I have probably said this in the introduction of every other Italy post I’ve ever written but I’ll say it again, because it’s such a striking sensation – traveling here always feels like coming home. The moment I step off the plane, Italy gives me a friendly pad on my back, as if to say “Good to have you here, Katja.” It makes me feel welcome with every cup of excellent Cappuccino, every smile in a stranger’s face, every fabulous restaurant I walk into, each ray of sun tickling my face.

There is no part of Italy I don’t like (and I have been to many!) and South Tyrol is no exception. The landscape is so stunning, I constantly have to remind myself of how lucky I am to live in a world that comes up with such beauty. I’m not usually the type to get all emotional and philosophical, but South Tyrol’s mix of beautiful surroundings, warmhearted people and incredible food has me raving to the moon and back.


Like last year I had the pleasure of being part of the jury in the South Tyrolean Media Award. And like last year I was invited to attend the award ceremony during a wonderful weekend in Merano. Like during our first trip here we had fun spending an afternoon at the thermal bath, enjoyed delicious homemade dumplings and took deep breaths, every time we strolled through yet another spectacular piece of nature.

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I was so happy to be back, I decided one weekend would not be enough. Thankfully Hotel Irma came to the rescue and invited us to extend by 3 more nights. I had previously read on tripadvisor that Irma ranked highest in Merano so naturally my expectations were skyrocketing. I had also heard it was longstanding, not at all comparable to all the new and modern houses popping up, which intrigued me even more. In my experience hotels with a long history are a lot less open to bloggers, so we usually get invited by modern design and boutique hotels and not those who’ve been run by 4 generations for almost 100 years.


It took about 30 seconds to figure out that the Irma was nothing like that. That in fact its arms would be wide open because here, every guest is treated like family. I saw it happening on more than one occasion. A confused guest will be personally escorted to whatever place he is looking for, not because he asked, but because that’s what very friendly people do. Any staff member I came across at this place was exactly that: just very, very friendly.

The house

We arrived at the Irma and it immediately felt grand, I couldn’t shake the idea of old Hollywood coming here on a glamorous weekend trip. True to form we were checked into a room that felt more like a presidential suite, complete with a walk-in closet, a giant living room and a bed with 8! pillows.


Classic, yet stylish design, bright, airy rooms, lots and lots of windows everywhere and just a wonderful cross between luxurious and homey. It took me no time at all to feel right at home and – dare I say it? – I probably slept better in that heavenly kingsize bed than I do at home.


As I’ve said before, one of the first things that really struck me about this place and what continued to surprise me throughout our stay was the heartfelt hospitality coming from the family running the hotel. No trace of burn-out, even after all those years. On the contrary. Siblings Claudia and Alex who run the house alongside their parents Ilse and Walter are as sweet as they come. Ilse is like that stylish, motherly type who always has a cute story to tell, Claudia, the ever smiling superwoman, who just so happens to be the mother of 4 daughters (including triplets!!) and Alex, the handsome and charming son, a Hugh Grant type of guy, who could easily pass as a famous actor.


Something very special, that I just love is their option of glamping! The latest trend and something everyone should try at least once is staying in a tent that features all the luxuries of a 5 star hotel. It wasn’t quite the season yet for us to camp outside, but anyone coming here in summer should definitely inquire about this gorgeous option. I believe the photos say it all..

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The Food

Food is a big deal at the Irma, clearly everyone is taking it very seriously. The breakfast selection was huge with the glutenfree waffles definitely being my favorite. Or was it the homemade apple sauce? Speaking of homemade – lots of things here were made from scratch which is something only a few hotels commit to, but those who do really care deeply about the satisfaction of their guests. I also enjoy that despite all the luxury and 4-star goodness, the Irma doesn’t take itself too seriously. Or their boiled eggs, for that matter…


Every afternoon from 3 to 5, a cake buffet with fresh apple pie and other goodies is being offered at no extra cost. No big deal to owner Ilse, just common courtesy: “I just like to have a piece of cake in the afternoon, don’t you?” – Oh yes I do, dear Ilse, yes I do.

While the bar and lounge invite you to try baked perfection with whipped cream, guests hanging out in the spa area are being treated to homemade sorbet, served in small jars. And as if that didn’t sound awesome enough, the hotel now also features a round-the-clock ice-cream bar with – you’ve guessed it – homemade flavors.

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Dinners quickly became my favorite time of day at the Irma, because who wouldn’t love to dine in a setting this beautiful…


We enjoyed half board, something most guests book, because it simply comes at such incredible value with an à la carte 5 course meal every evening! The menu changes daily and is presented to guests while they are having breakfast in the morning, so they can go all day thinking about which of the delightful options they will want to indulge in that evening. Isn’t that so clever? I loved spending the day dreaming about the juicy steak and panna cotta quadrilogy I’d have that night.

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If there is one thing the Irma is even more famous for than its hospitality, it must be the award-winning spa area. Indoor pool, outdoor pool, saltwater pool, whirl pool, sauna, steam bath, massages, facials, hairdressing – you name it, it’s all here. I loved the outdoor pool. By a simple click of a button a whole aquatic experience is set in motion, where water pressure transports swimmers along a pathway in one corner and massages one’s back in another. Inside there is a fantastic lap pool and some very comfortable lounge chairs I could have easily laid in all day.


But once again, it doesn’t stop there. How would you like to unwind in a sound garden? Mabye try a moonlight bath? Or simply go for that whole body masage? Clearly a team has come together to really develop a one of a kind offer in this wonderful spa. We did not have enough time to enjoy the underwater music of the lap pool or go for one of the monthly night swims inside the 40 degree-warm outdoor pool but we do know that we want to be back to try all these and more.


Things do in Merano

The Irma is not just a beautiful place to stay in, it’s also a perfect base to explore the best parts of South Tyrol. If this lovely piece of Italy hasn’t found its way onto your bucket list yet, it’s high time you put it there. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a region that holds the best of 3 countries? A little bit of Austrian hospitality, Italian warmth and Bavarian charme can all be found in the people, the land and the food. My god, the food! I could talk about it for days. If you’re a foodie too, you will be in heaven here, as this is the part of Europe that has the highest density of Michelin-Star Chefs!

Don’t miss out on a fabulous lunch or dinner at Relais & Chateau Castel Fragsburg. Their chef is clearly an artist in the kitchen, and you will try flavours here you have definitely never come across, nor thought of combining! Lunch here is a great deal and dinners will make for a very special evening that your tastebuds will remember for a long time to come.

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Speaking of food, there is no better place in the world to learn how to make some really people-pleasing bread dumplings. I recommend you make your way to Zmailer Hof, where Christine dishes up her famous dumplings in all sorts of variations (cheese and bacon is my favorite!). If you want to learn how to make these from the boos lady herself, you can email Christine to request a cooking class. All Info can be found here.

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When the weather is nice (and it usually is, at 300 days of sun per year) you can really never run out of things to do. Biking, hiking, swimming in the lake, paragliding, visiting various farms or wineries, it’s super easy to pack each day with an awesome adventure (read all about the best options in our previous report!). But if you happen to have a rainy day mixed in the ideal place to spend it is at the thermal baths in Merano. There are various outdoor pools (two of which are heated!), different size indoor pools, whirlpools, a spa area and various treatments on offer. It’s a great place for families and the adjecent restaurant dishes up great pasta and refreshing aperol spritzers.


Still not convinced? Of course you are. See you in Merano!


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