A paradise for skiers, the Italian Alps of South Tyrol offer a hobby that is more placid and in full swing. A multitude of spas grow in isolated expanses among the highlands. Although hiking, biking and access to some of the easiest ski slopes in the Alps, sport is just a reflection after the fact. The spas invite skiers and non-skiers to spend days in hot tubs, fascinated by the view of these imposing and ice-covered summits.
Throughout the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, when mineral springs became the perfect cure for health problems in Europe, wellness researchers flocked to famous waters and sanatoriums of the region. Today's alpine spas bring this long tradition to the fore, as today's pursuit of well-being has re-energized the desire for their timeless sedative effects.
For those of us who have forgotten what a multitude of stars look like, the Italian Alps offer an immersion into the lost wonders of contemporary life. Snow without brake. Air without stain. A velvet coat of silence. And the immeasurable respite from bad cell phone receptions.
It is not surprising that these mountains have become the home of a group of modern spa destinations designed to attract city dwellers to a place where tranquility is imposed by the very nature of the landscape.
In December, I visited the Alps to see how these age-old remedies withstood the stress and personal care of our times, by visiting four contemporary spas located in the midst of the peaks of the South Tyrolean region. Italy.
These spa hotels are decidedly modern, with bold architecture and state-of-the-art restaurants. Their pools, saunas and spas are designed for an avant-garde aesthetic and include heated outdoor pools that allow visitors to enjoy the open-air mountain views even when they are surrounded by snow. Although the look is modern, the cures – hot baths, massages, mountain air – are classic and attract a new generation in search of health and relaxation.
At their peak, spas were metropolitan businesses, located in cities like Merano. Health care claimants rushed to them for their restorative waters and for the society they provided in theaters, casinos and dance halls that were common amenities.
In ancient times, the thermal baths that the Romans adapted from the Greek tradition were even more integral to cosmopolitan life. There were 952 baths in Rome on 354 AD. they often included libraries, gymnasiums, conference rooms, medical treatment facilities and gardens. The Baths of Diocletian alone have hosted up to 3,000 visitors at a time.
Today, public baths are rare on our city maps and serenity is a luxury reserved for infrequent holidays. The spas must now be in the woods, the dislocation and the breathtaking view of the mountains is the only way to finally submit.
Modern alpine spas reinvent the traditional wood huts of the mountains as high architectural resting temples. On the vast plateau of the Alpe di Siusi in the Dolomites, located on a meadow embankment dotted with small log cabins, the Adler Mountain Lodge reflects the small rustic dwellings of its neighbors, but in the form of palaces. Built in the raw wood of local spruce trees, the main double-gabled hotel and a dozen walled cottages are entirely made of glass, offering an impressive look at the serrated monoliths of the Sassopiatto and Sassolungo mountains, spiky spikes. to launch the sky.
Raising the curtains in the morning on this jagged expanse – the rocky clumps beating in the sun or softened by fields of fresh snow – is like waking up to the vastness of the larger world that, in our daily island life, we forget.
Of course, the view of the mountain is only the beginning. There is a spa. A salt and warm saltwater pool, constructed from local silver quartzite rock and filled by a nearby spring, extends from the inside out to the outside. Steam rises to the surface in cold air as visitors climb and lie in a reclining position, wrapped in jacuzzi bubbles contemplate the stony outcrops of mammoth from the horizon. Two pine saunas, one of which is filled with Tyrolean hay and a scent of dry earth, offer panoramic views of the rough topography. In the saunas – as in all the saunas of this region – the sexes are mixed and bare or slightly wrapped in towels. But as long as you are comfortable seeing bare bodies, the personal sensation of simmering your own body without a swimsuit is well worth it.
Adler's spa offers a post-excursion massage based on arnica extract and alpine mud to soothe overworked legs, but no one seems to be in such a stench to become sporty here. However, there are options: the area is a hiker's paradise, electric bicycles are available in summer and you can ski right out of the locker room on mountain trails in winter. Trails are wide and easy, and guests usually go down for a few hours at most. "Our slopes allow you to navigate and enjoy the view," said Nicol Lobis, Adler Mountain Lodge staffer. "But people come here to relax, not to burn their thighs to the fullest on black diamond runs." And in addition, the bar is open all day.
Adler is an all-inclusive hotel that serves hearty meals and snacks three times a day. A bread and cheese buffet open throughout the day, such as the well-stocked bar, is self-catered for, giving the stay a decidedly more indulgent twist.
The restaurant's dishes reflect the unique history of South Tyrol. Territory of Austria until the First World War, the main language of the region is still German; and smoked fish, cumin seeds, horseradish, beets and the very special taste of milk thistle oil make its cuisine more central European than Mediterranean, although She has belonged to Italy since the last century. However, Adler devotes particular attention, to the Italian, to high quality local ingredients.
Opened in 2014, this hotel was the first resort of its kind in this district of Arcadia of the Alpe di Siusi, which, as part of the Dolomites protected by UNESCO, does not have any facilities. authorizes only a handful of cars and even fewer building amenities.
