For our fall hiking holiday this year we went to the Dolomites in the South Tyrol of northern Italy. This area is a favorite for the great hiking, biking, food, and wonderful Spa Resorts.
The South Tyrol, though in Italy, is historically and culturally Germanic having formerly been a part of Bavaria and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This culture still predominates.
A typical day at an Alpine Spa Resort includes hiking, stopping at a mountain hut for lunch along the way, two or three hours of relaxing sauna (or swimming, reading or napping) in the evening followed by wonderful meals with friends old and new. It’s a great balance of exertion and relaxation (and luxury).
For those who want less exertion there’s the option of relaxing at the Spa all day. One couple we know from Germany visit Adler every fall – she goes on challenging hikes and climbs with her friends and he enjoys a wonderful day relaxing in the spa. And for those looking for greater challenges there are ample opportunities for both longer hikes and more technically challenging climbs.
These are all-inclusive (European style) so you have an assigned table for dinner. This allows you to get to know your dinner neighbors and servers. The food quality (fresh local ingredients and preparation) at all of these (and the huts and alms) is on par with or often superior to the best locavore restaurants in the U.S.
This all isn’t limited to just the South Tyrol though. You’ll find great spa resorts, spa hotels, spas, huts with great food, hiking and biking throughout the Alps in Monaco, France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. There is also wonderful hut to hut hiking in the Pyrenees and hundreds (or thousands?) of options outside of major mountain ranges such as Papa Rhein Hotel & Spa. If ultimate luxury is your thing then check out the Spas of Relais & Chateaux. Or for more hike than spa some options from Outsider and Crave The Planet.
Sauna & Spa
A key element of all of these are the spas and in particular the saunas. For many people these are the primary reason for traveling and staying.
The Finnish Sauna at Adler Mountain Lodge.
For anyone who enjoys sauna these are a wonderful treat and are all much better than any sauna I’ve been to or am aware of in the U.S. More below.
Milano (Altitude: 120 meters)
We spent our first day in Milano including a visit to the Duomo.
Shopping, Italian Style!
Lots of Dutch bikes!
Like most cities outside of the U.S. they prioritize space and safety for people (walking & bicycling) rather than cars.
La Perla (1578m)
La Perla is located in the village of Corvara Italy. They have a few options for eating, all with very wonderful food, including a Michelin starred restaurant. For wine enthusiasts they have a great collection including Barolo’s back to the 1950’s. There are also other options for eating in the village but I think nothing better than what La Perla offers.
A favorite easier hike begins below one of the lifts, continues to some waterfalls and then for those up to it – up the mountain to a Hüüt for lunch. This is a great hike for getting acclimatized to the altitude.
Not gourmet but a wonderful local specialty.
Firewood to keep the saunas hot!
Back to Corvara after a quite enjoyable hike.
I stayed back on solid ground 🙂
I often wonder what this great mind is contemplating 🙂
This is a terrific area for adventure bikes and there were a lot of them.
The Spa in the lower level of La Perla includes a pool area, sauna/wet area and massage rooms. The wet area is a fairly large area and yes, like pretty much all outside of the U.S. is designated as nude and includes two saunas, a Turkish bath, Kneipp hot/cold foot walk, showers, bucket shower and lounging areas.
Entry to the sauna/wet area is through the door in the middle. Through the windows to the left we could see out to cooler air but just couldn’t get there.
The wet area. Kneipp foot walk on the left, Turkish bath in the middle dome, lounge area on the right. The two saunas are just behind the Turkish bath.
The most Finnish Sauna on our trip! Benches were at a good height, the foot bench about 15 cm above the stones, and this despite a somewhat low ceiling so we didn’t have cold feet and had quite good Finnish style löyly. Note that the foot bench is just 30cm (11”) below the sitting bench which actually worked quite well.
They have two saunas, one about 75°c and one about 92°c. The only drawback was no easy way to go outside. Showers allowed for a quick cooldown after each sauna round but then there was no place cool to relax.
Adler Lodge Alpé (1832m)
Adler Lodge is located in what I believe is the largest alpine meadow in the alps and an area that’s popular for both nordic and alpine skiing. Numerous national nordic teams, including the U.S. team and Jessie Diggins spend part of their year here training.
Rain is a near constant element in the South Tyrol region. Adler Lodge is in the middle of the photo.
Looking out from the pool area. There’s a sensor that opens the doors to swim outside anytime of year.
A quite spectacular view from the pool!
The deck on the front is a great place for a meal or to relax with some local wine and cheese.
They have interesting electric fencing with micro wire woven in to the webbing. It does seem to keep most of the cows where they should be.
View from our Chalet
Risoto at Gostner Schwaige, one of our favorite huts. About a 60-180 minute walk or hike (depending on route) from Adler.
Their Heublütensuppe or Hay Soup is famous throughout the area and understandably so.
Traveling with a photographer means a lot of waiting around 🙂
We saw a few parents towing younger folks on the uphills. Less busy roads (≈ 4 cars / hr) are safe for everyone to walk and bike on. In the background is a new chalet under construction.
On our way back to Gostner Schwaige another day (yes, it was that good).
Everything on the menu is made from fresh local ingredients.
Throughout the South Tyrol you’ll find safe walking paths along any road that gets more than about 10 cars / hr.
The upper level of the lodge is the spa and includes two relaxation sunrooms, deck, indoor/outdoor pool, and sauna/wet area. The wet area includes a Sauna, Hay Sauna, Turkish Bath, and an outdoor deck.
There was no doubt their thoughts on the entire spa area being quiet and calm.
The Sauna area is through the doors in the middle.
The central corridor for the sauna/wet area. When open (no photos allowed when it’s open) there are a couple of different waters and snacks available. The hallway to the sauna is on the left and the hallway to the hay sauna and turkish bath on the right. Note the ice dispenser (for rubbing on your body to cool down) on the deck.
Sauna with a view!
Not surprisingly this was a quite good sauna. The sitting bench (highest) was sufficiently high that there were no cold feet, convective heat was quite even head to toes and there was no noticeable radiant heat. After cooling down with a shower there were a few options for a cool place to relax including the deck in the wet area or the larger deck by the sunrooms.
Hallway / Changing for Hay Sauna (far end left) and Turkish Bath (middle right). Similar to the sauna hallway there are two showers on the left.
Hay Sauna. This was a cooler 60°c. They change the hay about twice each year.
A quite wonderful Turkish Bath (steam room).
One of the more enjoyable elements here was the sauna community who are quite pleasant and enjoyable. It’s a great way to get to know people, what conversations we had were just slightly above a whisper and for me, involved about the right amount of time in conversation vs quiet time.
There were a number of us who went to sauna every day about the same time so got to know each other somewhat.
Part II: San Luis & Lake Como.