Albergo Bucaneve, Bielmonte
Text Angelica Carrara
Genius loci is the interaction between a place and an identity. A relationship. The one that has been existing since 1910 connecting Ermenegildo Zegna’s wool activity to his territory. On the Biella alps, where water is noble. It flows down the mountains until Trivero and it is received into a tank at Casa Zegna. Wool is washed inside this tank – «When I was a child we went there to skate with my grandpa » – Anna Zegna remembers. It is the softer water in Europe, this is the secret which lies behind the excellence of the fabrics made by Zegna. The ‘recipes’ are kept in 2200 volumes at Casa Zegna archives, a Thirties residence. The family house is surrounded by the green wool mill – which makes use of only noble fibres, and by 100 square kilometres of protected territory, which make up the Oasi Zegna, born in 1993.
«We used to plunge in the wool». The wool – merino from Australia and New Zealand, kid mohair from South Africa, cashmere from Inner Mongolia, vicuña from the Peru Andean highlands . One kilogram of wool corresponds to 180 kilometres of yarn. In the Sixties, Ermenegildo created a yarn measuring 120 kilometres in length – from Trivero to Milano, made of four micron – one micron corresponds to one thousandth of millimetre. This is how the “centoventimila” fabric was born, and it won him the Jason’s Golden Fleece.
The habitus is not only a dress, but an attitude. At the time, the British were the best fabric manufacturers. Ermenegildo took this as a challenge. In 1938, he went to America to explain Italian tailors the importance of made in Italy fabric, the first one marked by the logo. In the same years, the first campaign – a dagger lined by Zegna fabric to break the chain of the British supremacy, marked a new supremacy and the rise of a mode: to manufacture a Zegna suit, five hundred hands are needed.
Wisdom sometimes walks in clouted shoes. A manager and a philanthropist, first of all Ermenegildo thought about cohesion with the community. Casa Zegna is a space for welcoming people, a social-existential centre – contents are updated every six months and there is a permanent show. «We needed a path to reach the top of the mountain, my grandpa traced it». To make the slope to Bielmonte softer, five hundred thousand conifers were planted as well as a whole basin of rhododendrons which in May is tinged with violet. The road connecting the Biella district with valle d’Aosta is hidden amidst the forests of Val Sessera wolves, and where today the environment sentinels – more than four hundred bees – produce wild rhododendron honey.
On the top, at Bucaneve, larch is everywhere. It burns on the fire and the air is scented with it. It shines on the walls, on tables, it squeaks under your feet. There still is a taste from the Sixties, when architect Luigi Vietti designed this hotel with only twenty rooms. On the table, the wine is missing, there is just water – perfumed with ginger, lime and pomegranate. «We do not much of what can be found in the city» – explains the chef, Giacomo Gallina from Piedmont, while pouring a glass of pure, rounded Nebbiolo. «I look forward, until the Liguria Apennines. I can see gorgonzola cheese, rice, the Monferrato region. A lot of vegetables – topinambour, trussotto (a variety of radicchio), turnips, garden pumpkins».