Nature is the best healer. Fake birdsong and woodland wallpaper are no substitute for exhausted adrenals. To recharge in five star luxury amidst pristine pine forests, head to the Italian Alps. Only there’s no road up to Vigilius Mountain Resort, you need to take a cable car, 1,500m above sea level…
A perfect retreat for great outdoor lovers, who’d prefer to end their day’s hike at a contemporary design hotel with award winning eco-credetials.
There is a reason why you will have this mountain pretty much to yourself. The nearest airports are Innsbruck and Verona, from which the hotel staff strongly encourage you to travel by train.
Approximately 1.5 hours to Bolzano and then by taxi (another 20 mins) to the cable car station at Lana. After all, you are here to slow down – an anathema on Italian motorways.
Yet patience pays off. Aside from a little impromptu percussion from the local cow-bell clinking herd, there is a deep stillness here which instantly soothes shot nerves.
The vast landscape swallows everything up. There are other people around but you don’t see them outside of the hotel. Away from the sweltering cities, even in mid summer there is a refreshing crispness to the air.
It is true that the occasional dramatic lightning storm may force you to the indoor springwater infinity pool… But, when the clouds part, the light is crystalline – the snowy peaks of the Dolomites glittering on the horizon.
Inspired by the four elements, the hotel is a minimalist interpretation of a fallen tree. A long rectangular structure with a turf roof, clad on its sides in bars of larch. The vast central atrium sparkles with cut stone flooring that leads seamlessly to the spa at the southern tip and the two restaurants at the north.
Two layers of suites branching to each side face either the rising or setting sun. Fire and water are everywhere. Fireplaces indoors and out, alongside fountains and hydrotherapy baths – fresh mountain spring water pouring from every tap.
Spend your days exploring trails up to the summit of Hochwart 2.608m, to the hidden Black Lake and around the enchanting San Vigilio Church – constructed on the site of a pre-historic shrine to a thunder god.
The hotel also offers, at no extra cost, a daily programme of instructor led exercise ranging from ‘The Five Tibetans’, archery, mountain biking to a ‘Torso Intensive’.
In the winter you can explore the surrounding ski slopes, experiment with snow-shoeing and cross country skiing or pick up pointers with the hotel’s private instructor. A former Italian downhill champion.
After filling your lungs with mountain air, make for the spa to experience a luxury facial using pure raw ingredients from cult Australian brand Sodashi.
Ease tired muscles with a ‘silver quartzite primordial stone massage’, chill out in an aromatic ‘hay bath’ or quench dry skin with an apple polenta peel.
The overall feel of the hotel and spa, in contrast to the Heidi playground outside is refined and sophisticated. Although children are allowed, their numbers are expertly capped. Be warned that the sauna and vapour room are ‘naked-only’. You can also enjoy the bubbling indoor/outdoor whirlpool until 10pm.
Choose from one of the two restaurants. The top floor, ‘Restaurant 1500’ was built using 300-year old wood painstakingly recovered from an ancient farm that creates a cozy yet elegant atmosphere.
The dishes here are classically North Italian. Hand rolled ‘pici’, suckling pig and the baked torresano were highlights for us.
Downstairs, ‘Stube Ida’, is more quaint and traditionally alpine, featuring meaty down-to-earth South Tyrolean cooking and loads of delicious cakes… We enjoyed sitting outside to watch the sky change as the sun went down, whilst tucking into local wine and cheese.
Then finally… slip away to your room. The 41 spacious, wood-panelled suites have either a private balcony or terrace. Heated walls using ingenious eco technology combined with ultra-glazed panoramic windows ensure that you can enjoy the views even in the deepest snows of winter. Expect a deep baby sleep, free from all noise and light pollution.
We stayed for 4 nights and, despite the truffle gnocchi and fondue, left feeling lighter of spirit and more grounded in the body – overall we were rebalanced and renewed.
If we had more time we would have been tempted to try the paragliding sessions also organised by the hotel and a tour of the vineyards at nearby thermal town – Merano.
Important tip: whatever your skin type, sunscreen is essential. Even those who rarely burn will be blistered by the powerful rays at this altitude, limiting your choices at the spa…
The hotel prides itself on catering for all dietary requirements. However, if you can, this might be a place to ditch the dairy free approach.
The delicious local milk is quite different from anything we get on the plains below and would be a shame to miss out on.
Address: Vigilius Mountain Resort, Pawigl 43, Monte San Vigilio/Vigiljoch, I-39011 Lana
Book by telephoning: 0039 0473 556600 or by visiting the website