The Preidlof Way

The Preidlof Way

Photo courtesy of Preidlhof

Spa aficionado Mary Bemis visits a magical retreat in Italy’s South Tyrol.

In the year Spirituality+Health launched, I launched American Spa, a trade magazine for a burgeoning industry. People from all over were ready to explore spirituality and were eager to learn about what spas had to offer. We all wanted to dig deeper. Twenty-five years on, I’m still digging—though it feels at times like the ground has gotten harder.

I can’t count the hundreds of spas, wellness centers, and retreats I’ve experienced in 25 years, but I can count the small number of experiences that made a lasting impression. These are places that truly transform; that teach new and better ways to be in the world, with loved ones and with yourself. Places that give a fresh new take on life. Places that help heal what ails you—both inside and out.

Not so long ago, I traveled to one such place: the historic village of Naturno, tucked away in Italy’s storybook South Tyrol. Going to the mountains for big answers is a tradition as old as time, and there’s an entirely different intentionality when you make the decision to travel to a remote mountain range to actively seek out solutions. I had been invited to Naturno to experience the Integrated Healing Retreat, a new weeklong retreat at Preidlhof, a superb destination spa run by renowned spa director and wellness alchemist Patrizia Bortolin, who oversees a team of accomplished and elite healers. I went to Preidlhof not only as an expert spa critic, but as a pilgrim in need of healing.

Like many during covid, I experienced the loss of loved ones: A fierce, strong mother who decided she had had enough of the world, a dear friend who had succumbed to colon cancer, and another friend lost to suicide. My bereavement came to rest at my very core. My gut distress was off the charts. There is a thing called the microbiome, an ecosystem all its own, with an established gut-brain connection. English poet William Blake writes, “To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” It only made sense that I needed to be in a different orbit to find a more healing cadence with a team of professional healers.

Patrizia Bortolin is the creator of “The Preidlhof Way,” an award-winning and forward-thinking wellness concept that seeks to balance hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing. She designed the concept around these two approaches to wellbeing and happiness. The famous Rumi quote, “Wherever you are, whatever you do, be in love,” is the mantra of the retreat—it’s scrolled on a wall in the reception area, printed out on small cards, and handed out to guests. (Mine sits by my computer as I type this, acting as a gentle reminder.)

“A retreat is more than a series of à la carte treatments. It needs to grant a significant improvement, a specific result or a transformation. It might add a new skill, give new perspective on a specific matter to inspire a next step in life, provide a solution, heal or solve a problem, or teach a new way of living according to what it claims.” —Patrizia Bortolin

What I experienced at Preidlhof was truly transformative and one of the best spa experiences I’ve had in all my years. The Integrated Healing Retreat was designed to “transform and detox at all levels: emotional, physical, energetic, and mental.” Each day was devoted to a different state of mind and body: Sunday was “Immersive Wisdom;” Monday “Let Go;” Tuesday “Sensoriality;” Wednesday “Mindfulness;” Thursday “Body Energy;” and Friday “Celebration.”

My retreat began with a hike in the surrounding mountains to forest bathe and share in an herbal ritual led by the fairy-like Irmgard Mossmair, a 70-something South Tyrolean woman who I believe is part wood nymph. She knew the mountains like family and could identify and sing the praises of every botanical along the way.

That proved to be the perfect start to a week that was full of new and challenging experiences. There were medical wellness sessions and acupuncture with Alexander Angerer, MD; a number of unusual and intense Glowing Flow sessions with the intuitive Master Therapist Stefano Battaglia, whose combination of osteopathy and healing touch got my gut gurgling in good ways; an Ancient Healing session with the gentle holistic practitioner Martin Kirchler; a practice called Yaku Shiatsu with international shiatsu trainer Andrea Martinelli, aka “Captain;” and a top-notch Sound & Quartz Ritual with Aurora Kusch. I also experienced a number of special retreat classes, many of which were led by psychologist Norma Jean Botticelli and included mindful eating, yoga Nidra, voice yoga, and laughter yoga. The practitioners at Preidlhof work in an exquisite and rare synergy that I have not experienced elsewhere.

And then there was the six-story sauna tower and an otherworldly indoor thermal pool where I spent hours each day, sweating away to my heart—and my gut’s—content. By the end of my Integrative Healing retreat week—which included a severely restricted diet—my gut felt much better, my body more balanced, and my mind much lighter.

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