This review is featured in our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Italy...
There’s something about travelling to Italy via Austria that’s like watching a stripper who begins their act wearing a welder’s mask and Crimplene pantsuit. However, as our plane swoops between the mountains, searching out Innsbruck’s runway, notions of national distinctions give way to an appreciation of general European mountainy-ness.
To catch this early flight, Mrs Smith and I were are up at 4.30am, having rented a cell in an economy airport hotel. An oxymoronic start to a period of relaxation, perhaps, but the paucity of passengers at least offsets the usual security hell. Restorative dozing through a two-hour flight and two-hour hotel transfer makes us chipper by the time we arrive at Lagació Mountain Residence.
Forget Alpine clichés: in this tiny north-east Italian hamlet of San Cassiano, wooden shutters and chintzy woodcarvings are out, and sharp corners and glass panels are in. Lagació’s see-through sides demonstrate the owners’ appreciation that, however incredible their hotel is, its guests are really here for what’s outside. And they invite you to get a bloody good look at all that stunning Südtirolean scenery.
Environment and sustainability is important at Lagació, but never at the cost of luxury. Everything is natural. Take the fossils, for example. They’re all over the gaff. Handpicked from these very mountains, the stony motifs show Margareth and Pio Canin’s dedication to fusing eco-consciousness with local relics. They appear everywhere, from room numbers to floor signs – a cute design touch, but also a bizarre memento mori. They call to mind childhood revelations that our planet has played host to bygone beings; odd monsters and dark creatures. Intended to inspire us to push ourselves harder on the slopes or to indulge without guilt, perhaps? Mrs Smith and I do both, just to be on the safe side.
Thanks to our early flight, we are up a mountain by late morning – me on my snowboard and my lady with snowshoes. Then, after the thrills of the piste, we throw ourselves into Lagació’s epicurean delights. A short walk away at Rosa Alpina, there is the excellent Grill and the Michelin-starred St Hubertus. Mrs Smith and I soon learn that we prefer our restaurants less fussy, our food less pernickety, and our meals to cost less than €500. Taking the advice of Lagació’s receptionist, we discover we are financially better off next to the Piz Sorega bubble lift in the strip-lit, diner-style Ski Bar – where we enjoy some of the most delicious pizza ever.
Many guests, though, cook lunch and evening meals themselves. Baskets of organic produce can be pre-ordered to stock your cupboards. There are five classes of apartment available at Lagació; we are in the second smallest, yet the intelligent layout and posh fittings make it feel larger than your usual suite. A pine-clad hall leads to an open-plan kitchen-cum-salon, with a glass wall at the end framing that staggering Piz Sorega view. And an enormous double bed – crisp white cotton sheets, an excess of pillows – is all that stands between us and the two-person bath. The bathroom is that special mix of black slate and designer fixtures that makes a simple shower feel like a deleted scene from American Psycho. Not a murdery moment, mind; a bit where you’d go, ‘Ooh, isn’t his apartment nice?’
Being rubbed, buffed and scrubbed is another feature of a Lagació stay, thanks to spa La Palsa. Mrs Smith opts for a Dr Hauschka facial and shouty-looking Relaxing Full Body Massage, whereas I, being a terribly manly sort, have a Full Body Sports Massage in an attempt to put right some of my self-inflicted snowboarding damage.
And the saunas! They are, well, saunas (you know the sort of thing: tongue-and-groove, hotter than hot), but these bad boys border on preternatural, location-wise. Huge slices of rock act as modesty screens, and ice cascades into a stone font for therapeutic rubbing. A dark slate steam room feels very grown-up and, dare I say it, sexy. Next-door, a relaxation lounge with ergonomic eco-furniture and a surfeit of herbal infusions leads to a second outdoor sauna and a giant water-filled barrel for that all-important pore-closing sub-zero dip. Just thinking ‘I’ve never jumped into a big barrel of cold water before’ is enough to make you want to try it. A word of advice: allow extra time after your sauna for your internal and external organs to return to their usual locations.
Piste-activated adrenalin and masseuse-applied ylang-ylang prove a heady mix, and Mrs Smith and I pat ourselves on the back for leaving our offspring in the bosom of his London-based grandparents. As an urbanite, the opportunity to tit about in nature is a rare treat indeed. I imagine that any trip here is very much focused on sliding down the Dolomites at high speed – and for that Lagació Mountain Residence makes the ideal base. The Fairtrade cherry on this organic panettone? Being able to step directly from the piste’s powdery playground into unabashed luxury.