Soprabolzano, Italy – In the rolling green hills of the South Tyrol province in northern Italy, there is one structure that is not like the others – it’s called Gloriette Guesthouse. Against the backdrop of its more classically designed counterparts, the hotel stands astute, proud even, markedly modern for the area, but not affronting – sui generis.
Gloriette’s predecessor in the location was Bergfink, a small hotel business that served as a central point within the village of Oberbozen and acted as a mediator between the rural-urban dichotomy in the area, close to the border of Austria. Considering the set stage, it’s appropriate that Noa Network of Architecture looked to Art Nouveau for inspiration when Bergfink was demolished – the arched windows serve as leitmotif to the village’s history and angular, rhombus-shaped elements harken back to the Ritten railway, which connects the neighbouring holiday destinations. The design does not usurp the tone of its locality. And semantically, this intention speaks for itself – a gloriette is a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings.
What’s the value of breaking from provincialism? What can a design boutique hotel do in a place like South Tyrol?
South Tyrol, populated by a little over 500,000 inhabitants, is an alpine region where the majority of the population’s mother tongue is German. At Gloriette, the scenic visibility from the 25 guestrooms highlight the allure of tourism there: at the risk of sounding trite, it looks like something out of the Sound of Music. But people like this very provincialism: so, aesthetically, what’s the value of breaking from it – what can a design boutique hotel do in a place like South Tyrol? Gloriette does not overstep its boundaries, does not try to be more beautiful and regal than nature itself, but it takes risks when it could have heeded.
The popularity of rural and eco-tourism rises year after year in Europe – in Italy, agriturismo, specifically a holiday visit to a farm or countryside location, is becoming a force of its own. Agriturismo accommodations rose 1.9 per cent in 2016 from 2015, at 22,661 locations open in Italy. Consequently, the increase in visitors was palpable too – according to the Instituto Nazionale di Statistica, 2016 saw a 6.6 per cent jump, at 12.1 million people total. Gloriette caters this certain kind of urbanite – the one who wants that so-elusive peace and quiet we hear about but never seem to quite get, but doesn’t want to be without the bells-and-whistles boutique hotels in the cities boast, either.
'Most of our guests come from Germany, mostly from the bigger cities,' said Julika Fink, the owner of Gloriette Guesthouse. 'They love the mix of South Tyrol's nature and the Mediterranean flair of Bolzano.'
And voilà– the spa area. The expansive cantilevered infinity pool looks out onto the bucolic horizon and offers a variety of retreat zones and terraces for relaxation. The shell of the pool is a sculpture in itself, a reflective sweeping cylinder which cleverly employs an upside-down arch for maximum storyline cohesion. Noa designed the pool as to give the feeling of ‘transition into boundless freedom’ by playing visually with bronze-tone metal and the water – one can ‘[float] while enjoying the distant view. ‘After, visitors can retire to their rooms, which do not breach the mood: blonde wood panels, eggshell-coloured walls and fluffy white beds which beg to be fallen into, and the Lorenzi suite has a sizeable window nook for continued scenic immersion.
There’s no mistake about why Gloriette plays an active participant in the evolution of tourism. As immediacy becomes second nature to us, we often forget that it is possible to revert – to relax. The success of design boutique hotels popping up in increasingly rural areas rides on their ability to let us remember.