Tucked into the Sarentino Valley in Northern Italy, at 5,321 feet in altitude, is a peaceful mountain retreat known as Terra — The Magic Place (formerly named Auener Hof Dining House). They describe themselves as “discreet luxury with a nature-inspired design.” This is exactly how I found the property to be; guests receive the comfort and warmth of a mountain retreat, while experiencing the simple, personalized pampering that a small property like this is able to offer.
Terra is owned by brother-and-sister team Heinrich and Gisela Schneider, and the pair do an exquisite job of offering their guests an experience rather than just a stay. Both have children of their own and there is no question that they understand the exact needs of families.
Gisela and Heinrich came up with their unique concept by blending Heinrich’s incredible skills as a chef and Gisela’s intense knowledge of wine as a qualified sommelier. The property was opened as a ski-hut guest house by their grandfather, Johann Brugger, in 1941. Heinrich and Gisela have transformed the guest house into a beautiful space that revolves around Heinrich’s “terra” (earth) cuisine, reflecting the natural feeling of the surrounding environment. Heinrich takes his passion for mountain herbs and infuses them into his dishes to create a culinary epicurean experience like you have never known. This is the highest-situated Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, and the mountain landscape will impress you as much as the food.
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Note that for less adventurous palates and more discerning children, dishes not on the menu can be made to order. Also, it is not likely that children will be able to sit for the full 16-course dinner. You may request the nine-course meal over the 16-course meal when dining with children. Breakfast continues with the terra cuisine theme, though guests can request made-to-order dishes. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
With south-facing views looking over the Dolomites, the peaceful yet grand scenery will leave you breathless. Each room has a contemporary, nature-inspired design, filled with the scent of fresh pine. Bathrooms are spacious and each is equipped with a large shower, hair dryer and locally made toiletries.
With only 10 rooms, guests will discover just how peaceful a mountain holiday can be. The Junior Suite is perfect for families. There is a separate living room area that closes off from the main bedroom, with a pullout sofa bed for the children. An extra folding bed can also be put in this space. The standard rooms are spacious enough to add two fold-out beds for children.
Soak in the chromotherapy-lit whirlpool area surrounded by the full panoramic view of the sun setting behind the mountains. Children are welcome in the spa area if accompanied by an adult.
If the view and whirlpool aren’t enough to relax you, the wooden hammock-inspired swings, Finnish sauna, herbal steam bath, and aromatherapy hay loft are sure to. Massage, yoga and Pilates are available upon request.
Visitors will be greeted in the valley by the small village of Bolzano, the “Gateway to the Dolomite Mountains.” Bolzano is filled with shops, restaurants and a hospital. A picturesque 35- minute drive into the mountains from Bolzano will lead you to the property.
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An hour and a half moderate trail hike takes you to the peak of a 6,571-foot mountain. Along the hike is a small cafe (open during summer months) and a play area for children. At the peak is a stunning collection of stone formations known as “Stoanernen Mandln,” with some formations thought to date back to the Stone Age. Be sure to ask Gisela about the fascinating stories and legends that come with the formations!
During the winter months, it is just a 30-minute drive to Reinswald Ski Park, where you can ski, snowboard, slide down the toboggan run, snowshoe or go sledding. There is a fully equipped rental shop and children’s playground at the base of the ski area. Skiing and snowboarding lessons are offered for adults and children.
In the summer months, families will find lakes to swim in, endless hiking at every level, summer tobogganing, horseback riding and playtime at the ski area playground.
Editor’s Note: Laurel received a media package to review Terra — The Magic Place. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Laurel Perry.
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