The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

June 2017

01 June 2017


All around us has a fragrance. Be it good or bad it counts. Good attracts and bad leads us to distance ourselves. Smells and our reaction tell us a lot about ourselves and our way to interpret and understand life, the respect or lack of which we have for others, and of our very selves too.
I wake early. I like to look from the window whilst the world is still sleeping. A sip of tea, a glance at mountain Boé that has a tinge of gold about it. The sparrows on the window-sill chanting their early morning song. I am very alert first thing in the morning. I love to take in the early morning smells, as if in some way taking possesion of the day.
My father has a distinctive sense of humor and at times is a bit of a prankster. Take for example his trick of standing at the bar and without further ado offering from a rubber tin a sweet to the person in his company “They taste a little bitter, but they are good for the throat and give you an energy boost.” When the last of the company appears a little skeptical after seeing the faces of the others and smells the sweet intensely before putting it in his mouth and then releases a loud “Poohh”, my father bends in two with laughter and observes: “And it seems they are good for the voice too!” Oh father, how could you possibly trick them all so, into believing that those pellets of goats were sumptious and health giving lozenges! I wake early. I like to look from the window whilst the world is still sleeping. A sip of tea, a glance at mountain Boé that has a tinge of gold about it. The sparrows on the window-sill chanting their early morning song. I am very alert first thing in the morning. I love to take in the early morning smells, as if in some way taking possession of the day. Dressing quickly I skip down the stairs, open the door, and a fresh, clean, pure scent of fresh air welcomes me. Summer is here and the fresh breeze greets me with its pleasant fragrance. I enter the hotel, not even 7 o'clock has struck. My first port of call, even before I greet the chefs, say hello to the great Francesco of Ischia – he busy already since 5 in the morning -, is the little area the domain of the bar staff which is off-limits for all, except for me when I prepare my first coffee of the day. I close my eyes and take in the heavenly aroma. Yes, this is definitively the best coffee I have ever tasted – it's the Jamaican roast of Gianni Frasi, he the coffee artisan par excellence. As soon as I recover from my moment of ecstatic indulgence I begin my working day. ‘Work’ is perhaps the least appropriate of words for my morning consists in a series of pleasurable encounters and I must say that all is a priviledge rather than a task. I sense the aroma of fresh flowers and the unmistakable delicate aftershave which is a sure indication that Stefan is around. Stefan is responsible for the house style and is so committed that he starts his day while I am still asleep. The next aftershave I come across is the more intense property of Mathias, he too, a fan of the early morn and already having passed through prior to my arrival. How refreshing hotel life can be! Friendly exchanges, teamwork, and even a chance to share what for the guest are the precious times of his or her year. As soon as the newspaper arrives I take my place on a stool at the bar and welcome guests as they make their way to the breakfast room. At times the smell of toothpaste is all too strong and I ask myself why people don’t wait til after breakfast to clean their teeth – surely coffee and brioche are better without the presence of colgate! Now it’s time for a little tour of the garden and again I take in the abundant aromas all around. Up I go next to Ladinia, and yes you’re right, another coffee! Ladina is noted for its simple but wholesome breakfast buffet and the words goodness and quality come to mind on viewing the spread laid out for guests. Farmhouse butter, jams from Val Venosta, warm bread and crunchy cereals abound. But on making my way back to La Perla there is a moment of horror – I smell onions. Onions in the morning and the morning so early – it is not yet nine!: “Good morning lads, you are doing a great job in the kitchen but let’s try to do without the onions at this time of day!” Proceeding on my way I come across that dear guest of ours who has visited for many years. I can tell by his profuse sweating that he has just run up Sassongher to start his day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had done it twice, such is his enthusiasm! One day a friend of mine said,“When all those thousands of cyclists arrive here in season I can smell their stench through all Val Badia, when it is the time of the golfers it is all Chanel and Paco Rabanne”. Personally I do not use such deodorants but one thing has always amazed me – why is it that those transparent vests of joggers and walkers stink so much? Smells in general: they can attract or make us keep our distance. Maybe it is just that I am particularly sensitive but I note them everywhere. The frying that needs to be done of a morning if we want a good pasta sauce the evening drives me insane. In addition, I admit that I have a problem to stand too close to some other humans such is the pong they emit. Then again I always take a sniff of the wine glass before pouring the wine – perhaps not the greatest style but I cannot stop myself from doing it. Strange it is as to what gives us pleasure and what disturbs us. I for instance love the smell of my cigar but cannot tolerate the smell of smoke which pervades all as the guys and girls come back from their cigarette break! Apparently Oscar Wilde turned down the advances of a 20 year old because she smelt off. Who knows what other smells Wilde had in mind!? And just imagine what smells there were around before there were drainage systems in towns. I remember a lad who worked in our office, it must have been more than 20 years ago. The smell of his feet reminded me of a celebrated cheese! And then again I have a thing about lifts, lifts in the sense of elevators I do mean. I avoid them if I can because the close-up intimacy with others puts me not at my ease. The thought of being right up close to someone who has overdone it with the pesto on the pasta or is rather partial to a good dose of garlic is somewhat disarming. When our neighbor spreads compost on the land the stench is all around but strangely enough I don’t find it offputting for it has something real about it, the result of hard labour and good intent. And I also like the smell of those old discs as they are are slipped out of their cover. I like the smell of the stube in the old house I am fortunate enough to live in. I guess it is a question of affection. I adore the smell of the person I love, wherever and whenever. And to end on a happy note I guess we can say that those ‘lozenges’ of Ernesto do not really have a horrible smell for after all they are made up of fresh grass only!!

If at times I say the flowers smile
And if I were to say that the rivers sing
It is not because I think that there are actually smiles in the flowers
And songs in the passing of the rivers …
It is because I make the falseness of man understand and appreciate more,
The very real existence of flowers and rivers.

Even great poets have dwelt on the importance of smells and what they have to tell us about life and its meanings. Read a line or two of Fernando Pessoa and you will see what I mean. I wish you the very best of smells!

michil costa