E-trip to South Tyrol
Episode 2: The Vitalpina Naturhotel Pfösl

On our second stage of the e-trip through South Tyrol, we cruised with the Kia Stromer on country roads parallel to the motorway in the direction of Bolzano. Immediately after the provincial capital, we entered the Val d’Ega, which could hardly be more beautiful, nestled between the mountainous landmarks of the Dolomites, the mighty Rosengarten and Latemar rock formations.

Nachhaltiger Tourismus im Eggental

The region with its seven villages extends over 200 square kilometres, 70 percent of which are covered with forest. A large part of the area is covered by the spectacular Schlern-Rosengarten and Bletterbachschlucht nature parks. Little wonder that this green jewel attracts hikers and nature lovers in particular, who have more than 500 kilometres of marked trails at their disposal. But people looking for sporting challenges, such as mountaineers and bikers, also get their money’s worth in Val d’Ega with its 4 via ferratas and mountain bike trails over 200 kilometres. 

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Excursions into the nearby surroundings of the Pfösl offer impressive backdrops with Latemar and Rosengarten

In order to preserve the green capital of the tourism destination, those responsible have been committed to sustainable tourism for quite some time. Their concern is to actively convey special nature experiences to their guests, also to make them aware of the importance of protecting plants and animals. Two offers for holidaymakers combine the outdoor experience with environmentally friendly travel: “Green Weeks: Experience the Val d’Ega in a sustainable way” includes varied themed hikes. Guests learn interactively what the region’s nature has to offer. Those who book a “Soft Mobile Dolomites Experience” use all 18 lifts in the region for free. Bus and train passengers also benefit from a free hiking programme. 

The comprehensive winter offer includes two Dolomiti Superski areas with a total of 90 km of slopes, 80 km of cross-country ski trails, 160 km of groomed winter hiking trails, 150 km of snowshoe tours, 3 toboggan runs and 2 snow parks. 

The Pföslhof – a house with tradition

After we had meandered through idyllic forest landscapes, shortly before reaching our destination in Deutschnofen, the view widened to a high plateau on which the Naturhotel Pfösl resides, nestled between meadows and dense forest. 

At the sight of the mighty, modern building with its dark wooden façade, it is hard to imagine that a farmstead already existed on this site three hundred years ago, which, according to the first description from 1730, also included … “approx. 35 days of mown home meadows; then forest and pasture…”.
Situated on the pilgrimage and hiking trail to Maria Weißenstein, the Pföslhof has always been described as an estate run by hospitable people. Around 1950, Anton Zelger converted the farmhouse into an inn, and Herta and Luis Zelger, who then took over the business, finally transformed the inn step by step into a four-star hotel until 1996.

The old bakehouse dates from around 1700 and is still in regular use today

In the meantime, the next generation of the family is already running the hotel, which has set itself the task of cultivating modern, stylish gastronomy with regional and original products as far as possible. And to continue the associated agriculture and forestry on 35 hectares. A special combination of contemporary hotel business and agricultural tradition.

Cuisine: local, regional, seasonal

There is hardly a tourist destination that does not label itself with regionality or sustainability these days. One place that does not limit itself to mere marketing buzzwords but fills these terms credibly and consistently with content is the Naturhotel Pfösl. 

In implementing the culinary regional idea, the hotel team benefits from its own estates. Numerous wild and culinary herbs cultivated in raised beds and gardens around the hotel have long found their way into the kitchen. 

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Herbs and vegetables for use in the kitchen thrive in farm gardens and raised beds. It doesn’t get any fresher or more regional than this.

Two years ago, a large permaculture field was also created and planted with 2600 garden plants. In addition to various lettuces, chard, courgettes, parsnips and cabbage vegetables, even artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes are cultivated there. Among them are also old, almost forgotten rarities of cultivated plants. Thus, the hotel also contributes to biodiversity, by the way, by keeping an old local breed of cattle, the endangered grey cattle.

Not all ingredients can naturally grow right on the hotel’s doorstep, so the Pfösl also sources products from the nearby surroundings. In keeping with the hotel’s aspirations, it became a member of the pilot project “Strengthening regional cycles”, which was launched in spring 2022. The aim of the initiative is to promote the economically and ecologically sustainable development of the Eggental through targeted cooperation between agricultural producers and the restaurant trade. Farmers from the Val d’Ega sell vegetables and eggs directly to the valley’s hotels and restaurants. In the coming years, the project is to be extended to other product groups such as meat and dairy products.

