Vigilius Mountain Resort, Italy
High above the Italian city of Merano in Italy, at 1500 metres, on the Vigiljoch Mountain, lies the minimally majestic Vigilius Mountain Resort. This is an eco enclave in the mountains that can only be reached by an antique cable car and is shrouded in snow and silence through the winter months. The Owner, Merano Entrepreneur Ulrich Ladurner, describes ‘being a guest at Vigilius is more than just spending a few beautiful days: It means gaining new experiences and discovering new values’. This has held through since it was built ten years ago, perched in a pristine alpine environment with a plethora of outdoor and wellness activities, an incredible spa and cuisine, this is the epitome of a European Winter Eco Escape.
Part of the Design Hotels family, this architectural masterpiece was designed by world renowned Matteo Thun, whose roots lie in this unique South Tyrol Region. Nature was central to his vision, drawing from the splendid setting of the resort, high up with sweeping views over the valley and distant Dolomite Mountains. Combining architecture, ecological principals and emotions, Vigilius Mountain Resort was born. Designed to compliment, yet contrast, with its natural surroundings and to be almost undetectable from above, lying like a giant fallen conifer on the landscape. For Matteo Thun it is ‘a secret hideout that fits into the landscape like the tree houses where children hide and take shelter’.
The journey to Vigilius Mountain Resort from the Italian town of Lana, is a wonderfully old fashioned experience in itself, by the second oldest cable car in the world. Slowly sweeping up the mountain with phenomenal panoramic views across one of the most dramatically beautiful parts of the planet. Arrival is a few short steps at the top to this starkly serene structure curved across the mountain. Entering a light space filled with the scent of wood and fresh air one cannot immediately help but feel enveloped by the elixir of the mountain environment. This clean calming space is filled with a glow from the bright hues of nature.
Down the curved corridor lie the calmly comfortable rooms, luxuriously elegant in an understated eco chic manner. Minimally stunning against the richness of the natural surroundings with incredible vistas across the valley and dramatic peaks of the Dolomites. Enter into a cocoon of simplistic comfort and luxury. Clean lines and an elegant meld of local sustainable wood and crisp white create a palette to compliment the minimalist mountain beauty. Wonderful beds with a panorama of the stunning countryside and a bathtub with a view await you. Totally unwind after a long day of skiing and hiking in the tub, taking in the quiet and calm of this remarkable resort. At night the space is designed to be naturally temperature regulated ensuring an amazing nights sleep with no sounds but those of the natural surroundings.
Mornings are clear and crisp permeated by the wonderful morning light that can be found at altitude. The focus at Vigilius is on wellbeing, of the mind and body, and being immersed in the surrounding natural environment. Nature serves as the gym and guests are encouraged to join one of the daily programmes that are offered every morning. Hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and archery are some of the wonderful activities that can be accompanied for those who would like to be guided. The Five Tibetans is unique to the resort and is the ideal way to rebalance through meditation and yoga on the roof garden, with it magical Dolomite Mountain views, pine cone walk providing natural reflexology and natural wildflower roof. Winter is an especially magical time when skiing and tobogganing are right on the doorstep. Spring to autumn sees beautiful alpine trails you can explore dotted with churches and baita (small Bavarian restaurants) to rest your weary legs and indulge in local beers and bratwurst.
Back at the mountain resort relaxing in the pools, saunas and the spa is part of this incredibly holistic experience. The natural spring water saline pool is kept warm and the jets in the large outside Jacuzzi offer a soothing massage whilst being overshadowed by towering fir trees. Sitting here in the canopy with cold snow or rain showering on you in the warmth of this pure water is a magical and unique experience that symbolises the symmetry between nature and escape Vigilius has come to embody. Stroll down to the sauna and steam room and again be confronted by views of unparalleled beauty across the valley. This very Nordic tradition alternating between the pools and heat is encouraged here to really cleanse and relax after a day of outdoor pursuits.
For pure relaxation head to the spa offering a wonderful selection of luxurious and alternative treatments from a range of ecologically friendly brands that are both kind to skin and environment. There are a few brands that have been inspired and derived from this region, such as Trehns, a South Tyrolean line, that utilises the oil from the surrounding Sarn mountain pines that is known for regenerating the skin and its rejuvenating properties. Incorporate these wonderful natural products into a completely Zen and sensory whole body treatment. Starting with a languid and stimulating massage you will then experience a pack and wrapped in a warm cocoon for the miraculous Watsu, weightless, floating gazing at swaying trees, it is a hypnotic and primordially comforting experience that envelops you into an elevated state of calm. This is one of the most wondrous ethical spa experiences in the world.
Naturally nutrition is also part of this organic and holistic experience that is intrinsic to the Vigilius Mountain Resort experience. Freshly prepared and mainly sourced locally there are two restaurants for guests to indulge in. The Ida Parlour, a traditional Tyrolean treat, and award-winning Restaurant 1500, an ingenious, innovative and inspiring take on tradition and Tyrolean cuisine. Created in 2011, Restaurant 1500, takes diners on an Avant Garde culinary journey to excite and entice the senses. The experience takes you on a journey through landscapes, the region and places all paying homage to the panorama of Vigiljoch or Mount an Vigilio.
Culinary Journeys are specially designed menus that reflect the beauty of the South Tyrol and carry you down from the fresh mountain springs to the sea at Venice. The current ‘Memories from Home’ lead you from the South Tyrol, with a starter with elements such as wild boar, cheese and pine, down to Padova for the second course of carrot and ginger risotto. The main course of Pike is influenced by Polonia, and finish this trip of taste amongst the canals of bewitching Venice with a sweet strawberry panna cotta. These exquisitely crafted culinary escapades are crafted cleverly from the freshest ingredients of the regions and pared with fine Italian wines from the cellars. A la Carte is also available to share and sample more of these dynamic dishes.
Ida Parlour is a traditionally Tyrolean wooden restaurant focused around a huge hundred year old tiled oven. Cozy and with a menu bursting with comfort food, this is a great alternative on cold winter nights. Wonderful soups such as the Gratin Onion and dumpling dishes with colourful local root vegetables or cheeses dominate the starters. Entrees consist of delicious gourmet home cooked delights such as Venison Goulash with Potato Rosti and Cranberry Apple or fresh trout dishes from the surrounding lakes, fresh and filleted with homemade pasta.
For desert the local speciality of Strudel is always a favourite or a selection of organic small farm produced cheeses from South Tyrol. Complimented by Grappa and wines this is the perfect remedy to a winter day of physical activity and adventure high above the bustling life below.
Vigilius Mountain Resort is the ultimate unpretentious hideaway far above the world below. Serene, sustainable and silent it is as beautiful blanketed in snow as it is shining in the sunlight. Its strong ecological ethos from the design, activities, cuisine and spa make it the perfect eco escape for ethical explorers looking to taste the unique alpine environment of the South Tyrol. A wonderful and warm place with an understated aesthetic that draws the attention to the astounding surrounding mountain beauty, this award winning hideaway is the perfect winter retreat.
Photos Courtesy of Vigilius & Words by Electra Gillies