A normal day in Corvara, 21st February, as I turned on the computer at 10 a.m. and started to reply to the e-mails which had come in. Like always.
Loads of new e-mails: the last one came from a 'Tenute di Trinoro’.
'Andrea Franchetti has the pleasure of inviting you to sixth edition of the 'Contrade dell'Etna' on 15th April in Passopisciario.'
'Great’, I said to myself. 'I have never been on a volcano, with flowers in full bloom during mid-April, and wines from Etna are sublime.' How can a wine lover even consider not following up on such an invitation? Meeting all producers during an event held on Mount Etna is quite the rarest of occasions.
At long last 14th April had arrived and we set off to Linguaglossa. Yes, we, as the two 'super nose' tasters from our Hotel, mErCh and Manuel, were coming with me. Who else was supposed to help me out with all the wine tasting?
We left the wintry, snowy Dolomites behind us and, on the same day, we were welcomed on the island by the scent of blooming orange flowers.
We were fascinated by the bizarre landscape. The sea, the hilly area, the black, volcanic earth from which the 'alberello' vine sprouts (shrub-like vines that grow without trellises ) and the smoky chimney which is Mount Etna.
After an Italian aperitif in the old city centre of Taormina, we headed to our lodgings and had an early night. We hadn't come here to play, after all.
After a restful sleep we had breakfast on the terrace with a view over Mount Etna: an unusual occurrence for us during this period of the year. After a too sweet breakfast, for us mountain dwellers at least, we headed to Linguaglossa to the 'Contrada Guardiola’. This vineyard is located just slightly below 1000mt a.s.l. Before we commenced with the tasting, we had a walk on the vineyard of 'Tenuta di Passopisciaro’. Grand, a mix of rock, sand, clay and black, flat vulcanic rock. An absurd contrast even to the eye, made of green and black: a black surface from which grasses, ferns, bushes and even vines, Guyot and 'alberelli', grew.
10.30. Time to start, so we went and armed ourselves with wine chalices. The tasting session ran in two different buildings. The smaller room hosted wine-growers from the southern side of Mount Etna (versante sud), while the larger room hosted producers growing vines on the northern side (versante nord) of the volcano, amongst which our hosts, Passopisciaro.
We started our tasting session with the 'Etna Bianco’ white wine.
It's a white wine which is predominantly produced with the 'carricante' variety, together with other local varieties. As the main attraction was the 'Etna Rosso’, we finished the white wines and moved on. Not that many wine-growers produce white wines, or they have cleared their land to replace it with 'nerello mascalese'.
Nerello, a red wine grape, is the most cultivated type of grape in Sicily, after Nero d'Avola. These late-ripening grapes are used in the Etna region to produce an unmixed, balanced and rich in tannin red wine, which reminds us of noble red wines from Burgundy.
After diligent sniffing, sipping and spitting, 2 p.m. had come upon us and the tasting session was halfway through. We unanimously decided to go and eat something. A change of scene, after a quick car ride, passing by congealed lava, took us to the 'Trattoria Quota Alta’. We started with a strengthening starter menu, followed by 'pasta with pistachio’ and 'marsala scaloppini’. With renewed energy, we went back to Contrada Guardiola. After all, we had to plunge our noses a bit more into our chalices, and analyse further wines which had yet to reach our glasses. During the afternoon we tasted the remaining wines, one or two wine growers headed home, and the noise grew louder and louder: 100 decibel, that's how loud it sounded to us. At 6 p.m. the day had come to an end.
Conclusion: great location, absurd landscape, a number of great wines, an unforgettable journey. A ranking of wines will, however, not be included in this blog post. Those wines which convinced us the most can be found on our wine menu in the near future. So, let's toast to that!
Low-profile, high content: this is the essence of Fabian, with us since summer 2015. He confronts the deluge of numbers that face him everyday always in a positive way. Between an Excel file and an equation he found time to take a degree in Economics and Management, continued with his sport, always ate well and above all cultivated not only gardens and vegetable plots, but his boundless love of nature.
