If you ever get around to turning on your in-room television at Hotel La Perla—an activity far inferior to any of the myriad adventures in and around Corvara—the “house entertainment” you’ll find is unlike any you’ve seen. You will not see a video tour of the spa (which is lovely), nor scrolling photos of the restaurants’ perfectly-plated Italian delicacies (which are exquisite). Instead, you will see the thick-eyebrowed and bewitching face of Ernesto Costa—with whom you may have already shared an elevator ride—speaking in Italian against a backdrop of old-timey sepia photos of the Sassongher mountain and Hotel La Perla in the mid-1900s.
Ernesto and Anni Costa built La Perla in 1956 in the small town of Corvara, located in the heart of Northern Italy’s stunning Dolomite alpine range. For the last 60+ years, the Costas have shaped a successful hotel business while bringing up their children to carry on old and new traditions. The Costas’ brand of family hospitality is not merely on display—it is a palpable feeling that hits you almost from the moment you walk in the door. And it’s exactly what you’re craving as you’ve likely been traveling a long way to find it. The fairytale landscape of this mountain town, which melds Italian, German, and Ladin influences, is about a five-hour drive from Milan, or two-hour drive from Innsbruck, Austria.
I believe that as a businessman, you have a great responsibility toward the local community and the common good.
Many of the region’s hotels are family-owned and operated, but there is something special about the Costas. The secret, says CEO Michil, who is routinely darting around the hotel in traditional Ladin garb or otherwise eccentric attire, is: “to have solid human values, enthusiasm for one’s job, and above all, do it with pleasure and joy; never getting tired to aim for even higher quality.” That may sound like hospitality hyperbole, but being onsite at La Perla will convince you that the Costas, along with their impeccable staff, live and breathe this philosophy. Michil and his brother Mathias, who runs day-to-day infrastructure operations, are almost always onsite.
“It does not feel like hard work to me,” says Mathias, who unfailingly looks like he’s working hard. “It is more a pleasure for me to chat with our guests, to ask them how their day was and how I can help them.”
Michil boasts that in some ways, La Perla is about what is not available more than what is. For instance, guests won’t find apple strudel at La Perla during summer, nor will they find Australian wines in the wine cellar or Carrara marble in their bathrooms. Instead, any and all food, furnishings, and motifs are as local as possible; a true embrace of the cultural melting pot that is the Dolomites.
Michil makes a point to share his background with his guests, the most distinctive of which being Ladin; a language which was only formally recognized in 1989, and whose traditions are entirely unique to the Dolomites. Only about 200,000 people in the world are Ladin, and the Costas gladly share its customs.
“I’m proud to be part of this little community, and I feel duty to preserve it,” says Michil of his Ladin heritage. “That’s why we teach our staff to say some Ladin words and to even use them with our guests.”
The Costas also lean heavily on economically and socially progressive policies, which they feel help elevate their guests above all else. A participant in the Economy for Common Good (ECG or EBC), the family supports an economic theory which contends that values like solidarity, transparency, human dignity, and ecological sustainability are paramount to good business.
“I believe that as a businessman, you have a great responsibility toward the local community and the common good,” says Michil. “Good finances are important, but as important are values; which go beyond profit and economic growth. As a hotelier, you are in a constant relation with your guests, with your staff, with your stakeholders. We look at our guest not as a wallet, but as a guest, really; to welcome and accommodate at home.”