Talking with Michil Costa, owner of Hotel La Perla, is audio candy. His deep rich voice is hypnotic, and his conversation goes to directions and depths unexpected. Part philosopher, part punk rock, Costa has revolutionised hospitality by focusing on le piccole cose (little things), like smiling, local culture and tradition, and accountable sustainability.
Born and raised in the Alta Badia, a small community in Trentino Alto Adige where Italian, German and Ladino cultures overlap, Costa grew up in a multilingual hotel family. His parents, Ernesto and Anni Costa, spoke Ladino, Italian and German, and built La Perla in 1956 across the road from the family home, a15th structure. It is that sense of home that drives Costa in every aspect of everything he does.
Truth be told, Costa’s dreams were less hotel, and more punk rock. Sid Vicious dreams led him to London in the early 1980s, which were immediately put to bed when Costa realised that he didn’t have quite the musical drive required so he returned to Corvara and jumped headfirst into the family business, and now oversees three hotels, five restaurants and a family foundation.
Home is the feeling that permeates La Perla, and that’s thanks to a team of 160, who are always smiling and know everyone’s name. Costa encourages his team to be a single community that shares their passions, backgrounds, expertise and philosophies. “Especially today, guests need closeness, they need to feel part of a home”, comments Costa, who explains that bringing out the best in people, in his team, is key to this feeling of home.
“I’m of the convention that guests also feel at home because sometimes the choices are radical”, Costa describes. For the past few years, guests who leave their cars in storage at the hotel [and subsequently don’t drive it for the duration of their stay] are greeted with cars wrapped up like a gift with a green bow. Likewise, no lobsters, no berries in the winter and likewise, no prosecco is served at La Perla because the production area contributes large amounts of pollution.
Outside the house, Costa is devoutly dedicated to his local Ladin community, a historic micro-population of approximately 40,000 with its own unique language and traditions. A part from wearing trachten (traditional costume) every day, Costa was the president of the local Ladino community association, fostering and promoting the Ladin culture, and for years, he’s has been the president of the Maratona dles Dolomiti an annual, 136-kilometer road cycling race held on the first Sunday of July. And it’s because of the maratona that Costa created the Costa Family Foundation, which endorses the Tibetan Children’s Village in India, as well as projects in Togo and Uganda. Upon the national and financial success of the maratona, Costa and the community wanted to pay it forward. Costa traveled to India and met with Jetsun Pema, the sister of the Dalai Lama, which inspired him to create a foundation whose tenets are human dignity, solidarity, ecological sustainability, participation and transparency.
On the global stage, he is a vocal participant in Economy for the Common Good, a social movement advocating “a good life for everyone on a healthy planet” with an alternative economic model. And somewhere along the line Costa founded a foundation (more on that). Restless, positive and focused, Costa goes deep.
What is hospitality in the 21st century?
Hospitality, accoglienza is closer to authenticity. It’s what comes from the Greeks, we didn’t invent. We must be radical, that is, go to the radix, the root of things. Being a hotelier is not just a tour into hospitality, it is a tour into the root of humanity. Authentically being a hotelier means never stopping in the constant search for right.
You bring a sense of community to everything you do, whether its La Perla, the maratona, the Costa Family foundation, the Economy for Common Good…
Community is an intimate word. It’s the union of intents, doing things together to reach a goal. I’m not a philosopher. I am someone who tries to ask questions for things to come.
Foundations, hotels, restaurants. How do you have time for everything?
I don’t think it’s that’s difficult to do. I think it’s about priorities. Think about it, there are people who like to be on facebook and [others] the mountains. I go to the mountains everyday, at least an hour, two hours. The mountains give me the idea of limits, I love them.
We live the hotel. The hotel is casa mia, and so it is for anyone who comes in.
Hotel La Perla is the pearl of the Sella Ronda, a network of four valleys, 200 lifts and 500km of slopes surrounding the Sella Mountain. The deliciously cosy ski-in, ski out 54-room hotel celebrates true Tyrolean style with Alpine boiserie, exotic wool rugs, and decorative ceramics. Built in 1956, La Perla maintains its charming Ladino heritage in a fairytale landscape. And the view? A breathtaking front-row to the Dolomites’ peaks.
On site are five restaurants including the Michelin star holder La Stua de Michil, as well as apres ski spot L’Murin, but the true star is the one-of-a-kind Mahatma Wine Cellar, with more than 28,000 bottles (the largest private collection of Sassicaia), the cellar is also an adventure in color, art and music.
Located in Corvara (Alta Badia), Hotel la Perla is easy to reach, just a 3-hour drive from Venice’s Marco Polo airport, 5-hour drive from Milan’s Malpensa Airport or a 90-minute drive from Bolzano.