Naturhotel Rainer – Nature with a Roof
Ah, South Tyrolia, this area in Northern Italy close to the Austrian border is my personal red-hot wellness travel destination.
There is everything you could wish for for your next wellness journey: pure nature with all its benefits, mountains and all the pleasures that come with them, fantastic local food and wines, super hospitable and friendly people, incredible wellness offers.
There are many great wellness hotels in the area for every taste, and I have identified one of the rare gems amongst them. The Naturhotel Rainer is a place of nature with a roof.
What is a ‘Naturhotel’?
You wonder what is a ‘Naturhotel’ ? Well, not that I know of any official definition, but to me the term is self explanatory: it is a hotel, where the guest journey focuses on nature. Pretty much like a spa resort focuses on the spa, or a ski resort on skiing…
Whatever… nature is exactly what guests can look for when staying at the Naturhotel Rainer: nature is everywhere around you. The entire hotel concept arose from nature.
The Hotel lies in the small, secluded, ‘dead-end’ Jaufen-valley off the beaten track. From Austria, I took the highway across famous Brenner Pass, that has as long history as major travel route for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Shortly after descending into Italy, the first little town called Sterzing (in German) or Vipiteno (in Italian) appears. This is where I exited the Autobahn to get to the hotel in a short drove of about 15 minutes on a small and winding road.
That is when I realise: this is for real. There is no farming for tourists, no monster building hotels, no big shops and their neon signs. This is how people life around here with and in nature, and may well have lived for decades or even centuries.
And the moment I pull into the hotel’s small car park right in front of the modern building that totally blends in with the nature around it, I know that this place is special.
I unload my travel bag and walk into the reception area. Actually it feels like almost staying ‘outdoors’, what I mean is: nothing changes in scenery and atmosphere: the inside of the hotel feels just as natural as the outdoors. The most prominent evidence is this incredibly beautiful wood scent that envelops you everywhere inside the 35 room hotel. All of the material used inside the hotel match what you have outside: pine wood, rocks, plants. It is a copy of outdoor nature, just with a roof over it.
While I am waiting to be addressed at the reception, I observe this charming little scene played by host family Rainer: Grandma Marialuise (today’s spa receptionist) talks to Daughter in Law and mother of the 5 year old boy, who has miraculously disappeared just moments before he is to be taken to swimming classes by mum in the car. Everybody is exited about his whereabouts, when this cute little boy suddenly shows up, explaining that he had to first look after his animals in the nearby barn… Who can blame him, this place is childhood paradise.
Oh I am so moving in for good! This is awesome! I am on the third floor and have the most amazing view over the valley including the small church right across a little creak. I love the full size panoramic window, the wood finishing, the half-open and airy bathroom concept, and the cosy comfy bed. And the balcony, with the old fashioned wooden swing? Absolutely my favourite!
Food & Beverage
I do expect A LOT from a chef in South Tyrol, and again I was not disappointed. The owner Hannes jun., passionate chef himself, spoils his guests every night with a five-course menu: cold starter, soup, warm starter, main course and desert. Actually you really get seven courses, as their is always a salad buffet to start, and a cheese buffet to end your dinner.
I have tried delicious meals, such as
- octopus carpaccio with avocado, mint, and tomato
- melon lime drink
- panzerotti pasta with chanterelle filling
- dry age bio beef from their own farm
- and nougat dumplings for desert, yummm……
And of course the breakfast buffet is excellent too, with a focus on local produce such as breads, fresh local fruit, dairy, honey, cold cuts, home made preserves, fresh eggs etc.
By the way, free water is offered in-room, of course in glass bottles. It is actually tab water, that has such great quality, that it is healthier than bottled water in plastic containers. Plus it is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly, just think of the logistics like transport and packaging that is avoided. Drinking water in the Alps is super fresh, delicious and healthy. It is the purest mineral water you can imagine.
The hotel provides a weekly activity program for guests, let me give you a few examples:
- different Guided Hikes (from one hour to full day tours),
- guided E-Bike Tours, for example with owner Hans sen.
- Aqua Fitness
- Guided Sauna Infusion
- Acid Base Diet Counselling
I joined an early morning ‘Wellbeing Hike’ of about one hour around the hotel. It was an easy and gentle guided hike that included breathing exercises, a small barefoot trail, a gentle mini massage, and herb picking.