Chef Markus Thurner obtains most of his meat from the Wippland cooperative, an association of mountain farmers from the Wipptal valley in South Tyrol. Species-appropriate animal husbandry, strict quality criteria and small marketing and transport cycles are essential points to which the 28 Wippland farmers are committed. Especially the return to natural animal husbandry has moved the hoteliers to enter into this supplier relationship. Pigs and poultry have plenty of room to roam, sheep and cattle are kept on the farm’s own pastures, and in summer on lush alpine meadows. Fish come exclusively from farms and waters in the region.

Fine organic wines and special coffee

When it comes to wine, attention is also paid to regionality, which is obvious anyway, as excellent wines thrive in South Tyrol. What is special about the Pfösl wine list is that organic and biodynamic wines are increasingly being served. Loacker, Manincor and Alois Lageder are known beyond the borders of Italy as pioneers and flagships of this form of cultivation in South Tyrol. Here, they produce wines that are authentic and based on their origin, and the hotelier’s family is particularly fond of the Morit Sankt Magdalener 2018 from the Loacker winery. It is light with notes of cherry, strawberry and forest fruit and convinces with soft tannins. The Planties Rot from the St. Quirinus organic winery in Planitzing, a fraction of Kaltern an der Weinstraße, is also particularly recommended. The grape variety of this wine with its aromatic bouquet is the fungus-resistant Cabernet Cortis grape bred in Germany in the 1980s.

The Pfösl is the only establishment in Italy to offer its guests the Arabica coffee bean in its original wild form. From the last 3 percent of Ethiopia’s rainforest, this original coffee is harvested once a year growing wild on trees up to 15 metres high.
The few grams per tree are sent to the most sustainable catering establishments. The original Arabica bean, which is threatened with extinction, has not been altered by agriculture or humans and has a milder, stronger and nuttier flavour with light chocolate aromas. One euro per kilogram of coffee sold is reinvested directly in social projects. This very special drink achieves 95 out of a possible 100 points in the “Cupping Score”, the highest award of quality for a coffee. The largest part of the coffee assortment is called “The Originals” and comes from the well-known supplier “Meinl”. It is a sustainable blend from fair trade.

Unique: Bread baking with guests in the style of the ancestors

Once a week during the summer season, the chef offers a bread course to the guests of the house. The different varieties are baked in the 300-year-old stone oven house and enjoyed together with various spreads made from natural ingredients. A holistic, culinary educational experience. Freely according to Pestalozzi “with heart, head, hand – and palate”. 

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Multi-award-winning sustainability concept

Keyword food waste: In the course of environmental audits, the hotel team first became aware of how much precious food is left over. As a consequence, the hotel did without large buffets and also reduced the size of the menus – of course without the guests having to “go hungry”. The Pfösl’s environmental and climate protection efforts are by no means limited to the gastronomic area. Brigitte Zelger, who runs the house together with her sister Eva and her husband Daniel Mahlknecht, tells us that many internal sustainability measures already have a long tradition. For example, for the past 30 years, all the heat has been supplied by a nearby wood processing company with a biomass heating plant. 

The energy for the entire wellness area also comes from a biomass heating plant

It provides hot water and supplies the Naturhotel with the necessary energy to heat the entire premises and the wellness facility. The electricity comes from a local supplier who provides 100% green electricity from hydropower. 

With eco-certifications in the years 2019-2021, the goal was not only to reduce their own CO2 emissions through concrete, measurable measures, but also to take on a role model function for sustainable tourism in order to sensitise guests and employees to climate protection. After three years of measurement, it has already been possible to halve CO2 emissions through various measures. From the original 29 kg of CO2 emissions per overnight stay, the value dropped almost to 15 kg of CO2. In 2022, various activities were also started to reduce this value even further. But it should not stop there, because on 01.01.2021 the Pfösl joined the climate neutrality alliance “Turn to zero” together with all Vitalpina Hotels South Tyrol. This makes them the first hotel cooperation in South Tyrol to commit to becoming climate neutral in three years. Compensation projects such as the hotel’s water initiative can also contribute to this. Here, the best mountain spring water is filtered and biologically purified.  This avoids long transport routes and unnecessary waste. In addition, a share of every water bottle sold at the Pfösl is invested in a “myclimate” carbon offset project in Uganda for clean drinking water through UV irradiation. 

