It’s not often you get a welcome like this. The sun dips below the mountains at San Luis. Snowy alpine peaks glow. Switzerland lies to the west, Italy to the south and Austria in the north.
Forgetting that we’re weary travellers, we give in to the crazy beauty of it all. Somehow we find glasses of champagne in our hands. Our host shows us to a hillside lodge, complete with a walk in closet, private sauna, hot tub and log fire. But the view…the view just nails it.
The chalets are knee high in alpine wildflowers. Below us a lake reflects a changing sky and jagged peaks. This is South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost province. A meeting point of alpine charm and Italian drama.
At San Luis the aesthetic is stylish simplicity. Wooden beams, huge windows and clay walls blend into the forrest. Moody, luxe interiors balance light and warmth. Epic vistas take centre stage, changing with the weather. The focus is on nature, privacy and space.
Hunger finally catches up with us, and we eat like kings in the candlelit club house restaurant. Food is a five star affair, with the emphasis on seasonal and sustainable choice. Local farmer Harald Gasser nurtures homegrown vegetables, berries and spices. Chef Arturo Spicocchi and his team are magicians. It’s foodie heaven, a feast of antipasti, soup, pasta, main, cheese and dessert.
In the morning, we find breakfast laid out in our chalet. It’s an understated touch which feels relaxing and indulgent. A chance to pretend you live in the mountains.
Emerging from our cocoon among the pines, we explore in sparkling sunshine. Wooden pontoons reach out to the lake. As we dip our toes into the water, drinks arrive on cue.
The San Luis spa is the luxurious centerpiece of the main building. It’s all double height ceiling, dark slate tiles and shimmering water. We sink into black linen loungers as logs crackle in gigantic fireplaces. I decide that I never want to leave.
Steam curls across the outdoor infinity pool towards the pink and white lily pads of the lake.
“Have you been stressed lately?” asks masseuse Francesco, as he skilfully (painfully) works my shoulder knots. “Well, you’ve come to the right place, welcome to paradise.”
After a few days we venture out to the nearest hiking trails. From the gates of San Luis you can join routes to Hafling/Avelengo or Vöran/Verano. We climb Knottnkino (cinema rock) and follow paths through woods and meadows. Later, we cool off lakeside in a heady rush of chilly water.
Most nights we watch the extraordinary sky, wrapped in blankets under stars. We relax into the daily rhythm of the landscape. The musical clink of cowbells across the valley. Fluttering leaves in the summer wind. One night a storm passes through and we settle down to watch beside roaring logs.
A trip to San Luis feels like serendipity. Magic, even. A beautiful trick of suspended reality. Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to find my way back one day. Just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.