5 reasons to fall in love with this secret spa hotel in the South Tyrol
Sometimes, you just need to get away.
Sometimes, only the mountains will do. Last summer, I headed to the bucolic hills of the South Tyrol in Italy, to discover a hidden gem of a spa-hotel. Say hello to Preidlhof.
Mon 27 May 2019
If you want to come back from a holiday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated rather than a little bit fatter and more sluggish then perhaps it’s time to head to the hills.
Preidlhof sits within the southern Alps right at the north east tip of Italy, in the South Tyrol. While close to Austria, the Med-like climate means there are around 315 sunny days a year. The hotel’s surrounded by the Texel Group National Park, a hugely diverse landscape that ranges from Alpine meadows to citrus orchards, spruce forests to vineyards - and what’s even better? In the UK at least, this hiking and walking paradise has hardly made it onto our radar.
If, like me, you want to be in nature, not surrounded by people on holiday, but you’re looking for some spa time too, the award-winning Preidlhof (Conde Nast Traveller, Tatler Spa Awards) should be on your bucket list.
Forget the big names, the global brands and the Insta-friendly spa trends, what I found was a long-lasting commitment to wellness, relaxation and detoxing that goes beyond new hybrid fitness regimes and ‘clean eating’.
Preidlhof is loved by Europeans who value self-care as part of a healthy lifestyle because its sensible and pragmatic rather a self-congratulatory humble brag. It just gets on with the serious business of wellness away from the social media gaze, and for me that’s worth shouting about.
5 reasons to fall in love with this secret spa hotel in the South Tyrol
1. The spa tower
There’s two words I never thought I’d hear together, spa and tower. But this eco-friendly spa hotel has numerous floors to cater to all types of spa-goer. Are you a lounger who wants to curl up in a towel and gaze over the rich, green forest mountains or head through rain showers before dunking yourself in an ice pool? There is both here and plenty inbetween.
Image L: Preidlhof hotel. R: Spend a day in the hotel's award winning spa tower
Ranging over six floors, the award-winning spa tower is home to everything from herbal steam infusions that open the pores and make you feel like you’re in a pot of herbal tea, to a rooftop infinity pool that will time your morning laps.
Seven different spas create different atmospheres, from airy, modern floor to ceiling windows looking over the hills to more intense affairs with clay walls or olive wood panelling. The spa tower also has a infrared salt lounge and even an event sauna, where a south Tyrolean pastime includes whipping and whirling various spa towels around to music, while unleashing herbal mixtures into the sauna’s embers (I think maybe you had to be there).
My favourite place? A nude salt water jacuzzi (yes really), the wine cellar sauna (sadly wine wasn’t served inside) and a domed steam bath full of salt mist to clear out my city-polluted airways.
What’s so lovely about a few days at Preidlhof is that it’s big enough to ramble and discover new nooks and crannies, like the bean like caves built into one wall of the indoor swimming pool room where I spent an hour half reading a book, half dozing content in my tiny hole in the wall.
2. The sound bath
While long walks, warm baths and serious digital detox time is good for the soul in a passive, slow holiday kind of way, Preidlhof has a range of experts on hand to help you go deeper with some serious contemplation.
The first morning I settled down into a double bed, one of a dozen in a wooden room that was warm from the early sun. Covering myself with a blanket, I settled down to my first ever healing sound bath. Various bowls and gongs were beautifully manipulated to create ripples and waves of echoing and ringing sound. The idea is that the sound's vibrations cleanse and renew your cells, creating harmony and balance.
Honestly, I was a touch sceptical going in. I love yoga and meditation but I wondered what a sound bath might add. It felt like falling into Narnia, an hour passed in a blink of an eye as my mind was transported to calm blank space just filled with the full bodied tones of the bowls being rung. I might have only been here for 12 hours but after that class, I was on mountain time, slowly ambling around the long weaving corridors of the low slung hotel, stopping to take in the garden views instead of marching around with my London legs on top speed.
3. The treatments
It’s not a spa break without some indulgent treatments right? And at Preidlhof, there’s a vast array to choose from in the Happiness Spa, along with a wide range of eco-friendly products, some of which are made in house using organic ingredients.
From precious stone massages to Ayurvedic inspired treatments, the extensive spa is a great introduction to the world of wellness, even if you don’t know what you want.
