Anyone for a hay bath? It took just 48 hours at the Adler for the transformation process to take place, and to emerge with that complete feeling of health and well-being which you might expect at the end of a week’s holiday. A cocktail of mountain air, exercise, good food, relaxation and … well, a hay bath in a thong … and I would defy anyone to emerge feeling less than a million dollars.
Built in 1810 and still within the Sanoner family, the Adler is a truly splendid hotel in the village of Ortisei in the heart of the Dolomites, best known in winter as part of the Val Gardena ski area. The Adler is a wood lover’s paradise with an abundance of local carving and craftsmanship. Conservationists need not worry – the surrounding forests show no sign of deprivation.
A sense of pride and a passion for detail resonate throughout, and those little touches make all the difference … automatic lighting at low level when getting up in the middle of the night; an egg timer with a pot of tea to ensure a perfectly timed infusion; a handy Adler rucksack helpfully proffered at reception for the walking trip. And ah … the afternoon tea after a day’s walking on the mountains is a truly mouth-watering sight: a buffet laden with breads, cheeses and salads with a lovely spread of indulgent patisserie, deserts and of course strudel.
It’s rare to stay in a hotel where every member of staff is so naturally smiling, happy and fulfilled. All are multi-lingual – it really makes you realise how insular we Brits are. Everyone speaks German and Italian as a matter of course, and excellent English, as well as their own version of Romansch, known as Ladin (and no that’s not a typo for Latin as my spell checker keeps insisting).
Open all year round, the purpose of my stay at the Adler was to experience the summer mountain walking. With free maps indicating the well-marked trails and with access to two summer cable cars from the village centre, walkers can either self-guide or choose to join an excellent walking tour (choosing between one more strenuous and one more leisurely offered each day) with Thaddeus and Verena the two resident guides. Both were born in the village and know every inch of the mountains like the back of their hand, and they love to share their local knowledge – in three languages of course.
The guided walk we followed departed the hotel reception promptly at 10.00 and returned some 5 hours later. The group number around 25, mainly Italian and German walkers, and a diverse age range – from sprightly septagenarians through to teenagers all kitted out with sticks loaned by the hotel.
Arriving at some 1,500m above sea level we initially followed a forest trail above Santa Christina, a village about halfway between Ortisei and Selva, walking up towards Col Raiser. This path provided stupendous views of the Sella Massif and the towering Sassolungo. The path, although steep at first, soon opened out into beautiful flowered filled meadows where Crocus, Gentian Violets and Edelweiss grow abundantly.
Passing through the meadows we slowly climbed up to a ridge and then through woods up to the top of a hill aptly named the Pic! The view from here can only be described as stupendous, looking some 30km south and surrounded by higher peaks, their rock falls creating colourful patterns of moraine among the remaining snow.
After a simple but very tasty picnic lunch, ordered at breakfast from the hotel, we walked south back towards Ortisei, passing by Sant Jakob with its pretty little church. For those who preferred, the bus awaited and we arrived back at the hotel to afternoon tea and relaxation. Looking from the terrace back up to the hills, we were elated that we’d completed a truly special walk.
Other activities on offer include mountain biking, and for those who want the experience without the grind of the steep slopes, e-bikes are also popular.
Once replete with tea and cake, it was time to visit the Agua Waterworld and Spa – indoor and outdoor pools, an outdoor Jacuzzi with an awesome view across the mountains, a gym with state of the art equipment (although personally I have never understood gyms in mountain resorts. There’s a natural gym on your doorstep but clearly there’s a need for running and stepping machines too). Classes on offer included stretching, yoga, pilates. The spa was completed with indoor saunas, and an interesting salt grotto with 11% salt where you float like a lilo.
Treatments of a wide variety were available including massages, facials and – this is a first – a hay bath which consists of lying in a thong on a bed of hay (organic hay no less), with more hay on top and then being swaddled and lowered onto a water bed with 60 degree humidity. For half an hour. I’m told that it cleanses the respiratory tracts, relieves muscle tension and soothes aching joints. In all honesty, it was quite itchy and perhaps not to be recommended for hay fever sufferers, but when in Rome …
And finally to dine, and what an experience this was. The Adler restaurant consists of a number of interconnected dining rooms offering space for bigger groups as well as more intimate dining. There are three menus on offer each evening; one standing menu of seasonal dishes, two or three local specialities and a full menu that changes daily involving three or four dishes, with an extensive salad and desserts bar to accompany either menu.
The food is excellent with portion sizes in line with the healthy environment the hotel is promoting. One of the great things about dinner is the opportunity to choose your own bread, with all manner of wholesome and tasty breads to try.
And of course there is an extensive wine list featuring locally grown wines including the aromatic and slightly sweeter Gewürztraminer as well also drier local Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and lesser known but excellent reds Blauburgunder and Lagrien.
Whether you are there for the food, the walking, the spa, the views or just a great big dose of hay bathing, let your soul fly at the Adler. Truly you will not be disappointed.
Rates at the Adler Dolomiti start from Euros 142 (approx £118 per person sharing on half-board basis), which includes complimentary access to all the spa and wellness facilities, together with a full programme of indoor and outdoor activities, such as yoga and Pilates, as well as guided hiking and mountain biking. Book at