Cavallino Bianco Grand Hotel in Ortisei Interview with Ralph A. Riffeser

Outside the snow falls, while we chat with Ralph A. Riffeser, CEO and General Manager of the Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hotel in Ortisei, among the best, if not the best hotel in the world for families. When the flakes whiten this populous and elegant town of Val Gardena, tourists crowd it more than at other times of the year. Along with tourism, another voice stands out in the chorus of a florid economy, deeply rooted and identity: that of wood craftsmanship, with which everything is realized, from furnishings to games. And with a game made of wood we begin the story of the “Cavallino Bianco”, which has as its protagonist Ralph, a dreamer who has the courage to live his dreams. A tree, the tree of time, on which grow leaves made of time. Time to devote to oneself, to the couple, to the family, to the children. Precisely in this order. Random. A game that sums up the corporate philosophy with lightness and keeps the guests of the Family Spa Grand Hotel busy when they are on holiday. Simple? It may seem like it. But Ralph spent more than fifteen years codifying “the rules” to make all the participants happy. And now that he is 52 years old, the story of his childhood and his adult family runs along a thread: that of dreams. A family, in some ways as many, his, without time to devote, even on vacation. And precisely the desire to recover from the “evil of our time” has brought him here, where children, parents, grandparents are at home, and to whom, from 2013 to 2018, the Travelers’ Choice Award is awarded, the award more scope from tourist facilities.Who is Ralph?I am a madman, a dreamer who has the courage to risk to live his dreams. I grew up with my mother and my sister, without dad, whom I lost when I was ten and still regret today. I had two very charismatic grandparents, pioneers of entrepreneurship, fifty or eighty years ago. But I grew up humble, with many dreams, as a sportsman. My passion as a boy, ice hockey, taught me a lot: resist, keep dreaming even when everything hurts you.At what point in your life and how did you start working on the business project that is Cavallino Bianco?I was a university student, I dreamed of becoming a lawyer, taking care of business administration, when at one point my grandfather called me to help out in a hotel, the old Hotel Posta here in Ortisei, an old inn of the 1400 that my grandfather bought in ’58. A season, an experience, helping out with the family. It all started this way … in 1987 and I did not leave anymore, because at a certain point my grandfather never gave up. Until, in 2002, the new structure of my “Cavallino Bianco” was born.What is the special “cure” that you offer to your guests?Spend them our time. And do it with love. What I ask my boys is this: we live a time when you are more and more alone, more and more isolated, with backs curves and eyes down on our cell phones, we look on the screens and often lose sight of people: to the “Cavallino Bianco” beat 150 hearts for 104 rooms. It looks like a deranged relationship, but here is our strength: 150 employees to offer dedication, care, and kindness to host families. My staff is also chosen based on the “empathic quotient”, even more so: it is easy to teach a new program, but the people with the ability to create relationships make the difference.You always say that your work is great fun, but sometimes, Ralph, do you go on vacation too?My holiday is with myself, when I need to recharge, to balance myself, to find myself, I stop. I do it three weeks a year. I drive a Harley, I love America, the country of possibilities, without frontiers, I love driving for hours … staring at a horizon that can not change after hundreds and hundreds of miles, I love coast to coast trips, I’m an Easy Rider …Before closing, let’s go back to the tree of time: a few years ago you proposed to your guests the family tree, a small wooden construction, on whose branches attach different colored leaves depending on the experience and time dedicated to themselves, to the couple, to the children, to the family: a “therapeutic” idea?Yes, next to the tree we offer something similar every year. Now, for example, we propose the photo album, to start on holiday and complete at home, enhancing the time spent. The principle is the same: if the illness of our time is the time, we can heal only by taking care of it. When the family recovers the awareness that living it fully with their loved ones is the real cure, it must not miss this important recipe. We all think so at the “Cavallino Bianco” … and our guests agree with us!