For more than a century, frazzled travelers looking for a respite from physical and psychological ailments have been decamping to the rugged northeastern corner of Italy to breathe the fresh mountain air and feel the calming qualities of the forest. It’s fitting, then, that Forestis, a new hotel and spa retreat in the Dolomites, had a past life aimed at healing.
The property’s origins date back to 1912, when this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Habsburgs built a chalet here to serve as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Fast forward nearly a century, to the year 2000, when local hotelier Alois Hinteregger spotted the quaint Swiss stone pine building while on a hike. The structure had long been neglected, but Hinteregger saw its potential. He turned the project over to his son, Stefan, and Stefan’s partner, Teresa Unterthiner, who restored the original chalet and added three sleek modern towers that house pine-clad, glass-walled suites; a gourmet restaurant; and a 21,528-square-foot spa spread over two floors, with an indoor/outdoor pool, silence rooms, four saunas, and even a room dedicated to wyda, an ancient Celtic form of yoga.
“Our offerings in the spa, our way of cooking—picking the ingredients in the forest or the way in which we preserve food for the winter—all is oriented toward very natural and original methods,” Unterthiner says. To that end, guests will find bespoke bath and spa products made with active ingredients from local trees; herbs, berries, bark, and pine needles from the forest, meanwhile, show up in cocktails and dishes in the restaurant.
All of the above makes for a soothing stay, but for me the highlight is the healing wood massage. At the start of the treatment, the therapist instructs me to smell four pieces of wood from different native trees—mountain pine, spruce, larch, and Swiss stone pine, each of which has different active substances and frequencies that allow the body to regenerate—and choose the one that aligns best with my body’s needs. I’m drawn to the spruce, and during the treatment the therapist uses spruce oil and a spruce stick to bring my energy into harmony with the surrounding forest.
By the time the session is over, I can feel that my energy has subtly shifted. Have I become one with the forest, or am I just experiencing the effects of a great massage? Either way, I feel fantastic.