Laura La Monaca
In autumn last year, I hit a wall. A close friend had died, I was embroiled in a difficult work project and I was facing losing my house to an interest-only mortgage. I was still functioning, but robotically and joylessly. Once the work project was finally delivered, I decided to take five days off and head for Preidlhof in South Tyrol, Italy. Mildly sceptical about the resort’s “transformational” claims, I was at least looking forward to a change of scene.
Preidlhof is built along a sunny mountain slope, looking out over a pretty village to the beautiful snow-clad mountains opposite. The resort is for adults only, indicative of how seriously it takes its wellbeing mission. It’s also enormous, comprising a six-storey sauna tower, six pools, four whirlpools (one on a rooftop), Turkish baths, a Mediterranean garden and numerous sumptuously comfortable relaxation areas with roaring fires and glorious views. Rooms are spotless and spacious. Mine had a generous balcony facing the sun, furnished with heaters and a big bed, which they make up if you want to sleep outside in the reviving mountain air. Food and wine are superb.
This was already a popular resort when the transformational wellness coach Patrizia Bortolin arrived in 2019 and set about changing the spa’s offerings, earning numerous awards. She devised The Preidlhof Way (including a new programme that tackles trauma), founded on the belief that you “nourish to flourish”, and that true health and happiness reside in balancing hedonism, or pure pleasure and enjoyment (hedonic), with “eudaimonic” wellbeing, a deeper sense of self, purpose and meaning.
The South Tyrolean mix of Italian and German culture is reflected in Preidlhof itself. Empathetic Italian warmth, personified by the delightful and welcoming Carmine Signorile, wellness concierge, is solidly underpinned by reassuring German thoroughness and clinical precision. Wellbeing programmes begin with a consultation with Dr Angerer, who assesses your heart rate variability, body’s energy efficiency and sleep patterns via state-of-the-art technology. He reports his findings to Bortolin, so she can design your personal programme.
Mine began with a session with Bortolin herself, who assessed my fears and needs with swift, astonishing accuracy via an exercise involving essential oils, before sending me off to be manipulated by Zen shiatsu master Andrea Martinelli. I lay in the dark, and as Martinelli set about his work rebalancing me, I realised how long it was since I had been truly still or breathed properly.
I went on to experience many of Preidlhof ’s signature healing treatments, such as Chinese acupuncture and massage and an astonishingly invigorating “Kneipp Experience”. I practised sleep and laughing yoga in a glass pavilion in a tranquil Japanese garden. I was taken on a long, glorious forest hike high in the mountains, culminating in a cleansing ritual with burning herbs on a mountain top.
I had two Glowing Flow sessions with Stefano Battaglia, whom Tatler Spa Guide named among the ‘Five Best Healers in the World’. Patrizia calls him “the Shaman”, and his combination of no-nonsense common sense and eerily accurate intuition allowed me to succumb to a state of euphoric, restorative stillness. Perhaps it was the fact he pointed out that no-one could recover from months of anxiety, grief and tiredness in just five days that made me trust the process. The life changes I sought were my responsibility and Preidlhof ’s role was to give me the strength and determination to shoulder it.
In 2020, a survey conducted by Smart TMS, which provides non-invasive and medication-free solutions for people with depression, addiction and mental health issues, found that London’s City workers, particularly those in the financial sector, suffered the worst mental health in the UK. Around a third of City professionals claimed their jobs caused unmanageable levels of anxiety and that they could not be honest about their mental health concerns at work for fear of losing their professional reputation or even their job.
While Preidlhof would never claim to be able to “fix” these mental ailments, what it does do is equip you with the lenses to take a clearer look at what you’re dealing with. A few days in the mountains, feeling cherished and nurtured, keeps the toxic fizz of anxiety and sense of dread at bay long enough to glimpse a realistic possibility of change.
As 2022 begins, even after a punishing 2021 and uncertainty surrounding the future, I feel far calmer and more optimistic than I did a year ago. The hardest part is taking the first step to take the time off. For over a year, lockdown and uncertainty have trapped us even further in the narrow confines of our routines and lives, but The Preidlhof Way is without doubt a way out, a way towards beneficial change and ultimately transformation.