Hotel Gardena Grodnerhof is a 54-room, multi-award-winning member of the Relais & Chateaux group. Ortisei, its home, is a neat and affluent little town in northern Italy's Dolomites, and a fine base for exploring the World Heritage area at any time of year. Cable cars on both sides of town whisk skiers, hikers and ambling sightseers up the steep sides of Val Gardena to high plateaus where spectacular vistas, alpine hospitality and hundreds of kilometres of trails and runs await.
Gardena Grodnerhof is on the southern side of Ortisei and moments away from the cable car that runs up to Alpe Siusi, the largest alpine plateau in Europe. Ortisei is a small town and most of it is in easy walking distance of the hotel.
Gardena Grodnerhof's facade is distinctly Tyrolean: chalet-shaped, a mix of timber and decorative masonry, with a touch of castle about it in the form of two pointed turrets. It's a solid structure tempered in summer by baskets of bright flowers and in winter by the powder snow for which the area is renowned.
The spacious interiors mix alpine-lodge style with contemporary five-star grandeur, and the lounge-bar area – with its clusters of elegant, comfortable armchairs, historic photos, fireplace and welcoming staff – is downright magnetic.
At the rear is the hotel's new spa, which has just won Best Spa Facilities in Europe in the 2020 Conde Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence. It's a substantial, handsome space hung with chandeliers and its facilities include several saunas, a steam room, three pools, a fitness centre and a "beauty farm". It's a beguiling spot and must be particularly so when there's snow outside.
Our superior garden room makes a feature of blond timber joinery that seems quite rustic, while velvety throws and occasional furniture in rich dark brown are an elegant touch. The king-size bed is made up in the highly-civilised European style – a separate quilt on each side – and our balcony looks out over the garden. (Every room here has a balcony, some look towards Ortisei, others the garden.) The marble and stone bathroom in our room has a big tub and the toilet and bidet are separate. All the creature comforts of a five-star establishment are present, from high-end toiletries to fresh fruit. The building is well insulated and the room is wonderfully hushed. We sleep like bears.
Like all Relais & Chateaux establishments, cuisine is a key part of the Gardena Grodnerhof experience. Anna Stuben, its one-Michelin-star restaurant, serves experimental cuisine built on local produce at its seasonal peak. At the time of our visit, there were two menus – one titled Passion, the other, Commitment – with ingredients including lamb, chanterelles, fresh cheese, elder and cranberries. The hotel's main restaurant is also impressive. It has a regular, seasonal menu plus a changing daily menu. The breakfast buffet is also a thing of beauty, with a notable selection of fresh-baked breads and local butters. A complimentary afternoon tea is served in the lounge daily.
The aforementioned hiking and ski trails come highly recommended, and ebikes are an increasingly popular way to explore the landscape. The hotel offers a range of escorted outdoor excursions and Ortisei's visitor centre has information on everything from ebike hire to woodcarving workshops. South Tyrol is also home to some of Italy's most awarded wineries and it's positively spoilt for castles. See val-gardena.com, suedtirol.info/en
This five-star hotel wholly deserves its spa and dining accolades. Just as Italy's spectacular South Tyrol province will woo you outdoors to explore its many wonders, so this hotel will call you inside at day's end to eat, drink and relax in luxurious comfort.
The multi-lingual staff, who perfectly balance warmth with consummate European-style professionalism.
Missing out on the hotel's weekly wine tasting and cellar tour – it was fully booked. Lesson: book early.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Lissa Christopher stayed as a guest of Hotel Gardena Grodnerhof.