Aerial view of the Hotel Sassongher, Corvara, Alta Badia, Italy

Hotel Sassongher
Corvara, Alta Badia, Italy


There is surely nothing so quintessentially Italian as a septuagenarian barman, immaculately attired in black tie, winking as he flamboyantly sprays your Negroni with ‘Aqua di Saro’. The mists of time shroud the precise number of decades Saro has worked the bar at Hotel Sassongher but his dramatic spritz of eponymous Aqua (actually an aromatic orange zest mist) has never failed to elicit delight from his customers.

In a hotel that appears unchanged since the 1980s, when heavy chintz swags and pastel-coloured artificial flowers were the height of sophistication, it is entirely fitting that the bar and restaurant staff chose the same decade in which to hone their suave tableside manner. The dapper gents in the Sassongher’s restaurant – ‘Cha’, Matteo and Ibrahim – are so unfailingly dapper, attentive and polite that you almost don’t notice the cheeky glimmer in their eyes until they crack a perfectly timed joke.

It is the people, a large extended family of locals, who make the Hotel Sassongher such a delight (the deeply traditional interiors are unlikely to win you over, with faded ribbon bows adorning otherwise naked bedroom walls and collections of antique porcelain dolls and gilt-framed oil paintings of the beatific Madonna eyeing you over dinner). Since its conversion from a 17th-century farm set slightly above the village of Corvara in Badia into a simple albergo in the 1930s, the hotel has been a Pescosta family affair, with current owners Rita, Richard and Francesco the third generation to rule the roost.

The Pescostas are proud of their authentic Ladin heritage and ‘historic house’ designation and have updated some of their bedrooms and suites, all of which are vast (up to 90 sqm/970 sqft) and afford uninterrupted views over the village and the Dolomites above, while being sure to retain the property’s original sense of lavish exuberance. Having stayed in a sprawling yet somewhat soulless room, we found ourselves lusting after the Cindarella Suite with its pretty blue-painted ceramic ‘Kachelofen’ (a traditional stove), chandeliers and modern bathroom. Old-school comforts abound in the form of little bottles of heavily fragranced Chopard toiletries, frilly shower caps and single duvets for double beds, folded in that slightly stern way peculiar to Austrian and South Tyrolean hoteliers.

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While you’re Out There
Enjoy a taste of authentic Ladin living with dinner at Maso Runch Hof, an ancient farm set in pastures 15 minutes’ drive from Hotel Sassongher. Owners Enrico and Maria Nagler entertain a few guests each evening in their tiny, centuries-old stone and timber farmhouse, serving the same rustic menu – barley soup, spinach and cabbage turtre (small pastry parcels), and lamb shank slow-roasted in the farm’s original wood stove. The simple yet utterly delicious meal is finished with cinnamon-dusted apple fritters and rich vanilla ice cream, made from the Naglers’ dairy cows’ milk.

Breakfast and dinner are served in the main restaurant, which is broken up into intimate seating areas. These include three rustic ‘Stuben’ (Alpine parlours), of which our favourite was the wood-panelled Stua dl iagher, or Hunter’s Stube, which dates from 1520. Breakfast takes the form of a generous run of tables dressed in crisp white tablecloths and piled high with cold meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, boiled eggs and breads of every description as well as juices, cereals, local jams, honey and that slightly puzzling Italian breakfast stalwart, cake. As we enjoyed our morning meal, just as Cha had predicted over equally generous portions of lobster ravioli and succulent venison the evening before, a family of deer arrived for breakfast on the pastures just below the restaurant in a picture of bucolic calm.

Following a day of skiing on the flanks of the Dolomites – delivered to and from the slopes at breakneck speed by the hotel’s beaming shuttle bus driver – we gave ourselves over to a deep calm of our own in the spa. While the majority of the spa lies in the bowels of the Sassongher’s subterranean wellness area, a tranquil complex of frescoed walls, scented steam rooms, a traditional hay sauna and relaxation rooms, a very different scene awaits in the Sky Spa – a slick rooftop space with a large outdoor hot tub, a sun terrace for summer sunbathing and glass-encased sauna overlooking the mountains.

The Hotel Sassongher is, above all, a place in which to surrender yourself to the charms of Saro, Cha and Matteo, to seek out quirky and fascinating antiques (we loved the vintage jukebox tucked in a quiet corner of the bar) and fully engage with Ladin culture and cuisine. Would it make it as a five-star hotel outside Corvara in Badia (courtesy of SkyAlps new-in-2023 London-Bolzano flights now even more easily accessible to UK travellers)? Probably not. But neither will you find another five-star hotel serving Negronis topped with Aqua di Saro and such a twinkling smile.

SkyAlps operates twice-weekly flights from London to Bolzano, available from

Photography courtesy of Hotel Sassongher

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