It’s just a step from the past to the present. And guests who have just arrived at the Parkhotel Holzner in Soprabolzano do not even notice that they are taking this step.
After checking in, they go to the elevator, over a red-black stone floor, some of which is more than a hundred years old, some of which has just been relocated in a new wing. The guests see no transition and no difference, everything fits together seamlessly – and that suits this house. Architects and artists have worked in recent years to ensure that everything in the Holzner appears natural and symbiotic. And of course Wolfgang Holzner himself, the host, who runs the Parkhotel in the fourth generation and who deals intensively with this task.
When the 41-year-old speaks of “artistic interventions” (the pointed observation tower on the roof can be opened like a blossom), of the analysis and careful expansion of the original color palette in the house (the oak, the stone, the pastel tones), of the quality of stay and sustainability (the regional ingredients in the gourmet restaurant “1908”, the own bio-heating plant with wood chips) – then it becomes clear that it is no coincidence, but the result of a series of correct decisions that the Holzner has belonged to a family for 113 years and despite the passage of time today is neither in the portfolio of an international hotel group nor has it become the hundredth interchangeable so-called romantic hotel. To ensure that it stays that way in the future, Wolfgang Holzner wanted to modernize the hotel in such a way that the historic house does not have anything dusty or museum-like and remains a place where you can tell its history but not represent a monument to itself.
The new spa area including the infinity pool was placed exactly between the trees of life in front of the house
“With a company like this, every generation has to rethink what it is doing. For me, it was about building bridges,” says Wolfgang Holzner. He has enlarged the spa area, built suites, including an underground car park directly under the tennis court, on which Italian championships have already been held. Due to the limited building area and the hillside location, several floors had to be dug into the earth. That was time-consuming, but the result is inconspicuous and blends harmoniously into the landscape next to the main house. The spa area including the infinity pool fits exactly between the two tall trees of life that were once planted for Wolfgang Holzner’s grandfather and uncle.
The hotel has been on the Renon, Bozen’s local mountain, since 1908, and today it is right next to the mountain station of the cable car that carries locals and tourists up to Soprabolzano and down to the center of Bolzano every minute. When the hotel was built, South Tyrol was still part of Austria, an emperor ruled and of course there were no gondolas yet. Instead, the Rittner Bahn operated as a novelty, departing from Waltherplatz in Bolzano and stopping on the mountain at the specially built hotel – at that time the only building far and wide. “It must have been an extremely foreign body, a kind of space station,” says Wolfgang Holzner, “much more drastic than the current new tourist buildings on the Renon.”
Originally it was called Hotel Oberbozen – and gave its name to the place that later grew around it. As the hoteliers in Switzerland had successfully demonstrated at the end of the 19th century, the comfortable hostel was intended to attract well-heeled guests from all over Europe to the mountains without the gentlemen having to shed sweat. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Renon was known as the ideal place for a summer getaway, and its sensational panorama with the Schlern and Rosengarten is famous. Up here at an altitude of 1200 meters there is always a light breeze, it is significantly cooler than in the valley. The wealthy Bolzano residents have built their summer houses up here since the 17th century.
The lamps are original from the Art Nouveau period, but have LEDs
Today the little train only jerks back and forth between the village of Maria Himmelfahrt and Klobenstein. To do this, the cable car shovels a million guests a year. The holiday business has nothing to do with the elitist elegance of the Belle Epoque. There are umpteen hotels in all price ranges. Some visitors spend their holidays on the farm here, while others drive their SUV to the chalet resort. It’s alpine mass tourism, but inside the Holzner there is still the peculiar glamor of an alpine grand hotel, even if it has been refurbished in a contemporary way, sophisticated and rustic at the same time: with rustic furniture and real Art Nouveau lamps, but equipped with LEDs, with original Thonet chairs from 1908 in the dining room, creaking stairs and a wood-paneled green salon, the hotel bar, where guests can have a drink after dinner and play board games like in the old days, as if there were no flat-screen TVs in the 53 rooms. Even children sit here later in the evening, many of them remarkably well combed and in polo shirts. You can also hear them talk about their fathers about who owns the bigger house and where. “We still have one in Switzerland, with direct access to the lake.”
The hotel manager played with many guests when they were children
But it is pleasant that the Parkhotel Holzner is also classic in the composition of its guests: a meeting place where different generations come together – rather unusual in times of market differentiation between children’s hotels and adults-only offers. Being open to families is important to family man Wolfgang Holzner. He has four sons of his own, and his siblings live in their houses next to his house right by the hotel. From grandpa to grandchildren, everyone should feel comfortable in the Parkhotel, there are areas only for adults, but also a sauna for parents and children, petting animals in the garden and an educational program.
The family friendliness pays off. Regular guests have been coming back for decades. Wolfgang Holzner says the guest children, with whom he played as a child, now came with their own children. And if South Tyrol was more of a second and third holiday destination with a stay of a few days before the corona pandemic, it was the main destination for many guests this summer. Some stayed for weeks. As it should be for a real summer getaway.
Double room for two people, depending on the season, between 260 and 800 euros including half board, www.parkhotel-holzner.com
The research trip for this article was partly supported by tour operators, hotels, airlines and / or tourism agencies.