In the Italian Alps, the modern movement of forest spas started with the opening of the Vigilius Resort in 2003. Designed by the famous architect Matteo Thun, the hotel is an entirely contemporary expanse of glass and timber located at 5,000 feet altitude, accessible only by cable car. In its early years, the Vigilius was rewarded for its approach to sustainable energy and introduced the idea of eco-recourse in the region, paving the way for the use of natural materials and energy. extreme energy efficiency of spas. The Vigilius' glass-enclosed sauna and heated indoor-outdoor pool plunge visitors into an extremely dense view of larches and craggy peaks, but the resort needs a refresh to keep up with the high style introduced by the eco-resorts the latest in the area.
At the top of the isolated plateau of Avelengo, visible at the top of a mountain in front of Vigilius, the San Luis Retreat Hotel & Lodges is a set of modern chalets and "tree houses" on stilts, all spread out in a meadow around a central lake, behind which stand larch hills. There are no rooms in this hotel; instead, there are individual one or two story cabins, with pink exteriors of old untreated wood facing the water and night fireplaces along its pillars. Their hardwood interiors combine sophisticated modern interpretations of farmhouse furniture with a crackling fireplace, a private hot tub on the deck and a sauna with panoramic bay window, so guests can enjoy a spa moment. in solitude – perhaps the most romantic setting of South Tyrol hotels.
"Everyone lives in the cities, but all dream of a house in the woods," said Ilse Meister, who, along with her husband and two adult children, launched the San Luis spa in 2015, an additional campaign to the city. Hotel Irma that the family has been running in Merano for generations. "We were convinced that in the future, what would be most important for our customers would be total silence."
At dusk in the dimly lit booths, the only noises that escape are the occasional bathing that splashes limply into the bulky hot tub. Crest. The chimney smoke and the balsamic pitch of the evergreen needles smell pure breeze. In the center of the grounds, a beamed pavilion – the main hall filled with candles – contains the hotel's full-board (non-alcoholic) dining room and its main sauna and steam room. A fireplace marks the heart of the gable roofed barn that houses the heated pool, which opens onto an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi on a pontoon in the middle of the lake. Its hot vapors swirl and liven up in a hectic evening. air.
There are no pools of cold water here, nor apparently anywhere in South Tyrol, which is surprising, since the ancient Romans were themselves great practitioners of the sea. hot / cold immersion therapy, a practice that continues today in many bathing cultures. An icy shower after the sweat of the sauna will never cause the purifying and icy tingle of a cold dunk: a breathtaking feeling that your entire body is mentholed, a trick that keeps you warm during the winter days.
But in San Luis, you can improvise with a roll of reinforcement in the snow (tried and recommended) or a jump in the lake, depending on the season; and the large freestanding cottage baths can be adapted for immersion in the cold after taking part in the personal sauna and whirlpool (also recommended).
A short drive, the Hotel Miramonti is "a mountain hotel in the city," says Klaus Alber, who opened it in 2016 with his wife Carmen. It is distinctly more urban than other alpine spas, but its position is secluded on a promontory at more than 100 meters above Merano, along a steep country road winding past fruit orchards. apple trees, herds of mountain goats on pasture, a beautiful 14th century Romanesque church and ancient castles – is still detached from the bustling view dizzily below.
The red fir wood exterior of the three-peaked hotel-boutique pavilion reflects the mountains of the Merano Valley, a majestic zigzagging geometric palisade in the form of a crown of snow at the edge of the sky, visible from each of the Patinated wooden balconies of the hotel. The rooms – whose lofts are the most comfortable – are fitted with raw oak and fir planks as in the other hotels, but contrast here with vivid white walls and Scandinavian minimalist Copenhagen furniture. &Tradition Mark; More urban design hotel than chic chalet.
Merano, its illuminated tangle of city streets visible at the bottom of the hotel's cliff, is only a 15-minute drive away. You can often go there for a dinner or a day trip. Yet the Miramonti, built on a porphyry rock in the middle of a grove of trees, still has miles of forest trails at its back door and the Merano 2000 Ski slopes are a short shuttle ride.
Just a few steps from the hotel lodge, a raised pine and glass cabin – Miramonti's forest sauna – lets guests enjoy the Finnish warmth while looking out at the fir grove and mountain peaks. . A hot tub is nestled in the nearby bushes. Ash gray recliners line the indoor and outdoor observation deck and offer views of the valley. But this sleek, modern spa shines brightly with its outdoor infinity pool, at the forefront of design, ready to photograph, partially covered by a sloping roofed roof and salient above the precipice. Floating on the edge of the water, with the city under-sided by its distance, the projection of the pool offers a privileged view of calm; the muted mountains seem to be yours.
What does it take to relax these days? As the stress of work, life and the modern world accumulates, perhaps we should, like the Romans, let our head float more often in matrix-shaped bubbles.
In San Luis, I tried to be massaged, although I thought that once, I had already returned to my body the soft consistency of a jellyfish. The masseuse stopped when her fingers landed on my spine. "Do you spend a lot of time working at an office?" Well, yes.
She kneaded a constellation of unexpected knots around my shoulder blades, slamming that all the people she's seen lately were in the same state. "You need a massage once a week, otherwise you will damage your back." Need, she said. Need. Did the Romans, with their weekly cure and their planned personal care, have knots in their backs? The masseuse may be right. Need indeed.
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