Eat your hearts out, Hansel and Gretel! We recently had a fairytale weekend at the Casa Oberrichter B&B and restaurant in Malborghetto, about as far north-east as you can get in Italy, indeed within spitting distance of the Austrian and Slovenian borders.
With not much to go on but the photos and blurb on the website, it was amazing how life assumed a quite different dimension as we passed the portal of this imposing 15th-century house. Time seems to flow more slowly here, as its current occupants, having completely renovated the building, devote their energies to multifarious arts and crafts: Silvano is a joiner and his wife Marina an artist of manifold talents; Alessio is an opera singer and fine chef; and Pietro a writer, poet and illustrator. In short, everything from the yoghurt to the fine carved wardrobes at Casa Oberrichter is home-made.
Our attic room, including its bathroom, was all in wood, pale pine and larch, and even contained a concealed, diminutive kitchen. The huge sitting room and several dining rooms are all furnished and frescoed in keeping with the local alpine culture. The menu too is basically traditional, conceived in line with the finest ingredients available locally – right down to the herbs and spices – but with a good pinch of creative flair and a nod to healthy eating. There’s a sauna and tepidarium too.
The Nicolavcich Gioitti family of artists have turned the house, once endowed to the Chief Justice (the Oberrichter) into a magical, surreal and utterly beguiling sanctuary, also used for concerts, exhibitions, craft and painting courses. Not surprisingly, many guests become drawn into their sometimes crazy, sometimes other-worldly but always intriguing and rewarding projects fuelled by a love of art and an appreciation for talent, becoming collaborative and complicit weavers of dreams. The ambiance is balm for the soul, the food and wine fit for the gods.
The village is encircled and cossetted by the stillness of high mountains, inviting summer treks, winter skiing, communing with nature, or – best of all – just being. The only hard part is tearing yourself away.