I was recently asked if I had a favorite destination, a question that for a travel-besotted person like me comes close to being asked which child I’d choose. It turns out though that I had a ready answer—the Italian alpine town of Bressanone, introduced to us a few years ago by the very talented and knowledgeable Libby Lubin of ITALIAN JOURNEYS.
I’ll be the first to admit that the minute before or the minute after, I might have named a different ‘favorite’. After all, I sort of live my life in permanent pining for New York City; can be moved to tears—and by that I mean sobs--watching the opening credits of Philadelphia with its lush, extended scenes of my beloved adopted hometown; I am prone to feeling that I might stop breathing each time we drive away from Santa Fe and generally have to fight the impulse to leave the house for the airport every single time I create or revise an itinerary to, well, to anywhere. In short, I got it bad…and yet, there is no denying the unique allure of Bressanone, with its 10th century cathedral, its perfect cobbled streets, its 360 views of the majestic Dolomites, its abundant cafes serving the region’s delicious cuisine, German-inflected but with a certain lightness of Italian touch. And then there is the local white wine, as clean and delicious as any I have ever had—and so much a part of local life that it was on offer at an open air pancake breakfast—a fundraiser for the elementary school, no less--in the market square on the Saturday morning of our visit. This felt not the least bit Bacchanalian but rather deeply civilized, warm and convivial.Beyond the town limits lies an extensive cable car network running from the valley floor up to peaks where there is a seemingly unending network of trails—hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter. The town though--and this is perhaps one of its most satisfying qualities--is not simply a postcard town come to life. It has none of the cloying snow globe taint of self-consciously preserved quaintness. It is a living, breathing town and, in fact, quite prosperous with plenty of industry and professional services encircling its ancient core.
Even amongst this heady array of charms, however, there is one particular favorite among favorites for me and by all evidence for many, many others and that is the HOTEL ELEPHANT. The precise nature of its powerful appeal can be hard to identify. It is old and elegant and run by the 8th generation of its owner hoteliers. It has a Michelin recommended restaurant with a perfect little second story terrace overlooking old town. The breakfasts may be quite simply the best I have ever had. Delights to be sure but variations of ones that are often to be found in hotels of a certain quality. There is something else about the Elephant. It is just one of those places in this world that is special--special enough, in fact, to take up a permanent spot in one’s memory.
Having visited in summer, we long to visit Bressanone in winter—in fact, the notion of the holidays at the Hotel Elephant may have become our family’s version of the promised land. One day this may actually happen but in the meantime just dreaming of it is happy sustenance.
This year will not be our year, however, to spend the holidays in Bressanone or anywhere else but rather it is a year for hearth and home--and who could complain of that? In fact, dear reader, I wish the same for you and yours. There will be plenty of time for traveling in the new year. For now, it’s good to be home….
Christmas 2014 AT