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Nicola Dal Falco
Nicola Dal Falco, writer and poet from Rome, with Ulrike Kindl, Germanist from the Ca’Foscari University in Venice, is re-reading and re-writing the Ladin myths of the Dolomites. His broadsheets and other art publications can be found in the British Library in London, the Ragghianti Foundation in Lucca, as well as the libraries at the Mart in Rovereto, Palazzo Sormani in Milan and the Panizzi in Reggio Emilia.
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1994 was the year when Arturo Spicocchi first came. He remained until 2014. Since 2002 he was the chef of ‘Stüa de Michil’. He just loved to prepare those wonderful olives Ascoli style and is so passionate about food that at times it was difficult to get him out of the kitchen! Michil had to force him out at times and is now so happy that Arturo has recently discovered the joy of cycling!
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Ernesto Costa is the boss. He now prefers to pass his time flying in his plane, polishing up his motorbikes, or tampering with antique cuckoo clocks from his collection. Always be quick to take his advice though for his insight into things is remarkable and he has an uncanny way of seeing things in their entirety.
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Daniel Verdorfer, cellarmaster extraordinaire at Hotel La Perla between 2012 and 2014. He was in charge of wine, the Mahatma Wine Cellar. He is from Tramin an der Weinstrasse in the South Tyrolean lowlands. He is into live concerts, exotic travel, good food and of course all types of wine.
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Manuel Dellago comes from Val Gardena: - we forgive every man his sins!! He is the food&beverage of the hotel. He is a real jester and almost always in a good mood. A fan of magic tricks he likes the chance to practise one or two! He is also head of the project of the Economy of the Common Good.
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Elide Pizzinini has been with us since 2006 and is the daughter of Ladin artists, grand-daughter of a famous couple and niece of very inspirational aunties and uncles! She lives together with husband Axl and her young sons Ezra and Edward in S. Cassiano - they both love plumcake! Friends and colleauges call her “ciüf” - a very special flower! Elide has a wonderful voice and when she tells a tale it seems that she is singing. As well as being Michil's P.A. she also deals with administrative and other aspects of the Costa Family Foundation.
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Ulrich Wallnöfer is co-founder and initiator of Pur Südtirol, a platform for the commercialization and development of regional, sustainable food and products. Furthermore, he is an associate and manager of Meraner Weinhaus GmbH, a company that is specialized in the sale of wine.
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Alexandra is from Ortisei, in Val Gardena. Her imagination has wings and her humour alights the souls. Once grown up, she wants to be an educator. When she is not studying for university exams, she follows her nephew Ezra with heart and soul. Ezra adores her. She was with us in 2013 as Michil’s assistant.
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Marco Sacchelli has been with us since 2005. Together with his wife Linda he accompanies guests on summer excursions. Marco spends his time between Corvara and Tenerife, the birthplace of Linda. His knowledge and insight into our Ladin valley is impressive and he is always ready to share thoughts and facts with friends new and old alike, and the role he fulfils is a much appreciated one.
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Born in Milan in 1975, Claudia’s life is concentrated on writing. After a university degree in philosophy and two master degrees – one in writing techniques for fiction and one in enogastronomic communication studies – she has turned her passion into a profession. She also works for Identità Golose by organizing events and writing menu cards and articles. Aspirations? Simply creating.
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Thomas Hanifle studied communication science in Vienna. Since 2005, he has been active in journalism as a freelancer, researcher at the Documentation Centre for South Tyrolean School History, author of several books and employee at Raetia publishing house. He is a founding member of the Ex Libris Cooperative.
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A lover of all things good in South Tyrol. He claims to be the British person to have skied the most in the Dolomites - first downhill in 1982 and still going strong. Travels extensively as international marketing director of Brain international but feels most at home at La Perla!
