Starry, starry night
Tendrils of fog snake close to the ground, a somewhat annoying, light yet never-ending curtain of rain seeps into our bones, completely drenched. One of those typical melancholiac November days, wolves howling into the night between the Ladinia and the La Perla. A perfect day for sitting beside a roaring fire, leafing through a book, wistfully looking for the first snowflakes outside the window.
All is calm… or so it should be. Peace and quiet are broken by a hive of activity, as though it were high season. Ten people, more or less, traipse through the door; Mathias is robbed of the fire’s warm embrace, busy as he is, his suit adorned with torches and wrenches. An indefatigable worker, he focuses on placing, recommending, speaking with everyone moving about the hotel. The Dolomites don an awe-inspiring cloak, ablaze with the ruby-red larches below the Sassongher and limned in the unsullied gold of their counterparts on the Col Alto. They are worthy of contemplation and praise, but those men do not have time to meditate. Beauty is not at the heart of that undercurrent of noise: indeed, the team has rolled up its sleeves to dismantle bathrooms, place slabs, refurnish the new rooms with ancient stuben.
On that very day, finding an open café in Alta Badia is virtually impossible, and yet a sleek car pulls up into our driveway at the same time as old bidets are hauled onto lorries and new sofas – chosen thanks to our mother’s impeccable taste – are brought in. Two distinguished figures exit the vehicle and calmly walk into the closed hotel. A health and safety inspection? No. Here to make a booking? No! They clasp guns, a shiver of fear runs down our spines. Worried, our panic is soon quelled as the mystery is solved. They are not gangsters, just auditors. Impassive judges with a clear-cut mission: assessing whether the La Perla is fit for purpose. Our girls at reception and their smiles would have better luck stirring inanimate objects; they ignore Arthur, left without luggage to carry. The chef will not serve them a mouth-watering dish; a Martini cocktail, prepared with flair and aplomb by our mixologists, could not be further from their minds. They do not care about the attention we invest in managing staff and our corporate transparency. Our guideline principles behind all corporate activities, our profit and loss sheet based on the Economy for the Common Good, are written in a language they do not know. The two observant and incorruptible officials ascend to the first floor. Doors open, they point those… things. They beep, recording square metres, and jot them down meticulously. Laser revolvers gauge the rooms’ metres.
All for the sake of stars.
Open another door, one looking out into the past: we asked the powers that be in the hotel firmament if we could dim one of our stars, from four to three. We believe our hospitality does not match the ranking. Indeed: if our chefs labour and only snatch moments to eat on their feet, if we cannot educate, guide, give good perspectives to people who are socially awkward, if cars are still seen in our parking spaces, if we do not have a gym with a view of the Sassongher, if our tireless cleaning staff does not have individual rooms to rest during their downtime, if the rest of the staff does not have a playroom and their own space with comfortable couches to watch a football match, if all our cocktails are not perfect and if we cannot close the Dolomite passes to private traffic, we will never be good enough for the type of hospitality we aim for. Our request is justified: four stars are a lot. For our main activity, three would be more than enough. Our supplication is rejected. We try another tack: remove all the stars from our classification but, nein, no can do!
Time goes by, as it does, and we have improved upon the hotel: the new kitchen is simply stunning, some guests even say that a second Michelin star would do no harm to La Stüa. There are countless hotels with a string of stars to their name: are they all deserved? Who knows. We, however, are always questioning our own work, which is why we request a new assessment. Sheriffs who deal with stars, on their chest or in their laser guns, are here.
To cut a long story short, on this dreary and wet day, fog scarfing around the ankles of passers-by, an annoying drizzle, workers clamouring in a way that would make my mother blush, and my brother armed with a torch and hammer, an improbably guide for the inspectors, accompanying them to the first floor… we can say our hotel will wear five stars as of this year. Starry starry night, and what a night it is, ablaze in our new constellation. Wearing the guise of a young, wandering shepherd in the Dolomites, I find myself pensive, Leopardi’s Night Song beckoning:
‘And when I gaze upon the stars at night,
n thought I ask myself, "Why all these torches bright?’