You might be looking at the top of this page and wondering what on earth I’m doing in the Tyrolean get-up. Are we launching a new staff-uniform programme? (Not a bad idea.) Are we out scouting for a new alpine retreat for strategy sessions? (An excellent thought and wise investment.) Is the editor in chief of monocle a long-lost member of the Von Trapp family? (It’s possible.) Or have I ventured into the hills and villages of South Tyrol to source the finest produce for a summer party?
Absolutely. What’s more is that you’re cordially invited to join us (with or without lederhosen) for our first ever Mitteleuropa summer party in the heart of Bolzano on 3 July (more details at the end of the column). In case you didn’t clock it on the front cover or haven’t fully devoured the issue yet, you might have missed that there’s a subtle South Tyrol theme running through a good chunk of the issue. With the charming Hotel Bavaria in Merano as our cover star, a 28-page regional travel supplement and a sunny fashion reportage as the key editorial highlights, we’re also hosting a special series of radio programmes from the region in the run-up to our event.
If you are a subscriber and living in the area (Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany) then you should have received an invite by now. If you happen to find yourself close to Bolzano on 3 July then get in touch and we’ll give you all the details of what promises to be a lovely evening of fine wines, Forst beer, hearty nibbles, smooth sounds (South Tyrol’s jazz festival is on at the same time) and perhaps the odd monocle editor decked out in full Tyrolean attire.
It’s more than fitting that South Tyrol will be the backdrop for the proper launch of our Quality of Life issue as it’s one of the key messages the regional government is trying to communicate to the world. With its impressive public-transport network that integrates rail, road and cycle lanes, a tradition of excellent carpentry, legions of talented architects and outstanding cuisine, this little patch of Italy has been a favourite corner of the world for some time. We’ll no doubt be tacking on some free time at either end of our tour to enjoy a couple of days off at the Bad Dreikirchen or Castel Fragsburg.
If you asked a niece or nephew to pull out the colour pencils and sketch their version of a perfect little city, Bolzano would probably come close. Too big to be claustrophobic but still small enough to manage on a handsome bicycle, it boasts many of the key elements that we like in a city. The old town centre functions as a hub for culture and commerce and there are plenty of people living above the shops and restaurants to keep things lively. For sure there’s a need to open up some retail units to younger entrepreneurs and stimulate a bit of a small-business revival but the good news is that it all works and the bones (often quite ancient) are solid. To the south there’s a delightful little airport that is begging to be better connected with Europe (Lufthansa and Swiss are missing a trick here for sure) and in the years to come we’ll see high-speed trains zooming along a new corridor connecting Munich to Milan. A respected university keeps the city looking young – and said city and its surroundings boast some of the best medical facilities in Italy.
With all of these fine attributes you might be asking why Bolzano’s not part of our liveable-city index (see page 30), particularly when it often comes top of similar rankings in Italy. Our reason is simple: it’s a bit too small to stack up against the likes of a Tokyo or Berlin or even Copenhagen. Every year we receive bags of post querying why certain cities make the cut and others aren’t even in the running, even if they’re regarded as highly liveable.
For the latter, it’s often a case of scale and connectivity. Berne is a nice little capital with a sizeable international community but it doesn’t make the cut because it can’t compete against a Singapore or Fukuoka when it comes to size. The same goes for places such as Gothenburg and Innsbruck: absolutely lovely cities but a bit on the small side.
This isn’t to say that we’re not fans of the small and perfectly formed – far from it. It’s for this reason that we devoted our Expo section (see page 251) to some of the commuter towns and districts we wouldn’t mind calling home if we lived in Lisbon, San Francisco or Hong Kong. You’ll note the residents of Cascais are particularly fetching and seem like just the type of locals you’d like to pull up a lounger next to. Finally, on the topic of loungers, we’re about to set to work on summer newspaper Mediterraneo, due for release towards the end of July. In the meantime we look forward to seeing you in Bolzano at the start of July; you can rsvp by contacting Vanda (email@example.com). Thank you for your support.
For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the ‘FTWeekend’.