24 Hours at the Hotel Castel - South Tyrol
South Tyrol Introduction
Review: Hotel Rosa Alpina - San Cassiano
Review: Romantik Hotel Turm - Völs am Schlern
Review: Hotel Castel - Dorf Tirol
Restaurant-Check: La Siriola ** - San Cassiano
The most amazing route through the Domolites
Set above the main valley of South Tyrol, Dorf Tirol is a small town that has got some of the best views in Italy's northernmost region. To make sure a few things beforehand: yes, we totally love the area and it's hasn't been our first time there. Actually, it hasn't been the first time at the property neither but my last stay is quite some time ago, back when I was a small child but already as fascinated by hotels as nowadays. Not related to our beloved Castel Fragsburg, the Hotel Castel in Tirolo, they both actually have got nothing in common - beside the views perhaps. It was the first weekend of June, the weather supposed to be superb, but guess what: it was totally disappointing and for the very first time it was raining when I went to South Tyrol. Well, you can't have everything I always tell myself when being seated in Business Class instead of First Class and that's what life is made of. Work hard on your dreams and you are going to achieve them. Driving over the windy Timmelsjoch - the most sophisticated alpine pass passing by quite a few Ferarris and Porsche, we arrived in what seemed to be a blossom of natural perfumes. You simply have got no choice than arrive by a convertible or motorcycle - in order to best inhale the scent of Dorf Tirol when you literally inhale every single one of the blooming flowers.
After a tour of approximately three hours, we drove into the front desk area of the Castel which is appointed as a roundabout. Stepping into the hall, we were greeted and interestingly there was not much to fill out before the tour started. While we saw a few guests holding a glass of rose (what seemed to be a welcome drink), we were not offered anything to refresh. The friendly lady showed us to the pool and the bar before we took the elevator to the top floor to see our generous Penthouse Suite. I always say if your stay is short - make the best out of it. Actually, the Penthouse Suite was once the biggest of all suites before the Dobitsch family (now operated by the second generation) refurbished the entire hotel and added even bigger suites below the outdoor pool. To be honest, I would still go for the Penthouse Suite instead of the new Weinberg Suites as the Jacuzzi on the terrace and the stunning views of the valley pretty much win the game.
We opened the door and to the left was a guest toilet with bidet and wash basin with the open layout walk-in wardrobe and plenty of space on the right side. A little bit ahead on the left was the bathroom that offered double vanities, walk-in shower as well as a bath tub and a towel heating rack. All toiletries were by a no-name brand and actually did not match the sophisticated ambiance and quality standard of the hotel. Maybe this could be changed by providing a better quality south Tyrolean brand or brands such as Etro or Ortigia to remain Italian. Towels were replaced during turn-down service and could be a little bit softer. In general I liked the appeal of the bathroom, the style with the wood and the good lightning. Before we walked into to the bedroom, we passed the living room that came along a corner dining table for four with a selection of welcome amenities like chocolate, fresh fruits and water plus a friendly note addressed to both of us (very attentive) and a sofa right next to an armchair opposite the television and minibar. While the minibar is at an extra charge, I was surprised to see a good selection of high quality products. Prices were adequate, though at these room rates, soft drinks could be given for free.
Next to the main highlight - the terrace - I fell in love with the cool bedroom that had a writing desk, another television along the high quality bed with lots of pillows. Of course the terrace was accessible from both, the bed- and living room. During the huge refurbishment of the Castel, the owners did not just renovate all rooms from inside, they also added chic outdoor furniture to upgrade the terraces of the rooms. I very much loved the lounge chairs under the glass that covered the entire terrace making it even adorable during our rainy day. Well, no need to mention that the Jacuzzi (it takes about 5-10 minutes to fill it) is the absolute highlight and we could have enjoyed it for another week. Since it has to be refilled for every guest, it felt very hygienic - if not economic. For turn-down service they offered to refill the drinking water and close the blinds. When we were all set inside the room, we were seeking to discover the spa area. Being a wellness hotel since the moment wellness became popular in South Tyrol, a stay at the Hotel Castel always something special.
