In 2013, Boutique & Gourmet Hotel Orso Grigio in Innichen celebrates a major anniversary: 550 years of chronicled hotel history! Read here the fascinating and storied history of this traditional establishment, one which extends from the first “Bärenwirt”, Conrad Maus (1462), to today’s owner, Franz Ladinser (the proprietor here since 1987)!
In July 1303, King Albrecht granted Innichen a market charter, which began a first period of prosperity for Innichen. Merchants and noblemen came to the town in increasing numbers, which created the need to be able to provide lodgings for travellers, wherein lies the origin of the Grauer Bär. Until the mid-15th century, the owners are unknown. Yet in the year 1462, Conrad Maus appears as the first “Bärenwirt” in local records. The house remains in his family’s ownership until 1554.
After a conflagration almost destroys the entire town in 1560, the Dinzl family takes over the “Grauer Bär”. Michael Dinzl, the last offshoot of this dynasty, sells the inn in 1659 to his brother-in-law Jakob Peintner. These are difficult times. The plague and the Thirty Years War ruin even modest business successes. Son Josef sells the Bär in 1715 to Andrä Hueber from Toblach, who was also owner of Hotel “Wildbad” in Innichen at that time. It is said that he did not manage his wealth well, which is why, on January 3rd 1745, he sells Gasthof “Zum Grauen Bären” to Andrä Kopfsgueter, butcher and wagoner from Sillian. Since that time, the “Grauer Bär” has never been sold again, instead being passed down by inheritance, though not always in direct succession.
And so, with Andrä Kopfsgueter (1702 - 1784) there begins a long family history. Into the shoes of Andrä, who was an outstanding businessman, now steps his son Josef Kopfsgueter (1758 - 1805), who – just like his father – successfully runs the business. After his all-too-early death, his son, Andreas Kopfsgueter (1785 - 1853), takes over. For his services during the Tyrolean War of Liberation, he had been presented with the golden medal of merit by Emperor Francis I. Andreas Kopfsgueter hands over the inn in 1837 to son Josef Bonaventura Kopfsgueter (1811 - 1858), who remains childless and bequeaths the business to his nephew Franz Hellenstainer, the son of his sister Anna.
Franz Hellenstainer (nephew of well-known Emma Hellenstainer) marries Anna Stemberger, an innkeeper’s daughter from Bruneck. This marriage produces 8 children. The oldest son Franz marries a waitress. Due to this marriage being considered “below his station”, Franz will not be permitted to succeed to the business or to the associated farm, the biggest in town. After the other siblings follow different paths in their lives (two of whom open Hotel Hellenstainer and yet another Grauer Bär there), it falls upon the youngest daughter, Hedwig Hellenstainer (1871 - 1939). Due to the proximity of the Dolomite front during World War I, Gasthof “Grauer Bär” is turned into a military hospital, and Hedwig simultaneously assumes a mother-figure role for wounded officers and soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army. For this his majesty the emperor awards her the silver medal of merit.
Hedwig remains unmarried and childless. In 1921, she makes a courageous, though also somewhat strange decision: in order to be able to pass on her business, she adopts Alpini Alfredo Benincasa (1897 - 1971), who was born in Caposele in Avellino province, and who had been ordered to Innichen with the Italian army. Hedwig arranges a marriage with Flora Hellensteiner (1904 - 1973), her cousin, daughter of uncle Ferdinand from Niederdorf.
From this marriage, 10 children are born. The tradition-rich Gasthof “Grauer Bär” continues to be run with dedication, passion and intimate knowledge of the long family history by eldest daughter Hedwig Benincasa, Ladinser by marriage. Hedwig Ladinser succumbs in 1987 to a protracted illness. Since that time, her son Franz has represented the ninth generation “Bärenwirt” since 1745.