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Technology, London, web, San Cassiano, children, music listened to and played, degree in industrial design, basketball as a boy, skiing and walking when possible: Axl is a mix of all these qualities which are ideal for anyone whose job is to look after Casa’s web marketing-oriented communication, something he has been doing since September 2015
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Without neglecting one important fact: he is also the husband of Elide!
Alexander Egger has been part of the team from 1994 to 2013 and since 2002 he has been the chef of restaurant “La Perla”. Originally from Tesido in Val Pusteria he spent out of season times in Sardegna where his partner and little girl Eleonora live. A person to be catched in a quiet moment; he is a man full of wisdom and sense!
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Anni Costa is the Matriarch of the great Costa family. She comes from Vilpiano and together with Ernesto Costa gave birth to the fantastic La Perla story. Time and time again she says to have handed over the reins to her sons but she still hears and sees everything which is going on! Keep alert and on your toes when she is around!
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1998 was the year when Marco Pellegrini first set foot here! He left in 2015. Promoted to Head of Bar in 2009 he was really on top of his job and his cocktails are to die for. Recently married to Francesca, they live in Caorle. Very efficient in leading and guiding his team, Marco is good at organising and when discussiong one thing or the other he always likes to come out on top!
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Renate Kostner Pizzinini
Renate Kostner Pizzinini, hotelier in Alta Badia, owner of hotel Cappella in Colfosco. Keen traveller, lover of art, and supporter of many varied initiatives. www.hotelcappella.com
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The German actor Hannes Jaenicke is a passionate environmentalist and author. His most recent book „Die große Volksverarsche“ (Gütersloher Verlagshaus) landed 1st place on the Spiegel bestseller list.
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Diego Delmonego works in the social housing construction sector, reguarly photographs Alpine landscape, and for many years has monitored the territorial development in Trentino Alto Adige. In his conferences he emphasises the use of the environment by man. The prevalent themes are: urban dispersion; the trends in 'concreting' of the earth's surface; 'green roof' developments; environmental light pollution and solutions; 'plurigenerational' construction. He has cooperated on the drawing up of criteria for the reduction of light pollution in the province of Bolzano.
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Sonia Sbolzani - an economist from the Bocconi University, a corporate communication strategy expert. From Casalmaggiore she has organised many cultural events ; also, the city features prominently in her history and art research. Key person in a prestigious jewellery institution and works with fashion and tourism companies. A friend of the Dolomites and, more specifically, of the Ladin valleys.
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Irene Pollini Giolai
Born in Asolo, Treviso, Irene now lives in Milan. She has a degree in Public Relations and Advertising, and she also attended for a year an Urban-wear (fashion design) course at the IED in Milan. Then she studied at the Goethe Institute in Berlin. Since the age of 4 she has written in a compulsive manner. "I love walking, looking around with music in my ears. I like big cities and small places. To me big cities are required to find inspiration and calm, and small places help me to re-elaborate material well."
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Maria Canins was born in Badia on the 4th June (the actual year is top secret!). She started her sporting career in athletics and in mountin running, then she moved on to cross-country skiing, cycling, and mountain biking. A world time title, two Tour de France and a Giro d'Italia are to her name and in cross-country she won the Marcialonga ten times and was also victorious once in the Vasaloppet. Her record speaks for itself and she is a sports heroine whose fame extends far betond national borders.
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Mathias Costa is the second born of the family. He is never without a smile and we can really say that he is never ever in anything but a good mood. He manages the Murin tavern and his great passions are skiing and cycling. He is married to Petra, she from Vilpiano, and they have two beautiful little girls, Anna e Lena.
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Artur Pescol is orginally from Badia but now lives in Pieve di Marebbe together with his wife and two daughters. He has been responsible for ‘house maintenance’ since 1996 and as such take care of all aspects of La Perla’s well-being! He knows how to fix anything and everything – and I do mean anything and everthing! And more besides, for Artur knows many things, passing from alternative medicine to political scenarios, and even tells us how the weather will be!
