Ötzi the Iceman @ Mummy Tombs




Visiting his Museum

Schoolchildren line up to visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

Ötzi the Iceman now resides in his own museum in the northern Italian city of Bolzano (also known as Bozen).  

Books about Ötzi

I can't recommend a visit to Bolzano highly enough. The city is full of many charms in this corner of northern Italy. Just south of the Austrian border, Bolzano was not always part of Italy, and the German-Austrian influences are apparent in the architecture. Don't be surprised if you hear German spoken (or at least the local dialect of it). Most residents are multilingual.

A former Bolzano bank building, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology now displays Ötzi and his belongings and occasionally features special exhibits.

The museum is full of fascinating exhibits. Visitors begin on the entrance floor, working their way up through the archaeological ages to the fourth floor (which contains artifacts from the Roman times and early Middle Ages). 

Here are the highlights:


Entrance Level

Visitors are initially greeted by a life-size hologram of the Iceman as they make their way to the ticket desk (about $10 for adults; discounts for students, seniors, and families). Exhibits on this floor set the stage for Ötzi: the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic Ages are covered.


First Floor

The first floor is the home of Ötzi, though you may have a hard time locating him. The displays on this floor are excellent: well-designed and technologically-advanced. The Ice Man's clothing is displayed in a series of cases (complete with drawings) that show how each garment was worn. Dominating the scene is a life-size replica of Ötzi. He was fairly short and not in good condition, despite what early reports (and many Ötzi books suggest). 

As for Ötzi himself, he is displayed off to the side in a separate area and is visible only through a small stainless steel window; he looks smaller than you might expect and very fragile. You climb a step or two to get a glimpse: Ötzi in a deep freeze. This display is so discreet that some people might easily miss it. He looks a little more frayed--his left thigh in particular has been used for some sampling it appears. He may have lasted 5,000 years in the glacier, but it is doubtful that he will last another 5,000 in our modern deep freeze. Of course, the important thing is not that his body lasts to amaze museum-goers, but that scientists learn as much as they can of his life and times so that all of us can be better informed about the history of the world.


Second Floor

The second floor covers the Bronze Age with a diorama of the copper smelting furnaces of Favogna and artifacts (such as a handled goblet from the Laugen culture). But you might be more impressed by the discoveries of the Iron Age (also displayed on this floor): about the same time that Ötzi was found, a pair of "socks" (for lack of a better word) and two pairs of leggings were found, according to the museum, in the Reisenferner group in the Val Pusteria. Woven partially from fine wool, the leggings are the best textiles that survive from this period. 


Museum Shop

On the main floor, the museum also contains a good shop. A great deal of merchandise is for sale, including many books (mostly in German or Italian, though there are at least two guidebooks in English). There are great Ötzi key chains and mouse pads (even an Ötzi backpack for junior campers and Ötzi-philes). But the best item for sale is a packet of postcards that depicts Ötzi, his discovery site, and his many possessions.


Visiting the Museum


You can visit the South Tyrol Museum on line (in German, Italian, or English).


In person:

If you want to visit the museum in Bolzano, the city is approximately 3 hours north of Milan and 90 minutes south of Innsbruck, Austria. You may find it convenient to fly into Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, or Milan and then drive or take the train to Bolzano. The scenery is beautiful either way!

If you are driving, there is a large multi-story car park near the train station. The streets are narrow, as in most Italian towns, and there are many pedestrian-only areas that make walking a pleasure (but driving and parking very difficult).

Ticket prices and other practical information can be found here.