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The center of town is the Piazza Duomo, a long, rectangular tree-shaded square with cafes on one side and the white facade of the Duomo on the other. A baroque renovation to the tall exterior, flanked by two bell towers, has masked much of the cathedral's original 13th-century architecture, which you'll see more of in the interior and in the crypt. The heavily frescoed cloisters (entered through a door to the right of the main one) are especially charming, even though the view of Judgment Day they portray is gloomy. The cathedral is open daily 6am to noon and 3 to 6pm; there are guided tours (in Italian and German) Monday through Saturday at 10:30am and 3pm.

Just south of the Piazza del Duomo, on the adjoining Piazza Vescovile, stands the palace of the prince-bishops, whose power over the region -- and the fragility of that power -- is made clear by the surrounding moat and fortifying walls. The massive 14th-century palace now houses the Museo Diocesano, where more than 70 rooms display wooden statuary, somewhat unremarkable Renaissance paintings by local artists, and what is considered to be the museum's treasure and the objects most likely to capture your attention -- an extensive and enchanting collection of antique Nativity scenes, filling eight rooms and one of the largest such assemblages anywhere. The museum (tel. 0472-830-505; www.dioezesanmuseum.bz.it) is open March 15 to October 31, Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm; the Nativity-scene galleries are open only from December 1 to January 31, Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 5pm (closed Dec 24-25); admission, including the Nativity scenes, is 7€. Note that frequent exhibits often double the admission price.

Festivals & Markets

With its cozy, twisting medieval lanes and snug Tirolean-style houses, Bressanone is especially well suited to Christmas celebrations. The main holiday event is a Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) from late November to Christmas Eve; stalls on and around Piazza Duomo sell hand-carved ornaments, crafts, holiday pastries, and other seasonal merchandise. A fruit-and-vegetable market enlivens Piazza Parrocchia near the Duomo Monday through Saturday from 8am to noon and 3 to about 6pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.