Review: Castel Fragsburg
Floating in the clouds above the spa town of Merano, at the heart of over 800 castles and fortresses, medicinal Alpine herbs, flowers, orchards, vineyards, cascading waterfalls and hot springs, Castel Fragsburg is South Tyrol’s smallest five-star hotel. Home to the third generation Ortner family, this magical haven is as close to perfect as it gets, in my opinion anyway. It’s difficult to reach, so high up the mountains, but the best destinations generally are!
With just unassuming 20 suites, each very different, yet all a cosy blend of Alpine and Mediterranean, with local wood fittings, quirky patterned décor and a touch of Art Deco.
Organic is the order of the day at Fragsburg’s Michelin-starred Prezioso restaurant. Breakfast is a feast of freshly-baked breads (German rye, wheat, multigrain, croissants and traditional South Tyrolean pastries) that are just perfect lathered with locally foraged fruits crushed into delicious jams, homegrown honey, cheeses, eggs and cold cuts, served on the panoramic terrace or in the wisteria-veiled loggia (when weather doesn’t permit).
Chef Diego Sales comes into his own at dinner, capitalizing on his traditional Milanese heritage injecting a twist of Italian into the local farmed fillets of mountain beef with baby spinach, rabbit ragout with mushrooms, rich and velvety barley risotto with zucchini flowers. With modest portion sizes, there is always room for the irresistible selection of the lightest sorbets, ice creams and homemade desserts.
One floor below, hidden behind the weighty wooden doors of the dimly lit cellar, master herbalist and healer Renate de Mario Gamper unearths new ways of rebalancing our disconnected bodies. A qualified nutritionist, she learned the secrets of the mountain from her grandmother and happily shares her profound observance of nature with her young grandchildren and attentive hotel guests. As life evolves in the Castel, de Mario Gamper forages the hills extracting the potent energy from indigenous medicinal plants and flowers - Mothers Worth, St Johns Wort, Burdock, Sweet Meadow, amongst many others - that form the basis of the spa’s treatments. Then, the basket of garden-fresh red rose petals under her arm is gently tipped into the larch wooden tub and the signature Relax Ritual begins.
Yoga & Sacred Arts
All the while resident yogi, dance instructor and sound artist Isabelle Hahn (aka Bellé Flora) guides guests of every ability through a hallowed fusion of yoga, intuitive dance, breath work, sound healing and meditation from her tiny wooden Sanctarium perched on the mountain ledge. Here lies the opportunity to truly let go from our switched on synthetic world, with the chance to begin each day with an energizing yoga ritual and complete the circle with a soul nourishing evening sound bath. A gym very much inspired by the elements lies secluded in the trees and for those wanting to venture beyond the stunning gardens, while bicycles (manual and electric) are at the ready to explore the mountains, castles and healing waters, before a poolside afternoon nap on the hand-carved canopy bed.
After all, asks Hahn: “What is luxury now? No longer brands and gold. Real luxury is something you can’t pay for – it’s in the air and once you dive into the stillness of nature, you can unravel the layers, return to your essence and live life on a higher vibration.” This to me is the core of Fragsburg.
Top Tips: Factor in time with both Renate and Bellé Flora - they have incredible knowledge and observance of nature on tap - you know your body will thrive under their watchful guidance. And don’t miss breakfast -it’s amongst the best I have been fortunate enough to enjoy, soaking up those views in the lead photo - they are inclusive in your stay!
Room for Improvement: The spa is ever evolving and as the property closes for some months over the winter, experienced therapists can be difficult to find but this is being addressed.
Not for: Fragsburg is a haven for adults and as the property is small and so, so peaceful, young children are not encouraged!
Will I return; Fragsburg is a well-hidden gem and a selfish part of me wants to keep it that way so I can always get a booking!
Getting there: Fly to Verona, Venice or Innsbruck and take the train to Merano where transfers can be arranged.
Cost: Packages are available through the website including a 3-night stay in a Junior Suite full board and spa treatment from €598,00 per person