An influx of people from the surrounding villages arrives daily in the otherwise quiet market town of BRUNICO (Bruneck), which is also the transport centre of the region. Brunico was the home of the painter and sculptor Michael Pacher (c.1435–98); his Vine Madonna can be found in the parish church of the village of San Lorenzo, 4km to the southwest. Pacher is probably the most famous Tyrolean painter and woodcarver, straddling German Gothic and the more spare Italian styles; there’s something vaguely unsavoury about this particular Madonna and her pudgy child, gripping a bunch of black grapes, but it’s refreshing to see work in its original setting rather than in a museum.
Brunico Castle, on Schlossweg 2, is home to a branch of the Messner Mountain Museum focusing exclusively on the Sherpas of Nepal. Bressanone-born climber and explorer Reinhold Messner is renowned primarily for having made the first ascent of Everest without oxygen in 1978 and for being the first human to climb all fourteen of the world’s peaks over 8000m. Having retired from the Earth’s high places, Messner has set up an inspiring and engaging museum in his home region dedicated to the world’s mountain ranges and the cultures of the people who inhabit them. The museum is spread over five branches – Firmian at Schloss Sigmundskron, Ortles near Solda, the Dolomites branch south of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Juval in the Val Venosta and Ripa at Brunico Castle – occupying some pretty spectacular and sometimes remote real estate. Log onto wmessner-mountain-museum.it to find out more.