Although the weather is warmer on this side of the Alps, one doesn't expect to see many elephants. You would have though in 1551. Toward the end of that year, Emperor Maximilian returned to Vienna from a visit to his uncle's kingdom in Portugal. He was accompanied by an elephant, which the uncle gave him as a farewell gift. The elephant made it as far as Brixen and then decided to stop for a few weeks to rest. The only place with a stable big enough was a small tavern outside of town. When word got around, the tavern was deluged by crowds eager to see the new tourist attraction. When the elephant finally moved on, the tavern's savvy owner commissioned a fresco for the front of the building to capitalize on the animal's historic and profitable visit.

Besides this wonderful story, the place has been blessed with owners whose good taste and commitment have turned a modest, elephant-sheltering tavern into an excellent hotel. The lobby and public rooms are attractively decorated in antiques, brass and marble, all of which are kept to a bright polish by the attentive staff. Guest rooms come in either a French style with white furniture and green fabrics, or a more preferable Italianate style with stained hardwood furniture and paneling accented by Persian rugs and burgundy fabrics. The white tile baths have been recently renovated and include good-sized tubs and sinks with marble counters. The best rooms have balconies or terraces.

The 44 rooms are divided between the main house and a smaller but still historic dependency located in the garden across the street. The garden itself is one of the hotel's most charming features. There is a swimming pool and an immaculate green lawn with sun chairs if you like lying around, but more impressive—especially considering the hotel's location right in the middle of town—is the long path that goes around the large apple and pear orchard and then under a tall cherry tree, which was weighed down with fruit during my stay. Wrought iron benches along the way encourage quiet reflection, except for one under the cherry tree which was covered with stains. There is also an interesting little museum displaying cookery, table settings and menus from the hotel's long history, as well as an engraved throne made from the back left leg of its most famous guest.

Street Address: Via Rio Bianco 4
City: Brixen
Country: Italy
Phone: +39 0472 832750
Fax: +39 0472 836579
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quality: Rating: 4 stars
Value: Rating: 4 stars
Price Level: $$$$
Type: Hotel