The heart of the museum circuit conceived by Reinhold Messner is located within the ancient walls of Castel Firmiano, made accessible by a modern structure in glass and steel. The exhibition itinerary winds through the towers, halls and courtyards of the fortress, offering the visitor an overview of the mountain universe. Works, paintings, relics and natural artifacts tell the close relationship that unites man with the mountain, the orogeny of mountain ranges and their disintegration, the link between mountain and religion, the majesty of the most famous peaks in the world, the history of mountaineering from the beginnings to today's alpine tourism.
The castle stands on a porphyritic rock elevation that rises at the confluence of the Adige and Isarco rivers to the south-west of the Bolzano basin. The strategic position of the fortress suggests a long past.
The site already carried out defense functions in the Bronze Age and was an ancient Lombard frontier fortress. The first mention of its ancient name "Formicaria" dates back to 945. From 1027 it was the seat of the administration of the prince-bishops of Trento. Among the oldest fortresses in South Tyrol, with its walls up to five meters wide Castel Firmiano represents one of the first examples of defensive architecture. In 1473 the Tyrolean prince Sigismund the Danaroso bought the castle from the prince-bishop Georg, transformed it into a fortress and renamed it Sigmundskron (“Sigismund's crown”). Its decline began in the 16th century, when Castel Firmiano ceased to be used for military purposes. At the end of the 18th century the property passed to the counts von Wolkenstein, who were succeeded, from 1807 to 1870, by the Counts of Sarentino, and then, until 1974, by the Counts Toggenburg. In 1996 the ruins were purchased by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano.
ph. credit: Georg Tappeiner - Gerhard Hagen