|La Thuile // Photo by Coolgarriv via Flickr|
Gabriella Le Breton, The Daily Telegraph, January 13, 2015
Is the first five-star hotel in the Italian ski resort of La Thuile the start of a luxury revolution?
It takes guts to launch the first five-star hotel in any town, particularly in a sleepy former mining town in north-west Italy. Known to Italians as "little Siberia" for its tendency to be battered by severe winter storms, La Thuile is five miles from the French border, sharing the Espace San Bernardo ski area (160km of slopes) with the French resort of La Rosière.
La Thuile enjoyed a brief heyday in the 1980s, when Italy's glitterati flocked to the then cutting-edge Planibel hotel at the base of its slopes, but families and budget travellers soon replaced the VIPs, who migrated to neighbouring Courmayeur. Today, MPS Puri, chief executive of Nira Hotels & Resorts, is on a mission to restore some of that former glory. With more 40 years' experience in the hotel business and a trio of boutique, five-star Nira properties under his belt (including Nira Alpina in St Moritz), he launched La Thuile's first five-star hotel last month, Nira Montana.
Ask La Thuile locals what they think of the new jewel in their hospitality crown and some will say it's disappointing at first sight: the unassuming three-storey timber and stone property was built in traditional Aosta Valley style and blends harmoniously with the homes around it. Step inside, however, and the elegant mix of natural materials, low lighting and modern design pieces screams luxury. Walls are clad with reclaimed timber from local farmhouses, the floors are also wooden but fashioned from curved pieces that follow individual trees' natural shapes. Chrome and leather armchairs lounge beneath low-hanging hand-crafted Foscarini copper lamps and slender silver birch trunks separate a little trattoria, complete with wood-burning pizza oven, from the sleek, double-height dining room.
Setting a new benchmark for luxury in the region, Nira Montana's 55 bedrooms and suites are exceptionally large, each boasting a private balcony or terrace. Espresso machines, top quality furnishings and linens, walk-in rain showers and free WiFi are standard. The spa, complete with indoor pool, saunas, hammam and four tranquil treatment rooms, is also streaks ahead of the local competition.
In short, there's no doubt that Nira Montana delivers a five star experience, and the slopes here are tremendous. But as local ski instructor Carlo Ceffa hints, such a top hotel can only do so much for a resort: "Sure, our ski resort is five star - the problem is for those who don't come here to ski…" Unlike five-star resorts like St Moritz and Megève, La Thuile doesn't yet offer the extent of non-ski activities popular with luxury lovers.
If, however, you're content with superb skiing, a magical chocolate shop run by master chocolatier Stefano Collomb (Chocolat), authentic Italian restaurants like Lo Tatà and Pepita and five-star luxury for four-star prices, then this is the place for you.
A night's B&B stay at Nira Montana ( niramontana.com ) costs €200 per room, including spa access.
This article was written by Gabriella Le Breton from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.