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Themes:     Nature & Environment (51)    Opinions & Politics (27)  
michil Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Traditional Alpine refuge or modern version?

Breathless they come out of the gym. Bathrobes are elegant and with logos clearly visible. If Rocky Balboa had ever seen these super cool flip-flops he would have died of jealousy! The occupants have just finished the umpteenth session of spinning, running, and racing on the magnetic type indoor power bikes.
In the afternoon two massages follow - one thai, and one shiatsu. Then? Well, it is important to relax on the lounger, a cocktail ‘Havanna Beach’ with a base of Blue Curacao and Batida Coco in hand. Dinner is a super vitamin molecular arrangement with juice accompaniment so as not to ruin the efforts of the day, and all in the spirit of sport and healthy life-style.
It is the host and not the client who must be sincere and seek sincerity and honesty – the honesty of a butterbean soup made with genuine ingredients and a plate of genuine speck as opposed to some rubber imitation.
We are not in Dubai. Nor are we in an exclusive fitness club on the 10th floor of the Principe di Savoia Hotel of Milan. We are in a mountain hut or ‘rifugio’ as these mountain retreats are known.
Once upon a time one went to the mountain refuge before encountering or after having faced the mountain harshness. Nowadays one arrives direct with a lift. And inside one takes a modern day refuge: in the gym, in the Wellness Centre, in the reception with fireplace and even an electric fire, in the acclaimed gourmet restaurant.
For several weeks now we have been discussing what type of architecture and style to develop in the Dolomites - traditional mountain refuge or modern style? Perhaps more important than the style would be to determine the function – that they have the role of protection and place of resort and not that of a 5 star type hotel up on high and complete with glossy brochure too! A good article by the architect Paolo de Martin appeared in the Alto Adige newspaper some time ago. In it he criticised the contrived style of some hotels – all towers and elaboration as artificial self indulgent purely architectonic structures without any culture, background or meaning. He added that the Alpine valleys themselves have been sold – sold off to a monocultural porn type tourism. I agree. And I also agree on the inappropriateness and disastrous implications of the provincial urban planning regulations. How else can we explain the presence of so-called mountain refuge, which in reality are nothing but high altitude luxury hotels? It is happening in the Alps and it is happening in the Dolomites.
We welcome the contribution and ideas of project planners but let them not turn the question and integrity of the mountains into a banal non relevant consideration. The critical point must be the role of the mountain refuge in the relationship between man and mountain. Man after all must leave something to the child, be able to tell of legends –perhaps taking inspiration from the spendid book on Dolomite legends edited by the Mercurà de Rü Ladin Institute and written by Prof. Ulrike Kindl and Nicola Dal Falco. It is real pearl of wisdom and revelation of unknown truths.
I have nothing against comfort, to lifts opening in the summer, and that the mountain refuge incorporates new technology so as to make life more comfortable, eco-compatible, and contemporary, but I do not want that we go looking to create exotic casinos and similar development which some restaurants of the mountain highs define merely as a simple response to client desires.
It is the host and not the client who must be sincere and seek sincerity and honesty – the honesty of a butterbean soup made with genuine ingredients and a plate of genuine speck as opposed to some rubber imitation. No objection do I have to quality goose-feather pillows but let’s forget about kneipp cures in such a location. The important thing is to seek and propose the real mountain spirit in full respect of its origins and not to become obsessed with nitrogen based dishes, the latest Technogym inventions, super giant plasma screens, the terrace with deafening techno music sure to rupture the ear-drum of chamois 5 kilometres away. Any of these introductions is a sort of fiction and a distortion of reality. Nature has created unlimited beauty and opportunities for enjoyment. It is only necessary to open your eyes and use your senses. We need to understand our evolution and to propose ourselves as we are and in all sincerity and with a sense of equilibrium and harmony, and certainly not to become slaves of tourism. Give the choice in the right circumstances: if I as guest want the Riccione experience I will go to Riccione but if I choose to go to the mountains let there be a mountain experience, for it is essential not to confuse the two.

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