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Egle is more than just a beautician, she's an aesthete, she understands beauty and art. She loves silence and everything that within the silence. It must be down to her Provençal temperament, much like ours. She loves meditating as she walks along the paths and travelling to discover new worlds. She's worked in Capri, Montecarlo, Paris, Saint Moritz, Alta Badia. She's actively participated in the transformation of the spa of our Hotel, in surroundings which are ethereal, soft, graceful and tranquil. Ah, and she always greets you with a smile.
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Lucilla Incorvati has been working for nearly 20 years at the Sole24Ore, writing on investments, i.e. how companies and individuals make the most out of their savings and capital. Socially sustainable investments are becoming more and more important and represent a new opportunity for big and small investors.
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Young and determined. He worked himself up and spared no work. Half Caribbean and half Friulano he moves deftly and efficiently behind the bar. No need to worry here that the mix of his background will work against him. Victor is certainly an example of a cocktail come out well, just like the ones he loves to prepare – and with a smile always at the ready.
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Nicoletta Del Prete
Nicoletta Del Prete was to be found in our Wellness Centre. She is from Ischia – you know, that region where they sing and whistle! She has worked at La Perla from 2008 to 2013 and her specialisation is in sports massages. She said she knew all the secrets of the guests but she never told us any! Certain is that she proved to be very popular with all the guests.
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Luca Monica is Italy’s most famous food hunter and associate of “Peck”, the famous brand that has always been a synonym for gastronomic quality and reliability for the Milanese and gourmets. Luca has been a friend of the Ladins for a long time because he loves Alta Badia as much as he loves rare and precious food.
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Cintia is our Spa manager. She is Hungarian but has lived in Italy for more than 20 years. She has a delicate smile and is extremely polite and courteous and has unlimited reserves of energy. Perhaps for this that she loves to horseride in her free time!
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Merch Pescollderungg is a local Badia man in that he hails from San Cassiano. First started at La Perla in 2000 as a sommelier, and has devloped to be today the right hand man of Michil Costa. He is our marketing man and the strategist for the product we call ‘La Perla’. Strong in analysing data he also is, strange though it might seem, full of creativity and winning ideas!
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Franco D'Orio is from Ischia – you remember, that is that region where they sing and whistle? Franco has been part of La Perla family from 1990 to 2015 and was the principal waiter for guests. Over the years he has never learned a word of German or English but all guests knew and loved him and sought him out. He loves to joke and is a big soccer fan, Napoli being his team.
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Francesco Ricci, born in the Modena region, has for many years been involved in company and social communication work. In 2008 his fictitious diary entitled 'Il 68 a pedali' telling of a cyclist taking part in the Giro d’Italia bike race alongside Eddy Merckx was published. In 2012 it was the turn of ‘Bella Ciao’, a fiction of a brief and tragic love in the summer of 1944, and most recently in 2013 ‘Velopensieri’, wide-ranging reflections on the meaning of life.
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Paolo is responsible for the gourmet restaurant "La Stüa de Michil". His mission is to close the circle, meaning to integrate the chef's dishes with the right liquid emotions. Paolo is a sommelier, and wine is his world. For him, recommending a wine is like a sartorial act: there is no meal that cannot be basted together with an apt choice, to be uncorked and poured with joy. He prefers small producers, appreciates those who show respect for the land they work and loves to discover the new without forgetting the old. He silently studies the diner's psychology, trying to interpret the dreams of those at the table. Because in the end, the important thing is drinking well.
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His job isn’t climbing, it’s to learn how to live the mountain in the simplest and authentic way possible, without the chasing of performances. Living in the respect of the vertical dimension. This is Pippo, the mountain guide of hotel La Perla, in our house since winter 2016.
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Franco Brevini (born in Milan on 10 July 1951) is an Italian literary historian, literary critic, author and journalist.