I spent a soothing afternoon on a quartz lounger, covered in a detoxifying and mineralising algae mask wrap designed to soothe away stress and take pressure off my spine. Lying on a warm bed of quartz pieces and tucked up like a mummy, I tried to let thoughts come and go and just be at peace.
Massage wise, there’s a menu here that ranges from Hawaiian to hot stone, Thai to seriously therapeutic specialities, depending on what you want to achieve. Quite honestly, after a couple of days at Preidlhof, when all I had to worry about is what massage I needed to book, and I was happy meandering around in a dressing gown and slippers all day, my treatments tend to merge together as all sense of time and urgency slipped away. That's when I know I'm truly relaxed.
4. Nordic walking
The beauty of this spa hotel isn’t just in the dressing gown-ed down time. Slightly more strenuous activities that take in the stunning South Tryol mountains are encouraged and there’s plenty on offer.
You must have seen the walkers with the sticks? You know the people who use the sticks even though they’re not climbing a hill? I’ve definitely sniggered in the past and I hold my hands up to it. I admit, I didn’t understand what the sticks were for. I thought they were superfluous and over cautious without knowing about Nordic walking.
What’s Nordic walking I can feel you thinking. Those sensible Norwegians have taken the hypnotic rhythmic movement that you use for cross country skiing and found a way to apply it to a walk instead. Using the sticks, which to begin with feel like unwelcome extensions of your arms, Nordic walking is a fast paced, to and fro kind of walk that uses 95% more muscles than regular walking - and it burns 40% more calories.
We set off on a short-ish loop around Preidlhof, up into the wooded mountains behind before emerging down in the pristine mountain village down below the hotel. Over the couple of hours I went from an ungainly Bambi on sticks to really enjoying getting all four limbs working in rhythm - unsurprisingly it does make you more steady on rocky ground or inclines and declines but able to cover more distance more quickly, like some kind of Lycra clad spider. I have to admit after an hour I was hooked and I can definitely see how it tones and get you in shape without needing the high impact that’s hard on joints and bones.
Around Preidlhof there are 65 kms of signposted routes for Nordic walkers, with varying degrees of difficulty. From winding between vineyards and through pretty meadows to rising over 1,700 metres above sea level, you can set the pace on your own or head out with one of the hotel’s expert guides.
5. The food
Preidlhof works on a mix of gourmet buffet and set menu options for evening dining but the range is as varied as the influences on the South Tyrolean cuisine - part Italian, Germanic, Mediterranean, all delicious.
The hotel works hard to ensure ingredients are local and seasonal, with many coming from its own land. It makes its own jams, honey, air dried speck, wine and herbs which compliment the extensive buffet breakfasts and lunches. As you’d expect with a focus on wellness, there are no end of delightful salad options, organic juices, blend your own smoothies and an inventive range of gluten free and dairy free options.
In the evening, a seven course taster daily changing menu is served with Tyrolean wine, I turned down the locally made apricot schnapps but it’s there if you want it. The restaurant set up makes it easy to cater for people with different dietary requirements easily and healthier dishes are flagged if you’re looking to go for a proper detox, rather than just a digital one.
So, three days here, felt like - well not nearly a year but definitely long enough to feel like I had had a break from real life. Over and above that, discovering a small part of Europe that very rarely gets a mention in the UK, one with such stunning landscapes, diverse flora and so many activities to try safe in the knowledge it's going to be warm and dry, was a real treat.
Forget what you think you know about Italy and the mountains and spa breaks and embrace something under the radar rather than promoted to you on Instagram. You won't regret it.
Why makes Preidlhof eco-friendly?
While a spa-hotel isn’t an easy thing to make eco, the resort runs its pools off solar energy, the rest is sustained by hydropower. It has reduced its waste, its energy, its packaging, doesn’t use heavy chemical laden cleaning products and most of the food is locally sourced, seasonally grown, organic or grown and made on site. The hotel also encourages people to arrive via train and free shuttle bus, provides free bikes and e-bikes and it works hard to help conserve the beauty of the South Tyrol.
For more information on Preidlhof, click here. Most packages are bespoke but a four night pampering package with full board, five treatments, spa tower access and a suite with two people sharing, would be £1069 per person.Click here for the best eco-friendly travel essentials for 2019.