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Glamorous, turbulent and lean times

The first to take the cure – Dr Johann Nepomuk Huber

At the beginning of the 19th century, Merano’s sole attractions were its surrounding landscape and healthy climate. Dr Johann Nepomuk Huber, personal physician to the Princess Mathilde von Schwarzenberg during her 1836 stay in Meran, produced a medical brochure on “the city of Merano in Tyrol, its surroundings and climate, together with remarks regarding milk, whey and grape cures and the nearby mineral springs”, published in 1837. He proclaimed the advantages of Merano throughout Europe, thus sounding the first notes in the development of Merano as a spa town.

The first sanatorium – Dr Bernhard Mazegger

In 1840 Dr Mazegger established the first cold-water sanatorium and the first boarding house in Obermais, just outside Merano. The city population observed the development with sneering mistrust. But Dr Mazegger, far ahead of his time, recommended a cold-water cure in summer, a whey cure in spring and a grape cure in autumn. Only in the 1880s were the first exclusive hotels established in the city. Up until that time Merano was visited mainly by those suffering from chest complaints and others in need of recuperation, as evidenced by the numerous sanatoriums.

Copper for the war effort

During the First World War the copper roof of the Kurhaus, weighing 8.8 tonnes, was appropriated by the military authorities at a price of 4.5 kronen a kilo.

The military canteen in the Kurhaus

In January 1917 a military canteen was set up on the ground floor of the Kurhaus with space for 1,000 persons. At first it was a number of women from Merano who kept the voluntary catering service going. Following the Italian occupation, the military canteen provided 6,000 meals to soldiers each day.

State visit by the King

With the end of the First World War, the former aristocratic resort on the “southern balcony” of the Austro-Hungarian empire became the northernmost province of Italy. In October 1920 South Tyrol was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. One year later, King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena visited South Tyrol. Schoolchildren were made to march up and down in the Kurhaus to celebrate the event.

140th anniversary of the spa town

1974 saw the celebration of 100 years of existence of the old Kurhaus in the Pavillon des Fleurs and the 60th anniversary of the large Kursaal, with another jubilee in 1976 to celebrate 140 years of Merano as a spa resort, ever since the stay of the Princess Mathilde von Schwarzenberg and her physician Dr Johann Nepomuk Huber. The Kurhaus, sorely in need of renovation, was refurbished and “beautified” by the architectural couple Lilly and Willy Gutweniger, who saw to its most pressing needs. Several international horse races, an international chess tournament for the Merano Gold Cup, an exhibition and a regional music festival with a large parade, concerts by the Munich Radio Orchestra, the Bad Reichenhall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bozen Haydn Orchestra, gala evenings and shows were all on the programme for the three weeks of celebrations.

World Chess Championship in Merano

In 1981 the World Chess Championship in Merano was again in the spotlight. The citizens’ initiative know as the “Merano Working Group” around engineer Siegfried Unterberger succeeded in attracting both the 1980 candidate final and the Chess World Championship to the city. The atmospheric setting of the Kurhaus was used for the ceremonial opening.

Contact Organiser & Visitors

Kurhaus & Stadttheater Meran
Freiheitsstr. 33
I-39012 - Meran
+39 0473 496000

Zwei Seelen
Ein Vorspiel by Hannes Egger