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Unwind at this sustainable spa retreat in the Dolomites

Forest breathing

Unwinding comes naturally at this sustainable spa retreat in the Dolomites.


Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied

A longer version of this story first appeared in Luxury Travel Magazine.

I hate to keep people waiting, so when I turn up a few minutes late for a scheduled coffee catch-up with one of the Forestis team, apologies are already tripping out of my mouth. He waves away my embarrassment. “Time is luxury,” he says calmly, “and we are a luxury hotel.”

At Forestis, you never have to apologise for being late. Which is lucky, since time here has a habit of slipping away from you.  It starts the moment you wake in the morning in your uncluttered room and drink in the Alpine view. Rolling hills clad with conifer forests rise up in the foreground while behind them the rock peaks of the Dolomites jut dramatically into the clear sky. Next thing you know a half hour has passed while you have been drinking in the panorama.

That view follows you throughout the resort. It’s in the lobby, in the dining room – a stunning space where tiered banquettes ensure every diner has an uninterrupted view – and even in the sauna, where full-length windows allow you to gaze out while the heat sinks into your body.

Making that view inescapable was more than just an aesthetic choice for owners Teresa and Stefan Hinteregger, who took an abandoned building – originally designed as a sanatorium – in Italy’s South Tyrol district and added three wood-clad towers designed to echo the soaring trees in the surrounding forests.

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To the Hintereggers, the location was central to the creation of their wellness sanctuary. A stay at Forestis is about rejuvenation driven by the mountains and the forests, the clean air and the pure water that is found in abundance in this pocket of Italy’s South Tirol region, 1800 metres above sea level.

It is left to each guest to choose the path of their wellness journey. For some it will be about relaxing on a lounger and simply allowing the pine-scented mountain air to lift your spirits as it fills your lungs.

For others, their experience will centre on the 2000-square-metre spa, a gloriously-light filled space with indoor and outdoor pools and a range of saunas-with-a-view where aromatherapy oils mellow your mood. (Fair warning: this is Europe, so almost all the saunas are swimsuit-free zones.) For those seeking physical and mental relaxation, the intuitive masseurs and the morning meditation and yoga classes are highly recommended. Where Forestis really excels, however, is in offering ways to get its guests moving amid the area’s stunning landscapes.

In winter, that’s likely to be snowshoeing or skiing on the 45km of slopes in the area – just strap on our skis and head out from the hotel. In the warmer months, the forest hikes are not to be missed.

Often these spectacular walks are as much about mindfulness as about fitness, with your guides focusing your attention on the small details you might otherwise miss, such as wild-growing herbs and berries.

Like the rest of the staff, many of the hiking guides are locals. Others come from further aield but they all share a passion for the area they now call home, and an excitement at being able to share it with visitors.

Each day at Forestis is studded with small delights. I spend one afternoon discovering the treats tucked into the complimentary health-focused mini-bar, which include a range of teas created by two local herbalists, Lorenz and Leander.

Using foraged ingredients such as wild lime tree blossom as alongside plants grown in their high-altitude herb beds, they create aromatic teas that give no sense of the labour involved. I’m surprised to learn that one kilo of fresh lemon balm gives only 100gm of dried herbs which, once you have removed the stems, nets you 50gm of tea – making each cuppa a labour of love.

It is not just the teas that are special. Build some time into your schedule for a pre-dinner cocktail – the drinks are made with fresh-from-the-forest ingredients such as bark from local trees, nuts and pine needles – before heading into the dining room for one of chef Roland Lamprecht’s superb meals.


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