Castelrotto, Italy – At the height of winter, you can’t really get to the on your own. To reach the site, located in the middle of a tightly eco-protected patch of the Alpe di Siusi mountain range, you’d need to hop on a snow cat driven by Markus, the property’s co-owner. That’s the first sign that, at this hotel, guests are meant to surrender control – to enjoyable results.
The Zallinger was first born in the 19th century as a hut facing the Sassopiatto mountain. Its current iteration, after a recent renovation by South Tyrol-based architects Noa*, is that of a central building with 13 rooms, a bar, a restaurant and a wine cellar, as well as seven new chalets that account for 24 rooms and a wellness area. Move the interlocking wooden structures just so in a game of architectural Jenga, and the chalets appear solidly camouflaged; inside, though, the claddings hide a set of rooms that could do for digital detox what glamping did for camping.
The first thing to hit you as you enter one of the rooms is the strong scent of wood. It’s a reminder that the Zallinger is a sustainable wonder, built with certified materials and a custom engineering process to reduce environmental impact, heated by pallets and lit by lanterns on the outside – it bears the ClimaHotel stamp due to these grouped choices. The 21-sq-m rooms are carefully outfitted with knitted textiles and felt inspired by traditional hunter’s clothing – and on the walls, the framed feathers from Markus’ hunting escapades are there to bring the inspiration home. This is a form of elevated, sustainable log-cabin chic that still escapes many hospitality purveyors in similar niche markets.
The second thing to hit you? There’s no phone reception and certainly no WiFi, both on purpose: the Zallinger has become a haven for skiers in need of disconnection. ‘There’s no TV, no internet; we designed this as a place of retreat and silence,’ explained Noa* partner Andreas Profanter. ‘And because most of the guests are businessmen who come with their families to ski and want to get away from it all, that approach has worked particularly well.’
In a not-so-distant past life, the Zallinger was a less-specialised type of lodge. But owners Markus Burger and Luisa Schenk are South Tyrolean hoteliers, after all: no other Alpine location has developed such generally smart proposals in the past five years, mostly due to the region’s family-ownership structure and a fiercely competitive and territorial streak that is embedded in their DNA. South Tyroleans, it seems, don’t play catch-up with trends: as many look over their own businesses day in and day out, they are able to anticipate and create them based solely on their intuition, making sure to corner emerging audiences before others in nearby valleys do. ‘So, initially, this was supposed to be a smaller renovation,’ explained Burger while simultaneously manning the bar at the Zallinger. ‘But why did we decide to shift gears? Let’s just say I had a gut feeling.’