Our guide Anita was very knowledgable about herbs and their benefits and made us pick several. Back at the hotel, she send us for breakfast and prepared a fresh green juice from the herbs that we had just picked. Can it get any better or more connected with nature, when you sit in a glass conservatory overlooking an almost untouched Alpine Valley, sipping fresh green juice, from herbs that you just picked yourself during a morning walk in the woods…
Wellness and Naturea Spa
The Wellness & Spa area is small, but exquisite. I found cosy lounge areas and sun bathing chairs outside in the garden, that leads to the blockhouse Finnish Sauna.
Indoors there is a second dry sauna, a steam room, an infrared cubicle, a small relax room with water beds, a relax area with panoramic views accessing the garden, and a Kneipp basin.
The pool was rather small and not entirely suitable for lap swimming, but the temperature was lovely for dipping and relaxing.
Make sure to book your treatment early on, there is only one treatment room and the knowledgeable therapists are keeping busy!
This is not the type of destination spa where you want to spend all day, wandering around in your robe. This is a true wellbeing area that complements your day of hiking or skiing with a heat experience, or a relaxing massage for a few hours. Everything is simple yet sufficient, and sufficiently comfortable.
Authentic Wellness Music from the Alps
The holistic spa concept includes relaxing spa music inspired by local traditional instruments such as harp, guitar, zither, accordion, cimbalon, flutes, and alpine horns. This allows guests to participate in the hosts connectedness to their homeland. Very unique!
Sustainability – Nature with a roof
Sustainability plays an important part in the operation of the Naturhotel Rainer.
Energy and water consumption, alternative heating, mindful logistics are only a few measures that the hotel implements. Evidence for ‘nature in mind’ is everywhere. Like I said, nature with a roof.
The hotel runs a different type of hotel shop. The little shop called ‘Naturado’ offers regional or home made products, such as the renowned Speck from South Tyrol, Schnaps in all flavours, preserves, honeys, or herbal salts.
You can also browse through a variety or jewellery made from local silver quarzite, clothing, products made from sheep’s wool, and bowls from pine wood.
Endulge in some Wellness to take home and buy organic skin care products that they also use in their ‘Naturea Spa.
Try a Tesla
The Hotel offers the Tesla Model S for rent, what a way to get around in a more mindful way.
The Hotel is certified with the EU Ecolabel, run by the European Commission to protect the environment.
‘The Commission proposes policies and legislation that protect natural habitats, keep air and water clean, ensure proper waste disposal, improve knowledge about toxic chemicals, and help businesses move towards a sustainable economy.
We also make sure that Member States apply EU environmental law correctly. This means helping them comply with the legislation they have agreed, and following up on complaints from citizens and non-governmental organisations.’
The surrounding Area – Things to do
The quaint little and northern most in Italy town of Sterzing (or also called Vipiteno) has a unique charm. With magnificient town houses, picturesque shopping streets, and medieval squares, it is a true pearl of South Tyrol.
Since I had a little head cold during my stay and wasn’t feeling well enough to do one of the bigger hikes (which I would have loved to). I went instead to visit Reifenstein castle, only a few minutes car ride away from Sterzing town. The castle has never been conquered or destroyed in nine centuries, and is hence a valuable time witness. Mentioned for the first time in the 12th century, and modified in the 14th century. The Thurn und Taxis counts (from the Italian branch of the family) own it. The castle is famous for the decorated “Green Hall” with Gothic paintings and a woodcarved chapel-door, the stubes and the collection of armor. The castle also contains an original kitchen, bathroom and medieval sleeping bunks. Since it is a private property, the owners do not allow picture taking, so no photo proof from the inside I am afraid.
Just a few minutes car ride in the other direction lies the Gilfenklamm-Gorge, where water has carved its way with elemental force through solid rock over millings of years. This 2.5 km long gorge is said to be one of the most beautiful accessible (in Summer only) gorges in the Alps.
Apropos solid rocks: we are not talking about any kind of rock here, but pure white marble! Stunning!
What a gem amongst all the larger almost monstrous feeling Wellness Hotel Imperiums. The Naturhotel Rainer has a lovely and homely home-away-from-home feel. At the same time there is all the comfort you expect. All the excitement you desire during your vacation. And all the culinary delights that make your trip special. You cannot connect closer to nature than that!
I have been invited for the stay at the Naturhotel Rainer, which has no impact on my honest opinion.