By John O’Ceallaigh
As is the case the world over, Italy’s hospitality industry is in desperate need of support, and a very good enticement to plan a visit comes in the shape of Forestis, a dramatically positioned “sustainable luxury” hotel in the South Tyrol mountains that will offer one of the most awe-inspiring vistas to be had in the Dolomites.
Launched in July of 2020 but of course impacted by pandemic-related closures since then, the property’s origins in fact stretch back to 2007. This was when local hotelier Alois Hinteregger discovered the remains of an abandoned sanatorium and refuge, a dilapidation he had converted into the four-star Rosalpina hotel, a process that was completed by 2009.
Hinteregger’s son Stefan and Stefan’s partner Teresa thought the property’s incredible setting would allow for a hospitality proposition significantly more ambitious and luxurious and so have completely rebuilt and reconfigured the original Rosalpina to reveal the all-new Forestis. Returning guests will still get to enjoy views that have seen locals bill this stretch of land “the gateway to heaven” but now they will admire them in far fancier a setting. There’ll be a greater emphasis on connecting with nature too, alongside finding balance and enjoying wellness experiences that, the team claim, will linger with visitors long after they return to their daily lives.
In practice, that will be conveyed by regenerative therapies at the Forestis spa, where signature treatments are inspired by Celtic beliefs and draw from four trees commonly found in the surrounding mountains: spruce, larch, mountain pine and stone pine. Alongside an indoor-outdoor pool, saunas, silence rooms and gym, a wyda room provides a cosy space for guests to practise wyda, millennia-old energy exercises that the Forestis team explains as being “the yoga of the Celts”.
If that sounds a bit too esoteric (or gimmicky) and you just want to enjoy the setting, there’ll be opportunities for walking, hiking and biking from the front door of the property, set 1,800 meters above sea level, alongside skiing and snowshoeing in winter – the hotel will offer a direct connection to the Plose ski region, with its 45 kilometres of slopes. Themed wellbeing retreats will run throughout the year.
At the restaurant, every party gets a panorama. At the bar, cocktails use ingredients and materials sourced from the surrounding forests, from herbs and nuts to shrubs, bark and fir needles.
Complementing all that will be a ‘Forest Cuisine’ menu by local chef Roland Lamprecht that is centred on natural, unadulterated produce, often sourced from farmers in the neighbouring valley or foraged in the resort’s immediate surroundings, and heavily focused on fresh fruit and vegetables. Nonetheless, I think a restaurant highlight is likely to be the incredible mountain views offered from every single table, be that from the outdoor terrace or within, where clever, university lecture hall-style tiered seating means every party gets a panorama. Also with a terrace and warmed by indoor and outdoor fireplaces, the bar remains semi-virtuous with cocktails that use healthy ingredients and materials sourced from the surrounding forests, from herbs and nuts to shrubs, bark and fir needles.
The other highlight is likely to be the design itself. South Tyrolean architect Armin Sader of hotel design firm Asaggio has done an impressive job of crafting a space that is calming, stylish and beautiful while remaining mindful and respectful of those superlative views. Every one of the 62 bedrooms and suites faces the massif of the Dolomites (and catches the sun all day), while a sense of calm is provided to interiors by the generous use of natural materials, selected by locals who really know and understand the area. The team also claims construction was CO2-neutral, while energy will be entirely renewably sourced.
Hopefully this new elevated take on hospitality will encourage the hotel’s marketing team to delete the historic and atrociously tacky ‘perfectly made-up bed-bound influencer stares wistfully at filtered mountains’ poses that still dominate the lower reaches of the property’s Instagram page. It is a marketing ploy I despise and while those shots may be a relic of the Rosalpina hotel days of yore, for me the images nonetheless dull the sheen of what otherwise has the potential to be a properly sophisticated and progressive property. (Just to make myself clear here, such shots are so off-putting to me that they are sometimes enough to turn me off a hotel completely and on other occasions I have actively chosen not to book hotels because they push that tacky aesthetic and are likely populated with holidaymakers I don’t want to be around.)
But still it looks like Forestis has lots to offer, and eco-minded travellers who want to do fewer trips for longer rather than taking multiple weekend breaks might like to pair a visit with other recent openings and revivals such as LeFay Resort & Spa Dolomiti, which opened in December 2019, and Hotel Arlberg in Lech, Austria, a family-run hotel since 1956 that has just undergone an impressive €5m update overseen by son of the house Benjamin and his husband Patrick. Both of those strike me as similarly style-conscious retreats in magnificently beautiful mountain settings and would likely pair well with this new arrival. With so many of us in Europe yet to brave leaving the continent, criss-cross itineraries such as this may increasingly come into their own over the months and years to come.
B&B opening rates at Forestis start at €514 per night; half-board rates start at €594.