“Close your eyes and begin to concentrate on your breathing,” said a soft voice from across the circle. It seemed a shame to shut out the view: the sun was setting over Lake Maggiore, the chestnut woodland beneath me, and the resorts of Ascona and Locarno on the opposite bank. The wooded mountains of the Valle Maggia fell into shade beyond, while behind me a garden dripping with wisteria merged into a wildflower meadow.
The view wasn’t the point, though. I was taking part in a guided meditation class at Hotel Sass da Grüm above Vairano in Switzerland’s Ticino region, best-known for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. Sass da Grüm claims to be a Kraftort, or “power place”, thanks to the ancient volcano it sits on, balanced with the water and oxygen-rich air. This “natural energy” would strengthen me, my instructor’s voice intoned – if I could relax.
The concept of a wellness holiday in a power place had sounded hokey, but intrigue persuaded me to book two nights at the three-star hotel. Not unwell but a little run-down, I decided to see whether Sass da Grüm could have a similar effect on my wellbeing as a spa break. Power places are alleged to have a healing atmosphere thanks to their high levels of positive radiation, says the Swiss power place association (yes, there is one) Vereinigung Schweizer Kraftorte (VSK). Our meditation tutor, Sass da Grüm’s owner Peter Mettler, bought the property and its four hectares of woodland and meadows in the 1980s, on reports of a previous resident being cured of lameness there.
Evidence of cures was anecdotal, but there was scientific proof of the energy. “I hired three experts who all located the same spot of energy, – at the bottom of the garden,” said Mettler. “They measured high positive radiation values of 40,000 Bovis units.” (VSK reckons the lowest level required for healthy life is 6,500 units.)
Mettler added that meditating in power places can optimise energy absorption: “With a little practice, meditation allows us to absorb the energy by creating a state of relaxation that can be more effective than sleep.”
To this effect he runs free 45-minute classes for guests, who are encouraged to do little else: the most active I got – notwithstanding the 20-minute hike to the hotel, which is reachable only on foot (there’s a lift for luggage) – was stretching out on a purpose-built platform along the woodland yoga trail.
The hotel has a panoramic pool and is at the start of some short hikes. But being inactive is a rare luxury, and one of the draws: a dentist from Frankfurt told me she had booked a several-week stay to recharge. That it was removed from the everyday world in pace and location was, she said, “awesome”.
We did seem far from the world, I thought, during meditation. It left me more mindful: I smelt the lavender in the garden, heard the breeze in the treetops and the muted roar of a distant waterfall as if anew. The feeling stayed with me after the class, as I looked into the forest from my sparsely furnished room. It didn’t have the smart bedding, waffle robes or thermal hot tub I would have enjoyed at a spa. But there were no appointments to keep, and no sense there was somewhere to be. I left feeling calm and full of energy. Fitting into Sass da Grüm’s easy-going philosophy helped me feel as in harmony with myself as the hotel was in tune with its surroundings. That, for me, was the power of the place.
• Hotel Sass da Grüm (+41 91 785 21 71, sassdagruem.ch) has rooms from CHF160pp (£106), including organic vegetarian meals, meditation classes and taxi transfer from San Nazzaro. EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies to Milan Malpensa from Edinburgh, Gatwick and Luton from £59 return; direct trains from the airport to San Nazzaro cost £20 return.
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