As I drove past this imposing abandoned 1930s hotel last winter on a ski trip in Northern Italy, I was immediately taken in by the ominous sight: a huge green-shuttered hotel building in decay, with broken glass, boarded-up windows and missing roof tiles, dominating the skyline in the shadow of forboding snow-topped mountains. There was a certain The Shining meets Wes Anderson and The Grand Budapest Hotel feel to it all. My curiosity was peaked. I had to see more, know more. We stopped here one evening just before the sun set to investigate.
I learned that in the early hours of the morning on the 1st of May, 2004, flames destroyed the newer part of the Hotel Buscathedy, trapping the hotel manager inside where he tragically died. He was the only casualty. I’d heard a few different versions of events as to how the fire started; some suggest the six-storey formerly-grand hotel had become too expensive to run and, after a dispute, the manager intentionally set fire to the annex. Others suggest it was accidental. In any case, the insurance was invalidated and the hotel, too expensive to repair, has sat empty, slowly falling into disrepair over the last 16 years. The hotel is for sale for five million euros.
The main section of the buildings was built in the 1930s by a local family, mixing the Italian rationalist and belle époque styles. For several decades, the hotel’s reputation and level of service matched its grand design; it served as the main holiday destination for the aristocracy and was the first hotel in the region to provide guests the luxury of warm water in the rooms.
Inside, the rooms are today still filled with furniture and memories. The kitchen on the ground floor contains boxes of christmas decorations, the palatial ballroom is stacked with cobwebbed chairs, the floor scattered with hotel check-in stationary, handwritten records, documents and old magazines, echos of a past life.