Wellness weekends are fast becoming a travel favourite, particularly among the solo travel crowd. And is it any wonder? Even the most sociable people need ‘me time’ from time to time, even more so if they have a stressful job to boot. What better way to wind down than with a herbal tea in a relaxation room overlooking luscious countryside? Sadly though, many wellness escapes still tend to offer packages rather than room price, which means when you are travelling alone then it’s likely you’ll have to pay that dreaded single surcharge. However, I’ve found a wellness getaway which, believe it or not, doesn’t come with the added stress of extreme single supplements. Hotel Schwarzschmied lies in the sleepy village of Lana – a short train ride away from its bigger neighbour, Bolzano – and is a real slice of Italian wellness heaven.
Situated in the lush Etsch Valley, the village of Lana is postcard perfect. In this region of South Tyrol German is the main language spoken, but despite this, Italian charm still reigns supreme and the general attitude of locals certainly errs on the laid back. Hotel Schwarzschmied really is a little gem just waiting to be discovered in Lana – nestled amongst 16th century vineyards and orchards surrounding a quaint little church, its environs offer the perfect setting to unwind with ease. And, for once, there isn’t the solo traveller challenge of trying to get to an isolated wellness escape to experience true tranquility. Despite feeling detached from the hustle and bustle, Hotel Schwarzschmied’s transport links are more than convenient for solos – Lana is a short train ride away from Bolzano and Mein Fernbus even stops off in the village too. Furthermore, Hotel Schwarzschmied kindly offers a free shuttle service to pick you up from the bus stop or train station – perfect for putting your mind at ease if you are arriving late at night, or if you simply wish to avoid the annoyance of trundling a suitcase across the village. Even when my own bus was stuck in traffic and my arrival was delayed by several hours – meaning arriving in the dead of night – Schwarzschmied’s staff still picked me up without any fuss (what a delight!).
Floor-to-ceiling windows onto vineyard views, minimalist style, the comforting smell of wood, sparkling with cleanliness from top to bottom – Schwarschmied’s vibe is more than conducive to leaving your cares at the door. The hotel has recently undergone a renovation and extension, which has successfully accomplished the difficult task of introducing a sleek, new, modern look whilst retaining original charm. The new slow food restaurant and the spa areas are particular triumphs, but more on those later. The best benefit of Schwarzschmied though, is that it’s still family-run, and you feel that influence throughout your stay: staff are smiling and friendly and always willing and ready to enhance your experience further.
I didn’t manage to snag a spot in the new extension and was fully prepared to be disappointed, however, instead I was pleasantly surprised. My room in the main house may have lacked the modern minimalism which the new extension undoubtedly had in droves, but it certainly more than made up for that with its old school charm. The room was, in a word, huge – solo travellers used to opting for smaller single rooms to save on price will revel in the space of Schwarzschmied’s room offerings. However, the real cherry on top was the private balcony overlooking the green oasis of vineyards – it’s simply impossible to get out off bed on the wrong side when waking up to those views and (if you’re lucky) gentle rays of sunshine.
Schwarzschmied stays include 3/4 board, something which ordinarily I do out of necessity rather than choice. Often 3/4 board cuisine offerings are pretty dismal, usually involving a buffet of limp salads and suspect-looking mains – not so with Schwarzschmied. Their newly renovated slow food restaurant La Fucina is a real delight. And when they say slow food they really mean it – organic, local and seasonal produce adorns the menu, pasta is homemade and some ingredients are even grown in the Schwarzschmied garden (where the chickens can also sometimes be seen roaming!) The resulting dishes and menus on offer to choose from are delicious, varied and more than on par with modern restaurant offerings – baring no resemblance to soulless servings often associated with hotel 3/4 board cuisine. What’s also very refreshing, is the willingness to accommodate those with a vegan, lactose or gluten-free diet – just simply state your requirements before your stay and Schwarzschmied will endeavour to meet them.
Definitely one of the highlights of a stay at Schwarzschmied, the spa is small enough to still remain intimate and relaxed, but has more than enough on offer to keep avid spa goers occupied come rain or shine. And I really mean it when I say that – when the weather is fine, the outdoor pool and jacuzzi can be enjoyed in the mountain air, but if you happen to get a little rain, the sauna and indoor pool are more than inviting. The areas are calm, light and spacious and they have a relaxed flow to them as you amble from one room to the next, which is no doubt thanks in part to their uncluttered style which married a soft colour palette with soothing woods and wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. Different relaxation rooms offer variety, and the yoga room where free yoga and pilates lessons are taught during the week is an added treat. And, if keeping up with a specific fitness regime that has moves which can’t all be conducted outdoors, then the small but perfectly formed fitness studio will also be a welcome feature.
Situated in the Etsch Valley, it will be unsurprising to learn that there is a wealth of outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the area surrounding Schwarzschmied. There are so many walks – taxing and less so – that begin in the village and nearby, such as that to Gaulschlucht gorge. If you don’t feel like striking out into the mountains solo – no judgement, it can be daunting to those less confident – then you don’t have to miss out. Schwarzschmied offers three guided tours per week, so you can wander along without a care in the world and let someone else more experienced lead the way. If you’re sore after all that walking, Schwarzschmied has also thought of the perfect antidote: yoga classes. Several times a week, aspiring yogis (or pros…or those who simply want a little stretch) can partake in the yoga classes offered inclusive as part of the stay. And if that isn’t enough already, there’s also the opportunity to see the surroundings from the Schwarzschmied bicycles, which are there for guests to use free of charge. Oh, and if you are visiting in winter, there is still fun to be had – skiing and sledging are right on the Schwarzschmied doorstep!