Throughout December, Stylist is inviting you to revel in the simple joy of cosiness. From finding the perfect scarf (and effectively swathing yourself in it), to planning a weekend getaway at a rustic country pub, our content over the next month will endeavor to give you that warm, snuggly feeling inside. Here, learn how to get the most out of your candles. Welcome, dear friends, to the Institute of Cosiness.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt quite as cosy as the day I arrive at the San Luis Lodges Hotel. After a twisting and turning two-hour drive from Verona airport through the snowy mountains (and a rather nice nap in the back of the car), we arrive in an underground car park and are ushered into a lift from the concrete bunker.
Stepping out into the hotel is like the moment Charlie walks into the Chocolate Factory. Just without the chocolate. The barn-like room we enter is warmed by the hazy candles and lamp lights glowing from the wooden beams, a smell of pine fills the air from the Christmas trees sparkling in the corners, jars of biscuits and sweets sit temptingly on the reception desk and huge, plump sofas flanked by lanterns welcome our travel-worn bodies.
We soon find ourselves in plush armchairs, glasses of champagne in hand, gazing out of the vast glass windows at a firepit by a frozen lake. It is a welcome that puts Sweden’s much-vaunted hygge to shame.
We wake the next morning to crisp blue sunlit skies and a view in every direction of snow-covered mountains. The type of views that simply never, ever get boring. Our wooden lodge, on the edge of the frozen lake, has a wall of windows so there is a view of the snow and ice from the bed, bathtub, and even our private sauna.
Spotting a hot tub on the terrace, we throw off our fluffy robes and jump in the piping hot water, the hot spray landing steamily on the frozen lake.
Before bed we are told to slide a wooden door in our lodge, and after blowing away the cobwebs with the invigorating cold morning air, we discover why. While we were sleeping the team has delivered a breakfast of dreams. Bowls of berries, yoghurt, mind-bogglingly fresh mango and avocado, cold meats and cheeses, smoked salmon, and a basket of bread and pastries have been beautifully laid out on our dining table.
A little dish of eggs in the cabin’s kitchen is left with all the ingredients you need to whizz up an omelette. We pull back the curtains and eat with a private, uninterrupted view of the lake.
The resort is perfect for winter sports fans (as well as we winter relaxation fans). Meran 2000, the nearest ski resort – complete with snow park and toboggan run – is a 10-minute drive away, so plenty of guests spend their days on the slopes and their après soaking weary muscles. But cosy-hunters like us head straight through the snow to the spa.
The San Luis spa is a spa like no other. Set over two floors, the glass room (there are floor-to- ceiling windows on three sides) is lit by candlelight and plush daybeds flank a central pool. At the end of the pool an enormous open fire glows and crackles.
It is insanely warm and having just finished a massage, I am dozing before I’ve had a chance to even open my book. A fast 40 minutes later, I head to the pool to wake myself up. Cautiously dipping a toe in I discover it’s like stepping into a hot bath so I move towards the sliding doors (sliding doors! In a pool!) and swim outdoors, alongside the snow.
At the end of the pool a long wooden jetty cuts through the ice with an illuminated jacuzzi on it sitting in the middle of the lake. A quick barefoot dash and I find myself in neon glowing waters – fire and ice everywhere.
It’s fair to say, the Italian Alps don’t get as much press as other Alpine destinations (eight countries crisscross the Alps in total) but South Tyrol is more than a match for its show-off neighbours. One of the many appealing factors is the influence of its border countries (they are so close that I accidentally walk into Austria on the top of a mountain while out exploring) and, despite Italian status, 70% of locals speak German as a first language. Nowhere is this fusion more evident than in the food. And San Luis goes big on food.
Every night after a day of exertion in the snow, or relaxation in the spa, guests tuck into a set six-course menu made up of local dishes. We feast on the antipasti buffet – incredible roasted aubergine, peppers and tomatoes (it is normally nigh on impossible to get a vegetable in the mountains), chilli squid, crayfish, cold meats and melt-in- the-mouth mozzarella – followed by a cheesy, oozy porridge-like polenta, barbecued seabass, and a cheeseboard that makes all my cheese dreams come true.
Oh, and fennel, lots and lots of fennel – even in the puddings. It is Italian, Alpine and very delicious. Washed down with lashings of local wine, we are left sliding through the ice back to our lodge for a doze on the sofas by our open fire.
The dictionary defines cosy as, “giving a feeling of comfort, warmth and relaxation”, which is almost exactly how I would describe San Luis Lodges Hotel.
They have thought of – and provided – everything to give absolute comfort and warmth in every possible way… and it’s impossible to be anything other than relaxed here. Now that’s what I really call cosy.
San Luis offers treehouses or chalets from €300 (£267) per person per night on half board basis (minimum three-night stay); sanluis-hotel.com. For more information on South Tyrol visit suedtirol.info/en
Images: Courtesy of venue