Editor’s letter | Monocle

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We kick off the autumn season with some essential questions to ponder as you as you get re-acquainted with your daily commute.

  1. Do you recall the last time you walked into a just finished shop or newly renovated restaurant and thought, “Wow! The proprietors and designers really get it”?
  2. What was the last hotel you stayed at and thought, “I’m going to recommend this to my closest circle of friends and colleagues”?
  3. Where were you when you last stood back and admired a stretch of street and marvelled at how well it was planned and how brilliantly it functioned?
  4. Can you pinpoint the time and place you had a lunch or dinner that was completely on point?
  5. Where are you going for a perfect long-weekender this autumn?

If you’re wondering why I’m asking these questions, it’s partly a pre-emptive exercise as many a reader will soon be writing to their favourite Monocle editor asking for long weekend travel tips and partly a challenge to look up from your screen, scan your surroundings and recognise what makes our villages, towns and cities tick.

This month’s ed’s letter is being penned from a grape-vine covered terrace on a quiet side street in the town of Lana. If this town in the heart of South Tyrol doesn’t ring any bells, you’re forgiven – for now. As it’s early September, the temperature has dropped slightly, there are still plenty of Bavarians on holiday and just as many visitors from Switzerland loading up their cars with local specialties. I’m surveying the scene from a corner table; the waitress has brought a round of Weissburgunder, a plate of cheese, pickles and meat, and the Bernese mountain dog opposite is either about to bound out from under the table and join me on the banquette or give me sad eyes until I throw him a meaty treat.

The leafy terrace belongs to the newly opened 1477 Reichhalter hotel. If you bought our Summer Weekly newspaper you might have spotted a news story we did on it shortly after it opened (if you want a bit more on the property, grab a copy of The Escapist – look for the yellow cover on newsstands now). While the hotel is quite perfect in many ways, it’s what’s happening on the street that makes it something of a benchmark from an urbanism perspective. The owners could have renovated the tiny guesthouse, covered over its cracks and character, and demanded decent room rates for a mediocre breakfast and charmless rooms. Instead they decided to make a contribution to the community and created a mini town square along with a living room for residents and guests to grab a coffee, lunch, dinner or late round of drinks.

The 1477 Reichhalter is one of those projects that makes your inner hotelier both green with envy and bursting with energy. “How did they restrain themselves?” you ask. “Who kept everything in check and ensured that nothing was overdone?”

I draw your attention to this project not only because it’s well designed and runs a good kitchen but because of its generous spirit and contribution to the region. South Tyrol, for all its charms, can also be guilty of using too much lime green, going oversize on dinner plates and veering towards the brightly lit when it comes to interiors. The 1477 Reichhalter is a bit of a course correction for the hospitality industry in general as it’s targeting an audience who “get it” as much as the owners and their collaborators do. There are no televisions because the proprietors would prefer you to sit downstairs. There are no minibars but there is a perfectly stocked fridge in the corridor that operates an honour system. And, most importantly, there are no heavy candles or fragrance dispensers – just the smell of wood used in joinery. Here’s another question dear reader, do you remember what a hotel smelled like before the interior designers and GMs and suppliers thought it was a good idea to start pumping toxic scents into places?

As this issue has something of a fashion and retail focus, we struggled to find a shopkeeper or group of stores that have moved the marker as much as this small establishment in Lana. For sure you’ll find many good things to purchase and just as many to visit in our pages but, at a time when fashion retail is trying to find its way, there is a worrying absence of innovation. We’ll be returning to this topic at a few upcoming events and also looking to challenge ourselves when we throw open our doors in LA (again) over the coming months. As ever, please get in touch with all story ideas, tips and thoughts to me at tb@monocle.com or to my trusty colleague Hannah at hg@monocle.com. Cheers and thank you all for your support.

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