who claimed the “Tiroler land libelt” or the sacred right of defense of the borders sanctioned by Maximilian I in 1511, and the French and Bavarian armies.

Despite the strenuous Tyrolean defense, the French prevailed. Hofen sought refuge in the mountains, but betrayed, was imprisoned and, by order of Napoleon, shot in 1810. His exploits are recorded in the circular painting kept inside the nearby Tirol Panorama Museum (www.innsbruck.info).

The hill that had seen the opposing fortunes of the French and Tyrolese was then chosen in 1925 to house the construction of the first trampoline that served for the Olympic competitions of 1964 and 1976. Renovated in 2002 based on the project of the archistar Zaha Hadid now hosts international competitions and its 47 meters of height are enhanced by a restaurant from which you can admire the whole city.

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