As Cesar Ritz already said, it's all about the location! And Hotel Castel is no exception. I don't remember a hotel that is settled into the wineyards that perfect that it feels like the wineyards would look boring without it. The different levels and pools blending in the scents and colours of the nature, the palm trees in the garden bringing the Mediterranean into the Alps as well as the lightly round shapes that form the Hotel Castel's signature look. As soon as the sun came out for not even 10 minutes, I couldn't dare a dip into the lovely mosaic-tiled outdoor pool - and honestly could have stayed forever watching the mosaics becoming like the Amalfi Coast when the sun breezes through the heavy clouds and reflects the green of the mountains into the blue of the pool. This is one of the moments, a trip to South Tyrol comes up for all the events in the last weeks. When the sun waived good night for a less spectacular sunset (due to the clouds), I headed back to the indoor pool that unfortunately felt little too cold considering the refreshing outside temperatures. To all my surprise we remained the only guests at the pool from 6 to 8 pm, which was amazing as we could enjoy the entire sauna area on our own. There are quite a few amenities such as a herbal sauna, a steam room, a heated relaxation room with herbs along the classic Finnish sauna and panoramic relaxation room.
One of the better things about hotels in South Tyrol and the Alps in general is that hotels come with a half board, meaning they not just include breakfast but also a set menu for dinner. Hotel Castel is famous for their Michelin-starred Trenkerstube overseen by Mr Wieser - a celebrity chef in the area. So all guests of the hotel have the choice between the included half board menu and an a la carte or set menu at the Trenkerstube (there is an extra charge for this). Since the main menu in the half board area sounded nice, we decided to leave out the Michelin experience (also because we were scheduled to dine at a two Michelin starred restaurant the night after). Our initial plan was also to feature the dinner in a separate review but as the staff only served three of the four courses, there is actually no real difference to half board services at other luxury hotels around Hotel Castel.
Being Thursday, the starter consisted of a antipasti buffet that was spread over quite a few tables where the breakfast is normally served. From different kinds of salmon, various cold meat, scallops, prawns and little lobsters to fresh oysters. There was also a selection of vegetarian dishes. I have to admit that the quality - of the buffet and the entire dishes - were outstanding and beyond the regular half board standards in this area. For the middle course, the menu was built up that it looked like you can only choose one of the options which were clear ox soup with vegetables, a pasta dish or sorbet variation. I would have loved to have two of these dishes, but since the menu read like there has to be a choice, we hesitated. To be honest, the actual highlight waited for the main course which was a sea bass grilled in salt crust and prepared in front of the guest. Not just that the service is special but also the fact to serve an entire fish as a half board menu is just outstanding and makes a generous impression. Now I was happy I just ordered one Primi Piatti and didn't go for the Spaghetti, too. Even tough the fish alone would have been enough, we were treated with vegetables and potatoes along a lobster sauce - this dish was on par!
It always got better. The dessert arrived and I was totally speechless by the amazing presentation of a variation of the Valhrona chocolate. In terms of taste and presentation this dish was one of the best desserts I have ever had. To our surprise, the sommelier and head waiter - with a typical South Tyrolean accent - made sure to pair the right wine with out fish and also offered two amazing Italian Grappas for the sweet dish. All in all, it was an evening that started like at a usual five-star-hotel in South Tyrol and ended like it should end at the region's top property. Needless to say that sleeping with open windows was not an issue at all and having had plenty of fresh air, the sleep was flawless. Waking up to THAT view made the day become perfect, so not getting hungry we were ready to discover breakfast.
While the weather looked nice at first sight, with the restaurant team having prepared a few tables outside, by the time we finished breakfast we were all surprised by a light rainfall. There is a menu with a selection of eggs and once I ordered poached eggs it seemed like I have been the only one ordering these kind of eggs for weeks. The restaurant manager approached me during the time I was at the buffet and asked if I would want to have Eggs Benedict. Actually this was exactly what I wanted but I hesitated to ask for them since they have't been on the menu. So in the end they surprised me with fulfilling my inner wish without having said a thing. By the time we packed for the next tour, it was already noon and therefore time to say goodbye to a hotel that has always held a special place in my heart.
Check-out was somewhat interesting, with a lady that wasn't wearing an uniform perhaps she seemed to be part of the family, however she wasn't actively smiling. I have to say that the extra costs were higher than expected considering you are already paying a certain amount of money - being one of the most expensive hotels in South Tyrol. All in all, the atmosphere and the location are really worth a stay plus the fine Mediterranean food and the beautiful wellness are worth the splurge. There is some finesse to be added and the Hotel Castel will be on top of the international luxury radar.
While the overnight stay was covered by the Dobitsch Family and Hotel Castel in return for the editorial service, we paid for all extras by ourselves. However, all above written expresses our very own opinion and has not been influenced.