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He is associate professor for modern and contemporary Italian literature and has been working for “Corriere della Sera” for more than twenty years.
Concetta is Ladin and was born in Brunico under the sign of Pisces. She can be proud of two well-deserved university degrees: foreign philology (specialization branch: history and culture) and law (specialization branch: criminal law). She is jurist and journalist. Humor, creativity and curiosity are characteristic for her style. Her great dream: publishing a novel.
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Valerio is Sardinian. Smiling. Talkative. Witty. Curious. Lively. Attentive. Sensitive. Thoughtful. Valerio is the sum of positive adjectives, all shining brightly from his profound gaze. Valerio has been with us since 2012, he is front office manager and his greeting rings pure, cordial and sincere.
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Riccardo Bertoncelli, writer and outstanding music critic. Born in Novara in 1952. A fan of rock from the age of 15. In 1969 he produced the cyclostyled fanzine Freak, dedicated to underground music. In 1973 he published Pop Story, the first in Italy of its type and today a cult book. It communicated to Italian youth the historical and cultural horizions of pop and rock.
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Michil is the first born of the Costa family. A great lover of music he had always wanted to become a musician but has had to settle for selling steaks - or, better said, to being a hotelier. Michil is a bit the rebel in the family, has a great environmental commitment, and just loves Nature. He is the exponent of La Perla's philosophy.
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Nicolò has an eclectic spirit. Chef, host, manager: he can do it all and more. Like many a good Piemontese, he left for France as a young man, he worked in three star restaurants and was part of the Nadia Santini team. Then he discovered Alta Badia and he has recently come into the orbit of La Perla. Now he is gently guiding the Ladinia. Maybe not so as to make the floorboards creak, or maybe because his soul is still as light as a feather. The only thing he really cares about is that his guests fully embrace the spirit of this house, something of an inn, something of a refuge, always and however a welcoming, cosy, and tranquil place.
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Lisa Campagnolo has been with us since 2009, in charge of the hotel reception. Now she's responsible for the sales department. Originally from Bassano del Grappa she is a great lover of Latin-american music. We are in good hands with Lisa for she really is ‘top of the class’!
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Stefan’s arrival dates back to 1988 and he knows la Perla inside out! He is involved in a multitude of things for the good of the hotel, but his real strength is in table decoration and flower arrangement. His are the guiding hands for the presentation of our hotel home! He is like an adopted son to the Costa family and is always plotting and doing with signora Costa.
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She’s from Padua, so she loves rugby. She’s a marathon runner and a cellist: energy and delicacy. The same qualities that can be found in the Spa at the Hotel La Perla in a natural way that will admit no artificial wellbeing. The passion she puts into everything is as vigorous as the mountain stream and as solid as a Dolomite stone.
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Valentina Motta has worked here from 2005 to 2012. From Vigevano, she is married to Marco, ‘first course’ chef at La Perla restaurant for many years. Guests loved her and from the first ‘bun dé’ greeting in the morning when she accompanied guests to the breakfast table her day was full of joy!
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Dott. Günther Reifer is a consultant for the CWE project endorsed by Hotel La Perla; he is founder of the Terra Institute and coordinator for Italy for the movement in favour of Common Welfare Economy.
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Joe is from Verona and first arrived at La Perla in 2005. She is from Verona but looks and behaves just like a typical Ladin lady! In reality she has always wanted to be a bit of a Heidi, a companion of the goats in the meadows with the mountains full of music standing proud above. Always smiling she loves to laugh a lot. Joe is responsible for Communications and Press, as well as Human Relations. She is Michil's wife.
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Reserved and star-rated, Nicola is the Casa’s new Chef. A little bit Ladin and a little bit Pugliese, he loves to put the best of Italy into his dishes that are as genuine as the sound of the bells and as authentic as the waves of the sea. Without bothering to use such worn-out words as tradition and territory, his Canederli grigi make converts even beyond the Dolomites, because Nicola believes that actions speak louder than words.
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