As a logical consequence of the nature hotel’s diverse sustainability activities, the Pfösl has received many awards, such as the EU Eco-Label, certification according to GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council), the highest standard for sustainable tourism, and the “Green Travel Award”. The Gault Millau Hotel Guide awarded the Pfösl 2021 in the category “Best Nature Hotels”.

By the way: the chef has become a hobby beekeeper, so that guests can now even enjoy Pfösl forest honey. A small suggestion from the author of these lines: the hard-working producers of this delicacy would certainly appreciate it if instead of the lawn being cut short in many places, flowering meadows were planted on the grounds as a bee pasture.

Gesunde Bewegung und Entspannung für Körper und Geist

Fantastic: where else but in the 25-metre-long panoramic infinity pool of the Pfösl, heated to 35 degrees, can guests virtually swim towards the stone giants of the Dolomites. 

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The spacious outdoor pool is one of the highlights of the hotel

Those looking for relaxation after swimming, hiking, biking or skiing will find a true sauna El Dorado. Eight different saunas indoors and outdoors provide gentle relaxation and benefit for skin and respiratory tract.

The wellness offer in the “naturaspa” includes various body, energetic and cosmetic treatments. Kneipp fans will enjoy the spacious barefoot course and the natural pond. 

Those seeking peace and quiet will also get their money’s worth everywhere, whether in and in front of the rooms, in various relaxation rooms with a view, in the waterbed or relaxing in the hay. And even outdoors, many a seating and lounging island invites you to relax. 

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Numerous oases of peace invite you to relax – mostly with a view of nature 

Those who would like to reside a little away from the main building can book an exclusive chalet directly on the edge of the forest with a view of the Sciliar, Catinaccio and Latemar. Or rent one of the 18 Alpina nature suites. These are also located on the edge of the forest and are cosily furnished in pine, comfortable and naturally equipped with their own garden area. 

Sustainable mobility

Three charging stations for Tesla electric vehicles were installed a few years ago. Since more and more guests are now also arriving with “electric cars” from other manufacturers, two more wall boxes were recently installed under an elongated carport. The Pfösl will certainly continue to adapt its charging facilities to the dynamically growing demand. In most hotels, free charging for all hotel guests is no longer a matter of course. Not so at the Naturhotel Pfösl, where e-drivers can still enjoy this special service.

Good train connections and the booking of the South Tyrol Transfer Shuttle from the train station to the hotel guarantee a carefree and stress-free arrival and departure without long waiting times and traffic jams. In the holiday area itself, the hotel shuttle or public transport will take holidaymakers to the excursion destinations.

If you didn’t bring your own bike, you can rent one of the hotel’s own e-mountain bikes at the hotel to explore the dreamlike mountain landscape of the Dolomites. 

High-quality e-mountain bikes are available to guests

On your own or as a participant in a guided tour, for example around the Eggental or Latemar. As the hotel is a “Bike Hotel” and a partner of “Bike Hotels Südtirol”, the offer also includes a weekly training session in the nearby bike park as well as a bike taxi that comfortably takes cyclists to the starting point of their tours.

Vitalpina® Hotels South Tyrol

The Naturhotel Pfösl, with its great service and sustainability standards, is exemplary for all 31 hotels of the Vitalpina® Hotels South Tyrol. Even though the individual hotels are located in different alpine regions and also have their own accents in their offers, they are united by a high certified standard for holiday quality. In addition to their commitment to sustainability and climate protection, the member establishments of the cooperation define three areas in particular as common denominators:

  • “We stand for a healthy & environmentally conscious way of eating with regional and seasonal products”. 
  • “Vitalpina Aktiv stands for our approach to quality of life through a diverse, active attitude: active movement and landscape experiences, active rest and introspection.”
  • “We stand for traditional wellness treatments as well as natural products from the alpine South Tyrolean landscape.”

The website of Vitalpina® Hotels South Tyrol offers a great service, because there you will find thematically and seasonally structured holiday packages, which are assigned to individual hotels. In this way, guests who are primarily looking for relaxation and a break from everyday life will find the right offer for them, as well as those who prefer sporting action. Corresponding holiday packages are called, for example:

  • Recharge your batteries in late autumn
  • Hiking taster package
  • Romance for two
  • Snowshoeing
  • Hike & Bike
  • White Winter Weeks
  • Basic Fasting
  • Nature Family – Adventure with the Kids

Hotel Pfösl
Vitalpina Hotels Südtirol
turn to zero

Text: Peter Grett
Peter Grett: 3 motifs Kia EV 6, oven, e-bikes
Naturhotel Pfösl: All other images

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