Early October, I was supposed to travel to Namibia but that did not happen because of the ongoing pandemic (and government advice against travel outside the EU, where I am based). Instead, I planned a last-minute holiday to some of Italy’s most beautiful areas. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily
- Review: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily
- Review: Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel, Sicily
- Review: Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda
- Review: Forestis, Dolomites (today)
- Review: The St Regis Venice Hotel
Today (25 November, 2020): Review of Forestis Dolomites (Italy)
Cool, calm and connected to its stunning setting, Forestis is an adults-only sanctuary in the Dolomites’ mountainscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Forests and snow-dusted peaks stretch out in every direction from the property, every part of which is in tune with the elements. Light streams in through the windows-for-walls, drawing the eye to the stunning views and illuminating the mellow, minimalist spaces. From the suites and ultra-luxe penthouses to the restaurant and spa, the Forestis interiors echo the mountains: stone basins and white-as-snow tones, crisp fabrics and clean lines. This is a boutique escape designed to immerse guests in the regenerative power of a majestic mountain landscape.
Have you ever stayed at Forestis? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Forestis is situated in the Dolomites, a spectacular mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, which counts 18 peaks that rise above 3,000 m (10,000 ft). The Dolomites feature some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. The site is comprised of several National Park areas, each one presenting a unique landscape marked by steeples, pinnacles, rock walls, glacial landforms and karst systems. Shaped by dynamic processes with frequent landslides, floods and avalanches, the Dolomites were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009.
- Forestis enjoys a breathtaking location 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above sea level on the southern slope of Plose Mountain, near the town of Brixen. Surrounded by lush mountain forest, the hotel offers an outdoor heaven on its doorstep as guests can access numerous hiking trails directly from the resort’s grounds, or ski-in and ski-out in winter. Making the most of its spectacular setting, all of Forestis’ public spaces and rooms as well as its outdoor garden and terrace embrace panoramic views of the peaks of the Puez-Odle Natural Park, which represents one of the most iconic and famous sights of the Dolomites’ UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The history of Forestis goes back to the year 1912, when its main pavilion was built by architect Otto Wagner, who designed it as a health resort with a sanatorium for lung disorders. The project was commissioned by the Austrian Emperor, who chose this location because of its pure spring water and sunny climate. However, due to World War I and the sudden death of Wagner, the project was scaled down to a refuge for war veterans. In 2007, South Tyrolean hotelier Alois Hinteregger discovered the building, which had fallen into disuse, during a walk in the area. He breathed new life into the building and opened it as the successful Rosaalpina hotel in 2009.
- A decade later, Alois Hinteregger’s son – Stefan – took over management of the property, together with his partner Teresa Unterthiner. He decided to rebrand the hotel as Forestis Dolomites, following a 30 million euros makeover which included a refurbishment of the main timber pavilion (now a historic building) and the construction of three contemporary wooden towers that complete the overall architectural impression. Re-opened in the summer of 2020, the reimagined mountain hotel is now a supra-stylish hideaway that draws on the natural elements inherent to its location (pure spring water, pristine mountain air, and a mild climate).
- The remarkable architecture and minimalist design of Forestis follows a natural thread as well. Designed by architect Armin Sader from the local Assagio office, the three newly added towers blend in perfectly with the natural surroundings by using wooden facades that are reminiscent of tree trunks and bark. On the inside, the hotel decor is strikingly minimalist and airy, offering an elegant (and much better) alternative to the kitsch hotel decors that are often found in the Alpine region. The aim of the deliberately simple design is to emphasize the views and the outdoors, connecting guests with the nature that surrounds it.
- The heritage-listed main building houses an intimate lobby, cozy lounge (with fireplace), and 16 suites & rooms. But the hotel’s showstopper are the 44 fabulous suites located in the three towers, which connect to the main building via an underground tunnel. During my visit, I stayed in a 4th floor Tower Suite, which came with room-wide floor-to-ceiling windows opening to a private, south-facing terrace with stunning mountain views. The spacious bedroom featured a kingsize boxspring bed, a walk-in closet, and a sitting area with sofa & traditional tiled stove. The stylish bathroom was equipped with a bathtub, rain shower, two sinks and separate toilet with bidet.
