Cloud Climbing in the Dolomites with FORESTIS

A secluded property carefully calibrated to showcase the staggering beauty of its natural surroundings

The Dolomites, a jagged range of ghostly peaks thrusting skyward, rose from a coral reef in a prehistoric sea over 200 million years ago. A UNESCO World Heritage site in the northeastern corner of Italy on the Austrian border, the jaw-dropping mountain landscape has a wild, savage beauty. Known as Monti Pallidi (meaning “pale mountains” in Italian) the area in the South Tyrol (also known as Südtirol or Alto Adige) is a draw for Italians, Austrians, Swiss and Germans. It’s not quite as well-traveled for Americans yet, but with the opening of FORESTIS, its upcoming sister boutique hotel, Odles Lodge, along with the 2026 Winter Olympics in the Dolomites, that’s about to change.

FORESTIS is the vision of Stefan Hinteregger and Teresa Unterthiner, who transformed a traditional Tyrolean hotel into something exquisitely modern and more sustainable. The property floats in the clouds, with every angle of it carefully calibrated to showcase the staggering beauty of the mountains and surrounding forests. The design elevates rustic local materials—mountain pine, spruce and stone—to stunning new heights.

The 62 spacious pine suites feature bathrooms made with stone, and balconies that merge with the majestic mountains. Sustainability has been woven into this. This is important, Unterthiner tells us, “because we want to protect our environment and our intact nature for upcoming generations.” For every tree cut down, two new trees were planted.

The nature-immersive thread carries through the spa menu, influenced by Celtic traditions from the Druids who once settled the area. There are four saunas and an ice bath, along with daily sauna rituals and a beautifully equipped 24-hour fitness room. Wyda (similar to yoga) hails from a Druid practice born in the forest and classes take place in a glass-enclosed meditation room.

A sublimely healing signature treatment, the Tree Circle, incorporates four types of local wood and is based on the idea that each tree (spruce, lark, stone and mountain pine) carries a special vibration. The spiral staircase leading to the spa is inspired by the shape of a 130-million-year-old ammonite fossil at the base of the stairs, which was excavated nearby.

The FORESTIS restaurant is a tiered amphitheater with floor-to-ceiling windows and curved banquettes, each with a perfect, unobstructed view of the mountains. The acoustics are so good that sound is simply a murmur, from one table to the next, along with the soft clinking of glasses filled from the collection of 650 wines with an emphasis on regional South Tyrolean wine, and “a focus on small producers and growers,” says sommelier Luca Chiodelli.

“We knew we wanted to create a unique dining concept that puts the surrounding nature in the center,” says Unterthiner. “The difficulty was to create something new, without losing our local traditions and our strong values.” The result, a seven-course Forest Cuisine dinner, comes with a vegetarian or non-vegetarian option. Sixty percent of the food is sourced locally, while 100 percent comes from Italy.

The menu, crafted in the zero-waste kitchen, may feature spruce tips or wild mushrooms foraged from the nearby woods by executive chef Roland Lamprecht himself, who grew up in the region and “personally walks into the forest and collects ingredients like mushrooms or parts of trees to use them in the kitchen,” Unterthiner says. And it draws on the chef’s strong relationships with local farmers.

“South Tyrol has many influences in its kitchen that come from our Austrian history. However, the Italian influence in the past century has also been very strong,” says Unterthiner. “That’s why the food in this region is so unique and special. We try to preserve traditions and transmit them to our guests. One example is the shared bread and the daily changing salad bowls at the beginning of the evening menu. One could not imagine a South Tyrolean home without a salad bowl at the center of the table for every meal.”

A walk through the property uncovers many beautiful visual vignettes: an antique sewing machine on an Italian carved wood chest in front of a window, vegetables in mason jars filled with preserved white asparagus and pine tips, a verdant organic garden where the tomatoes end up on your plate the same day they are picked, an outdoor breakfast and cocktail terrace—a beautiful way to start and wind down the day.

Guests can take a nearby gondola up the mountain and hike down in the fresh mountain air. There are biking trails, walks through densely forested areas with good paths, clear mineral springs, an indoor-outdoor pool.

On May 1, Hinteregger and Unterthiner will be opening Odles Lodge, a new boutique hotel a few kilometers up the road from FORESTIS. Designed by Armin Sader of Assaggio Architects (who designed FORESTIS), Odles also embraces a modernist design, framed by the Dolomites. An extraordinarily peaceful spot, Odles features a Swiss stone pine sauna made from native stone pine, steam bath with natural pine essences, fresh mountain spring water and chalet.

“With a more remote location and higher privacy than at FORESTIS—there are just four suites—Odles Lodge will offer an experience even closer to nature,” says Unterthiner. “The guests there will have the possibility to use the luxurious services and spaces at FORESTIS, but also to stay completely in private in the Lodge with no need to leave the property.” Anyone who travels to this heavenly part of the planet will never want to leave. And when they do, they will certainly be aching to return.

Images courtesy of FORESTIS