While the Arosea and Terme Merano spas, in South Tyrol, Italy, have different wellness philosophies, they both use the best regional products for their treatments.
When we first moved to Belgium, we discovered European spa culture. At first, it was just a relaxing way to spend the day together. However, over time, we began to see the benefits to our own mental and physical wellness. The ability to unwind, unplug, relax, and pamper ourselves from time to time gives us both mental clarity and physical recovery – and it’s still a great way to spend a day together without distractions.
When South Tyrol tourism invited us to discover what wellness means in the mountains of Italy, we jumped at the chance. What we found were two very different styles of spa, with a shared aim to use the best of the region’s products to make people feel great.
Arosea Life Balance Hotel
For our first spa experience in South Tyrol, we headed for the mountains. About an hour’s drive from Bolzano, the Arosea Life Balance Hotel is set in the stunning Val d’Ultimo. Overlooking the Lago di Zoccolo, the wood and glass hotel settles comfortably into the mountain landscape.
Arosea is not a day spa. The facilities are only for hotel guests, making it calm, quiet, and exclusive – particularly in the off-season. Sadly, we weren’t staying at the Arosea overnight, but we did get to tour the beautiful facilities before beginning our spa treatments. (Travel writing does have some advantages.)
The rooms at Arosea feature materials from the region: wood, wool, and stone. The mountain water, the main feature of the spa, is so pure rooms have a special tap for drinking water rather than bottled water. (We tried the water and it is that good.)
Rooms range in size from spacious doubles to luxurious multi-room family suites, complete with Jacuzzi tubs and private saunas. The views aren’t half-bad either.
Arosea’s restaurant is just as beautiful as the guestrooms, capitalising on those gorgeous views and South Tyrolean materials. The food is seasonal, local, and organic – a modern take on traditional recipes.
However, we were here to discover the spa and Arosea had two different treatments for us to sample, both featuring South Tyrolean products.
Andrew enjoyed a hot stone massage using stones from the nearby Ulten Brook. The hot oil is massaged into the skin with hot stones, rather than the masseur’s hands. The stone massage helps to increase circulation and overall wellbeing and Andrew felt relaxed and toasty-warm, despite the chilly December day.
My massage was a bit more unusual. When it was over, Andrew asked me what it was like, my reply:
“It was like being wrapped in a sheep and massaged with kittens.”
Andrew’s expression was suitably blank.
Unlike a traditional massage where you lay on a cotton sheet, a blanket of raw sheep’s wool covered my massage table. My masseuse sprinkled some dried mountain herbs and rubbed them into the wool before I lay down. Once on the table, she covered my head and back with the rest of the wool. She burned more of the herbs so I could smell the herbal smoke. Then she proceeded to rub my body, very lightly, with extremely soft wool. It was incredibly relaxing.
When it was over and I was back in my robe, my masseuse asked me to wait a minute. She then bundled up the huge piece of wool and stuffed it into a paper bag – it was mine to keep. (How I crammed it into my carryon only suitcase on the way home is a whole other story.)
After our treatments, we chilled out in the relaxation room with cups of herbal tea, before making our way to the spa.
Being December, our swimming options were limited to the indoor/outdoor pool. In the warmer months, the 700m2 biological swimming pond is available to enjoy. During our visit, the pond sported a thin sheet of ice and neither of us was in the mood for a polar plunge.
We made our way to the outdoor Finnish sauna just in time for a sauna ritual featuring more South Tyrolean herbs. (After the sauna we did both take that polar plunge but in the frigid pool rather than the pond.)
We also checked out the steam bath, several other saunas, various relaxation spaces.
Unfortunately, our time was limited, as we needed to make our way back to Bolzano. We were relaxed, refreshed and initiated into the world of South Tyrolean wellness.