Half hidden under the LAUBENGÄNGE of the historic town centre of Egna in South Tyrol’s Bassa Atesina lies the entrance to a very special building in the shape of a horseshoe, where sisters Stefanie and Ingrid Tauber genially welcome their guests at their Hotel Andreas Hofer.
Historic: The Hotel Andreas Hofer was one of the first to discover the charm of the arcade houses. How come?
Hostess at the Andreas Hofer
S: There were always many travellers here in Egna. Across the street from us, for example, there used to be a ‘carriage guesthouse’: People came in through one gate and left through the other; it was a place for carriages to change horses. Our original building has been a guesthouse forever. Back in the day, it was called Schorn and offered ten guestrooms. The parlour was on the first floor, while the ground floor accommodated the stables and the workshop, as was common in all arcade houses. This did not change until the 1950s, when the place was renamed after Tyrolean folk hero Andreas Hofer.
Our grandparents first rented the original building, then bought it in 1972 and rebuilt it to make a small hotel.
What is the connection between your place and its namesake?
S: Andreas Hofer spent his last night on Tyrolean grounds in a cell in the house next door. The cells still exist today – those are some pretty dark holes, mind you!
I: If our neighbour is home, he might even allow you to peek inside. He is a farmer, single, and he never changed much about the house.
S: Our four buildings now surround his from all sides like a horseshoe. He is quite literally in our heart. (Laughs.)
How did one arcade house become four?
S: Our parents knew that a place with ten or twelve guestrooms would not be feasible. They needed to make a fundamental decision: either expand or build a new hotel outside the village centre. In retrospect, it was lucky chance that the ‘court clerk house’ next door was up for sale at the time – and at the same time very brave of our parents to buy it.
Hostess at the Andreas Hofer
I: Then came the longitudinal building behind it, which used to be a barn and now houses the reception, and the building in the back, where our parents live today. This gave them enough space for a garden and a small swimming pool. Today, we have 32 guestrooms, each with a unique character.
What makes the court clerk house special?
S: It is much larger than a normal arcade house and accessible all the way to the back. When our parents took it over, it was in a very bad condition. There was no water or electricity, everything was full of stall manure and hen’s feathers. Even the smell of this dark house scared us children at the time. (Laughs.)
I: What was even scarier was that there were still people living in there.
Hotel Andreas Hofer
Wanderers beneath pergolas will be delighted when, in the middle of the historic village centre of Egna in the Bassa Atesina district, the Hotel Andreas Hofer appears.
Whereas today, the historic village centre is an absolute gem…
S: That is because 90 percent of all arcade houses have been renovated. Egna has the huge benefit of an inhabited centre with many young families and a high standard of housing.
I: In the 1940s and 1950s, the locals simply had no money for big renovations. When all the arcades in Bolzano and Merano got modernised, those in Egna remained as they were. Later, their value was recognised, so everything was given landmark status, in particular the special façades.
What kind of guests come here?
S: All sorts of people.
I: Since Egna was voted one of the ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’ (Italy’s most beautiful villages), more and more people are discovering this place – sometimes on their way to go skiing in Val di Fiemme.
S: We get many families as well, some of them have been coming back for decades. In a few cases, we’ve had the great-grandchildren of some former guests…
S: Yes, there are two or three very loyal families. They share beloved traditions such as starting off by having a glass of wine or eating some speck. Or they all gather outside in the arcades before going to their rooms. We have one gentleman who has been coming back for 20 years. He has managed to try almost every single one of the 32 rooms. (Laughs.)
What makes this place so special?
S: Many guests are fascinated by the historic village centre. Others appreciate that they don’t meet a lot of tourists here – which is rare in beautiful spots in South Tyrol. Egna is a vibrant village. We try to preserve that because it adds to the quality of life.
And what about the legendary Bassa Atesina sociability?
I: The people here are said to be very genial. Just go to a bar two or three times and you will make friends.
S: Many guests remember some of the real Egna characters we used to have. Unfortunately, the classic ‘village spirits’ of our childhood are no longer around: seasoned gentlemen who spent all day at the guesthouse and even ran their businesses from here.
Is the passion for hosting an innate quality?
I: Yes, it is. Our parents both grew up in hosting businesses, and so did we.
S: And the next generation is already in the wings: Ingrid’s daughters, my nieces. When the children played hotel in kindergarten, it was unsurprisingly my niece who took the lead. She knows how it’s done. (Laughs.)
»Egna is a vibrant village. We try to preserve that because it adds to the quality of life.»