Have you ever seen Grand Budapest Hotel? If so, the Bagni Nuovi Hotel in Bormio Italy may look familiar. Visiting is like stepped into the mind of Wes Anderson. I am sharing this gem in the Italian Alps because it isn't fair that only European vacationers are experiencing the majesty that is Bormio. See for yourself...
Nestled in the alps above Bormio are two hotels and hot spring spas. The Bagni Vecchi (old baths) and the Bagni Nuovi (new baths). Each with their own charm and amenities, but neither disappoint.
During the day the light filled corridors of the Bagni Nuovi lead to endless combinations of spa and relaxation treatments. Experience cold, lukewarm, and steamy water exercises created to improve circulation throughout the body.
Of all the spa treatments, my personal favorite at the Bagni Nuovi was developed by a priest in the 18th century. It's an oval shaped cobblestone path, water up to the calfs. When entering the water on the right side, it is warm and inviting. Gentle. Almost body temperature. As you follow the path around half of the oval cobblestones below your feet provide a gentle massage to the soles. Half way around the oval path there are a couple of steps. Emerge from the water, but a few paces later re-enter on the other side of the oval path. This path appears the same on the outside, but is filled with fridge water. A complete shock to the mind and circulatory system to boot. The trek around this side of the oval is anything but comforting. At the end of the path, emerge from the cold waters, re-enter the inviting calming water. It takes a moment for the warmth to penetrate this time. This alternating warm and cold paths happen five times.
Walking this oval path did things in my body and soul I was not anticipating. It is the most accurate metaphor for life I have yet to experience. It took all of my will power not to rush through or skip the cold difficult parts of the experience.
I wanted to remain on the warm comfortable side of the oval the entire time. The side that made me feel good. While I was walking the warm path, I began to dread returning to the freezing path. The experience is an exercise in mindfulness.
Accept where you are in. Stay present in the moment. Do not consider the hardships of the future. They will come. You will get through them. Do not allow the possible future cold shocking waters to steal the peace and warmth of the gentle enjoyable waters. More importantly remember, the cold waters are the reason for which this practice is good for your body and circulation. You need it. If we remained only in the warm pool up to our calfs it would do nothing for the rest of the body.
That treatment is only one of the many designed to make an impression, mind, body and soul.
In the evening, enjoy the in-house restaurant. It is a sight to behold. The staff is incredible and the food even more so. Drink wine from local vineyards, eat cheeses, meats and honey from the area. Load your plates with greens, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If it is available, try the blue cheese and asparagus ravioli, pizzocheri, veal and pork steeped in the same local wine. Even the bottles of Lavissima hold water from the very mountains in which you will be surrounded. Be sure to try the pizzocheri, it is what the area is most famous for. Good, rich mountain food!
The Bagni Vecchi just up the mountain is the older of the two properties. Consider that the Bagni Nuovi is 400 years old... and called new. The Bagni Vecchi are from roman times, some even speculate that the original bath is from the 5th century... B.C. It is likely younger than that, but come on.
We stayed in an attic room at the Bagni vecchi, which is comical when you think about the two tallest people in Italy staying in the only room with extremely slanted ceilings. A few bumps on the head later I am up at night trying to remember if it is safe to sleep when you think you may have a concussion. I was fine.
Both hotels offer massages and facials while playing lots of Celine Dion and Savage Garden, but the Bagni Vecchi is the only one that is home to my current favorite place on earth...
Everywhere you go in Bormio smells amazing. The spas, the restaurants, the rooms.. outside. I mean the air in the alps smells like a snow dusted heaven.
FInally, Braulio. The best topic for last. My love affair with Braulio began on the first trip to Italy last year. It is the best amaro I've had thus far. Just the right amount of bitter mountain taste. Bormio is the birthplace of my beloved Braulio. Although there are less and less people interested in scouring the mountain side for wild bitters because they are too busy on Facebook, Braulio manages.
The Bagni Vecchi shows the true meaning of hospitality by sharing a gold cart filled with local liquor, bitters and canned fruits for you to make a personalized night cap gratis in their after dinner room.
For me, after a January filled with 20 hour work days of non stop event production and travel, this place was my sanity. I hope to be back soon, and to be bringing you with.
Day passes are available to both of the spas if you are traveling on a budget. The town of Bormio is a quaint ski village and has many housing options. Not to mention it is adorable. Have I done enough to convince you to visit yet?