An Abundance of Luxury and Calm
South Tyrol is a paradise for those seeking relaxation and well-being. The harmonious landscapes of the region invite you to recharge your batteries or simply to find your inner balance. South Tyrol is teeming with luxury hotels, wellness centres or spas offering a unique experience of authentic and sophisticated traditional treatments. The city of Merano/Meran enjoyed success in the nineteenth century thanks to its microclimate, which made it an ideal place for those wanting to recuperate and relax: The Empress of Austria, Sissi, is known to have stayed in Merano four times! Today, Merano is known for its thermal baths, usually nestled amongst lush surroundings, overlooking the mountain range of Texel. This pocket of serenity is located in a basin surrounded by snowy peaks and beautiful lemon and palm trees. The 25 pools and eight saunas and steam baths in the city, as well as the fitness and vitality centres, give a whole new definition to the concept of well-being. What’s more, the local natural products form the basis of all spa treatments. The wellness centres in South Tyrol all use the natural products of hay, pine chips or apples in their spa treatments and it is the use of these traditional methods and local products that are proven to benefit your health.
All in the hay
The hay bath, also called "Alpenbadl", is an old South Tyrolean tradition. The natural remedies that come from the surrounding Alpine pastures have been used by the South Tyrolean people for centuries. After a gruelling day of haymaking, farmers would sleep the night on layers of hay and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and full of energy. A scented substance called Coumarin is released by hay and this has been found to provide beneficial healing effects for the body.
The first hay bath was created in 1903 by the great-grandfather of a South Tyrolean family, who now manage the Heubad Hotel (the German word for hay bath) in Fiè allo Sciliar/Völs am Schlern. It is very important that the hay for the bath only comes from the pastures and sheepfolds located above 1,500 meters, as the hay produced at this altitude contains the important combination of flowers and medicinal herbs (between 50 and 128 different species) which are beneficial to the body.
Dolomite hay, and particularly that of the Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm, is known to be rejuvenating because of the specific soils found in this area. The hay from this region is extremely beneficial because it contains extracts from various different plants, such as lady's mantle, génépi, arnica, aspic, quackgrass, ryegrass and fescue.
Today, scientific studies have shown that hay baths relieve osteoarthritis, inflammation of sciatica and rheumatism, as well as stimulating blood circulation and metabolism. They are also an excellent remedy against fatigue and stress thanks to their relaxing and stimulating effects. Before use, the hay is immersed in a water bath heated to 40 °C and it is at this temperature that the fermentation process begins which diffuses the essential oils of the plants. The water must come up to the neck once immersed in the bath and after 15-20 minutes, the hay will become soft; this is when the hay flowers’ rejuvenating effects begin. This is followed by a warm sheet, which is wrapped around the body with a covering of hay for around 30 – 60 minutes. The treatment is then finished with a relaxing massage.
The South Tyrolean Apple Bath
Growing in the acidic soils of South Tyrol’s Val Sarentino/Sarntal valley, the Alpine pine (pinus mugus), a medicinal plant from which oil with purifying effects is extracted, can be used as a skincare product in a sauna or as a pesto paste to mix with food. The oil is resin-like with a forest-fresh scent which stimulates the circulation, nourishes the skin and has an odour-eliminating effect. It can also cure coughs, colds, body aches and sprains.
For more than 40 years, family distilleries such as Eschgfeller or Bergila have produced refined oil from organic herbs, which is then transformed into natural products available in stores. From May to the end of October, visitors can experience the distilling process as well as the cultivation of the herbs via free guided tours. South Tyrol is the largest European region dedicated to fruit growing, especially apples. It is not only used for food and juices, but this precious fruit is also used for a variety of different beauty products as it contains key ingredients such as pectin, vitamin, beta-carotene, mineral substances and microelements. Thus baths containing apples are increasing in popularity due to its health benefits. Each apple contains 13 vitamins and 20 different minerals which are easily absorbed by the skin during a very hot bath.
An apple bath has revitalising and purifying effects and stimulates the circulation. The health benefits from this fruit are particularly effective for anti-aging as they allow the skin and muscles to relax, as well as producing smoother skin. Apples contain many valuable ingredients such as calcium, which is important for the constitution of bone, potassium for tissue firming and zinc for cellular regeneration.