We were extremely disappointed by our room at the Palazzo Salis. We hoped to have one of the beautiful rooms on the web-site - all old panelling and antique furniture - and what we got was a dreary attic. The furniture could have come from a jumble sale, the bottom half of the door had been repaired with a sheet of bare hardboard, the bathroom was primitive, it was hard to see out of the small dormer windows, the flimsy curtains didn't meet in the middle. Everything had been done on the cheap.
We were also disappointed by the garden at the back. Gardens are supposed to be tranquil places where you can relax. The first thing you see at Palazzo Salis is a cast-iron pole with a notice on top setting out the rules and regulations you are ordered to obey - just as if you were entering a municipal park. You expect it to list the fine - so many Swiss francs - for walking on the grass.
The dirt bothered us a little. Normally hotels in Switzerland are so clean you could eat off the floors. At Palazzo Salis the family portraits in the public rooms are so blackened - they need cleaning so badly - you can hardly see the faces. If you look at the backs of the pictures from above - they hang out from the wall at an angle - you see three hundred years of dust and grime. There is a fine line between 'authenticity' and squalour.
Palazzo Salis has no parking: in fact the whole village is a no-parking zone. You have to park in the municipal car-park at the entrance to the village and feed the meter. If there is no space left - we got the last one - I don't know what you do. You can't park on the side of the road up to the village: it's zig-zag bends up a mountain-side. Then you hump your bags up steep cobbled lanes - which are very slippery if it rains - from the bottom of the village to the top.
The village is 'different' from all the other villages I have seen in Switzerland. Every village in the Engadine valley is a picture postcard - each one prettier than the last. Every house is beautifully painted, every garden is immaculately maintained, every window-box is full of flowers. The streets exude prosperity, order, well-being. At Soglio half the houses are derelict. Several of them are empty shells without windows or floors. You have the impression that the villagers emigrated en masse, throwing away the keys as they left. It looks like a ghost village. On a dark, stormy day, it exudes poverty and decay.
When I said to the owner that we would like to cancel the second and third night of our three-night booking, she told us - several times over, in two or three different languages - that 'We had a contract' and must pay for all three nights even if we only stayed for one. I protested that the hotel had hardly kept their side of the contract: that they should have provided a room in keeping with their web-site and the price they were charging. It was no use: it wasn't the first time she had used the 'we have a contract' argument. In the end, she wore me down. In a moment of weakness I agreed to stay one night and pay for two if we were 'let off' the third. The result: the highest price I ever paid for a night in a hotel, and the worst value for money. I see now how the Salis family treated their peasant-tenants when they didn't pay their rents.
We left in a rain-storm after breakfast. It was so dark - the clouds had come down to touch the ground - night could have been falling. As we stumbled back down the cobbles, with water gushing in the gutters, we gradually realised that two slightly sinister-looking men were following us. They were flitting through the twilight from one derelict house to the next. As they got closer we realised - from their faces and their movements - that they were almost certainly long-stay psychiatric patients out for the day. I thought, at the time, that they might have come from the ghostly hospital which is hidden among pine-trees at the start of the road up to the village. It probably wasn't the case. But you see the kind of thoughts that spring into your mind as you make your escape from Palazzo Salis.