Finding a good vegan-only hotel still feels like asking for the moon on a stick in many of Europe’s more rural destinations. Things are improving, of course, but as a tourist with a longstanding plant-based diet (I stopped eating meat as a child) I’m more than used to the vegan offering being nothing more than a dispiriting main course minus the meat.
However, a fledgling hotel chain with two properties in Italy’s mountainous north — where ragu, hams and gorgonzola still dominate menus — and one in Tuscany is offering a heartening chink of light to vegans who are desperate for la dolce vita . . . and fed up with a holiday diet that starts and ends with dried (and egg-free) pasta.
In the verdant Val Venosta in South Tyrol — the portion of northern Italy that sits just below Austria — is adults-only La Vimea, which claims to be Italy’s first vegan-only hotel. From the outside it looks like a classic Alpine chalet hotel with saw-toothed mountains providing the backdrop.
However, the Caldarelli family has transformed what was once a traditional ski/hikers’ retreat in the small village of Naturno into the region’s most progressive hotel, with sustainability at its core but zero compromise on holiday fun. Adults only, it has five types of yoga on offer, alongside forest bathing, a swimming pond, spa and gym plus a menu of activities that includes Nordic walking and trail running.
The swimming pond at La Vimea
It’s the food that brought me here, though. Trawling for ideas on Instagram I’d come across the chef Luca Sordi’s colourful, 100 per cent organic, plant-based dishes. An easyJet hop to Verona, and a winding two-hour drive through majestic scenery, put me at his table.
The owner, Valeria Caldarelli, tells me a