- The topfloors of the outer two towers house two amazing penthouse suites, both featuring a spacious living area with an open fireplace, a custom-made couch and a large dining table, TV and bar as well as a guest toilet. Similar in design and layout to the tower suites, the penthouse’s bedroom has a glass front that extends across the entire width of the bedroom, so guests get to enjoy the most beautiful view of the Dolomites from their beds. What sets the penthouses apart from the suites is their additional rooftop facilities: a private pool measuring 3 x 6 m (10 x 20 ft), a sauna made from spruce wood, sun loungers and a rain shower.
Also in the main building, two levels below the reception, is the light-filled panoramic restaurant, which wows guests with its large glass front and step shaped design. Each travel party gets its own table (or rather semi-circle lounge) for the duration of a stay, offering complete privacy and great views of the forests and Dolomites peak. Serving South Tyrolean and Italian dishes, the venue is led by Chef Roland Lamprecht, who strives to run a fully organic and sustainable cuisine, or “forest kitchen” as he calls it. Food is of very high quality and represents fine-dining at its best. I highly recommend a half board plan, since this includes a daily 7 course dinner.
- Right below the three towers is the hotel’s newly built, super-sleek Forestis Spa, which features a 20 x 4.3 m (66 x 14 ft) indoor pool that connects via sliding doors to a 22 x 5 m (72 x 16 ft) outdoor heated pool. The indoor pool area offers dozens of comfortable loungers as well numerous private cabanas. The spa also has a Wyda room for Celtic yoga, salt steam bath, Kneipp bath, silence rooms, gym, nature meditation spaces, and four types of sauna (herbal, traditional, steam and outdoor). Fostering holistic wellbeing, spa treatments are inspired by the surrounding forest, with body and facial treatments drawing on healing trees, stones and vibrations.
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
No matter how much I loved Forestis’ design, location, food and wellness approach (it truly is a beyond-spectacular hotel), there’s one major issue that made me feel rather uncomfortable during my holiday. The hotel does not follow corona-proof protocols, and even enhances the risk of transmission of the virus between guests and staff. Some examples of blatant violation of corona (social distancing) rules:
- At check-in, there was no health check: no temperature control and no health declaration form that needed to bed completed. It was a striking contrast with all the other hotels I visited during my holidays in Italy over the past summer (and to the best of my knowlegde, also a violation of the Italian law).
- A lot of guests did not wear face masks inside the hotel. While I realize that this might be a delicate issue for a hotel (they don’t want to upset their guests), the mandatory face mask policy should have been enforced at all times. But again, one could not expect that from the Forestis staff as I saw – on several occasions – staff members shaking hands and even hugging with guests, an inexplicable behavior that might encourage other guests to follow suit and ignore basic health rules to stop the virus’ spread.
- Most shockingly, the hotel offered a breakfast buffet each morning. It only mandated guests to wear a face mask while walking around in the buffet area. However, the truth is that guests can still spread the virus because they touch and share all the cutlery when they fill their plates. The only ‘safe’ way to run a buffet in times of the pandemic, is that either staff is present to serve guests, or that the buffet is replaced by an à la carte dinner.
Fyi, I visited the property early October at the start of the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in Europe. I did inform staff members of my concerns during my stay, but to no avail. I also shared my feedback online following the completion of my stay, but never heard back from the property.
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – MY VERDICT
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional – 9.2/10
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Forestis Dolomites (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: for a real luxury experience and the best views, book a suite in one of the three newly built towers.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – BEST TIME TO VISIT
The Dolomites is a tourist destination year-round. Some travelers prefer to visit the Dolomites in summer, between May and September, when the weather is pleasantly warm and mostly dry (apart from the occasional thunderstorms in the afternoon). Early spring, when crocuses, Alpine snowdrops and scented bushes of Daphne bloom through the melting snow, is equally beautiful. From December to March it is wintertime and a white blanket of snow covers the Dolomites, making it the perfect spot to hit the slopes. Winter snow usually begins to accumulate in December, lasting through March, and sometimes April.
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – HOW TO GET THERE
Forestis Dolomites is situated in a secluded location, in the midst of the forest near the small village of Palmschoss (on the southern slope of Plose mountain). It is 18 km (11 mi) to the town of Brixen by car; Brixen is connected by highway to the major cities in the area (Verona, Venice, and Milan) and is also close to the Austrian border.
REVIEW OF FORESTIS – PHOTOS