Forestis was once used as a retreat for friends of the Vatican. You can understand why, given its celestial position 1,800 metres above sea level and often enveloped by clouds.
Nowadays, you don’t need to be remotely religious to visit — but you do need to appreciate the majesty of mountains.
Forestis is set in Plose, a small, peaceful resort in the Dolomites, and is perfect for skiers and non-skiers. In fact, such is the draw of the high Alpine hiking trails, delicious mountain cuisine and glorious spa with its steaming indoor-outdoor pool and wood-fired saunas, that the majority of guests choose not to ski.
For me though, it’s all about the views. The chunky and snow-dusted Odles mountain range can be seen directly in front of the hotel, bursting through dense, dark pine forests and dancing in pastel shades of orange, pink and purple at sunrise and sunset.
Natural highs: Harriet Sime checks into the Forestis hotel in the Italian ski resort of Plose. Above is the view of the Dolomites from one of the hotel’s suites
‘It’s all about the views,’ Harriet says of the hotel, which overlooks mountains and dense, dark pine forests
Your focus shifts as soon as you walk through the wooden doors into the hotel’s reception area.
Set in the South Tyrol region of the Dolomites (where Italy meets Germany), Forestis began as a wooden chalet in 1912 and was used as a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers. The building was abandoned during World War I and fell into disrepair until bought by the Vatican for use by those in need of a restful break.
But it was when local hotelier Alois Hinteregger got a peep of the building through the lofty trees in 2000 that it took on a whole new life.
Skip forward two decades and the building has been transformed into what is probably the most impressive hotel I’ve ever set foot in.
Forestis began as a wooden chalet in 1912 and was used as a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers
The ‘glorious’ spa features wood-fired saunas and a steaming indoor-outdoor pool (above)
After waking on our first morning to a thick blanket of snow — the moody mountains smothered with clouds of all colours and formations — my husband, Dan, and I head out on our skis.
Giant tennis ball-size snowflakes dance in the wind as we pass mountainside churches on our way up. But a storm shuts all but one of the lifts when we reach the top. I’m secretly thrilled as this means one thing: a day in the spa.
Trees permeate every element of the hotel, including the spa, so I book myself in for its signature treatment — the three-hour tree circle ceremony.
Harriet describes the resort as ‘probably the most impressive hotel I’ve ever set foot in’
The majority of guests at the hotel choose not to ski, Harriet reveals. Instead they enjoy the high Alpine hiking trails and the hotel’s spa
Harriet books in for the signature treatment at the spa (above) — the three-hour tree circle ceremony
I’m sceptical about anything that isn’t billed as a ‘facial’ or ‘massage’ and the idea of a ‘ceremony’ fills me with fear, but I decide to fully embrace it.
After a few sips of pine syrup-flavoured water from the nearby spring, my feet are placed in a tree-scented salt bath while Isabella passes me four pieces of wood, all from the local area.
They have different scents, textures, densities and I’m told to choose the one I’m drawn towards (in the belief that each person will choose according to their ‘current constitution and seasonal needs’).
I intuitively go for the rougher, fresh-scented piece of wood. It’s spruce, found in the valley below.
Rooms with a view: Harriet spends ‘endless hours’ staring at the mountains from the hotel
One of the big draws of Forestis is the ‘delicious’ mountain cuisine, Harriet reveals. Every ingredient on the hotel restaurant’s tasting menu is sourced from Italy
On a ski outing in Plose (above), Harriet watches ‘giant tennis-ball-size snowflakes dance in the wind’
Isabella explains how spruce aids digestion and can ‘help people rediscover themselves’.
She matches the spruce with a healing stone and two hours of body scrubs, massages (with the healing wood being used to apply pressure) and facials proceed.
I emerge from the spa pink-faced and squeaky clean, and while I may not have found myself, my hyperactive mind is reduced to a hypnotic lull.
The weather conditions improve and we spend the next two days on the sunny slopes, retoxing each evening with a delicious seven-course set menu which changes daily. Every ingredient is sourced from Italy (the Sicilian oranges, raspberries and strawberries have travelled the furthest).
I spend our last supper battling ‘snow blindness’, my eyes streaming with water and stinging due to the sun reflecting off the bright white snow which burnt my corneas.
Whether this was brought on due to my time on the slopes or the endless hours I spent staring at the mountains from the hotel, I’ll never know.
But if it happened to be the latter, it was worth it. Those views will stay with me for ever.