Power place: Easter at Sass da Grüm

A power place that can heal all ills? Sounds like an iffy promise if you ask me. And certainly when Tim and I arrived at Sass da Grüm - a gorgeous family-run hotel tucked into chestnut woodland above San Nazzaro on Lake Maggiore in Canton Ticino - we thought it would 'heal' us with its setting and fresh air rather than its spiritual blurb. The hotel can only be reached on foot, which lends an honest sense of escapism - an aspect I would be promoting even more than the healing properties of staying there.

We were welcomed with a delicious lunch of asparagus and polenta (cuisine here is vegetarian), with homemade elderflower cordial on the side, before being shown to our room. Sadly nothing of a view - we looked onto woodland, which was lovely in its own way but something of a disappointment considering that from the neighbouring aspect we would have been able to see down the lake, to Locarno and Ascona on the opposite bank and the soaring, still snowy summits.

We spent our first afternoon exploring one of the reasons we chose to visit the area: the Sentiero dello Yoga, an outdoor yoga trail. It winds between the chestnut trees, with different stations created from woodland objects to correspond with the traditional stages of a yoga class. I enjoyed doing the 'warrior' pose while peering through a trellis of tree trunks to the lake, and lying down for 'corpse' pose in a tree house.

Upon returning to the hotel, we took part in a guided meditation class - I wondered about the sense of shutting my eyes and trying to find my inner self when the alternative was gazing at the lake (the 'Ort der Kraft' or 'power place' where the meditation takes place is on a rocky shelf high above). But it was surprisingly relaxing. We later fell asleep to total silence and pitch black - to awaken to glorious skies the following morning.

We walked along a panoramic trail to Monte Gerra, watching locals hiding chocolates for Easter egg hunts in the gardens of their enviable cottages, and passing a gushing waterfall; there is little more beautiful than walking along paths dappled with soft sunlight bursting through a delicate canopy of leaves. We returned to the hotel for lunch on the sun terrace before heading off on a route for the afternoon, to Piazzogna. Clouds had started to move in over the mountains, and before long it started to drizzle. Of course we didn't have our waterproofs - in our defence, despite having both been brought up properly in terms of outdoors gear preparation, the weather had been truly glorious up to that point. Needless to say, the rain became heavier: we sheltered beneath an overhang to eat lemon pannetone, before I found myself walking back to the hotel with my fleece over my head!

It was nice to get a warm shower and an early night. While walking back down to civilisation at the end of our visit, we both felt re-energised: for me, the power of the place is certainly in its remote setting, healthy organic cuisine and enchanting view.

Snowshoeing and wellness in Lenzerheide

If Lenzerheide is good enough for Roger Federer (who has built a chalet there), there must be something quite marvellous about it. The first thing that struck me was how intriguing the lie of the valley is: it is layered with hillocks and forestry, removing the sense of 'walls' so often created in Alpine valleys and resulting in a sense of openness.

We were staying in Valbella, a hamlet just up the valley from Lenzerheide itself and overlooking Lake Heid. Our base - Hotel Valbella Inn, a recently renovated four-star wellness resort spread across four different buildings, and a stylish 'design hotel'-style room with a south-facing balcony. It was certainly late in the season for us to be attempting any snow sports, but at least I had managed to persuade Tim that trying to ski would be tricky.

Instead, we rented snow shoes and headed into the woods above Lenzerheide - where there was about as much snow as we had expected. "We're bound to reach some snow soon," said Tim, ever the optimist, as we trudged uphill through slush carrying our snow shoes. (It was so warm we scarcely needed our jackets). Eventually we did reach some meadows thick with snow, strapped on our snow shoes and darted about in them while we had the chance - before continuing to our destination in just our walking boots.

Sporz is a quaint and traditional village up from Lenzerheide, with old-world wooden structures and an air of having been forgotten by time. From there, it was an easy woodland trail (free from snow, of course) back to Lenzerheide. En route we came across a series of wooden benches adorned with lovely messages, such as "Spazieren zu sitzen ist ein Genuss" (Walking to sit is a pleasure) and "Ruths Pensionsbänkli" (Ruth's retirement bench). These gave a cutesy air to the resort, which is also artistic - with quirky sculptures and numerous art galleries lining the main street.

Admittedly we hadn't done a huge amount of snow shoeing, but we still took much advantage of Valbella Inn's gorgeous swimming pool and wellness area when we returned. The pool is deliciously warm - just cool enough to swim lengths - and also has a whirlpool and Kneipp path (seriously cold foot bath that is supposed to help the circulation - by shocking it into action it seems). Wellness is in a separate five-floor building, incorporating a panoramic sauna, various steam rooms, a salt peeling room and an ice peeling room. I tried the latter after a session in the bio sauna, and enjoyed the sensation of the ice melting into my skin. We then treated ourselves to a body peeling (me) and a classic massage (Tim), leaving me invigorated and Tim half asleep for dinner!

The resort's restaurant was lovely - I had leaf salad with goji berries followed by pan-friend salmon on leek risotto and dark-and-white chocolate mousse with fresh fruit. Topped off with a drink in the 'Chimney bar' sitting beside a roaring fire, the evening left us feeling utterly and completely untied from the stresses of the previous week.

The following day was easy - we awoke with a swim and a long and lazy breakfast, before walking around the lake and enjoying a cup of tea in the sunshine outside a cafe. The pistes above were still quite busy, but the mountains were clearly ready for spring - crocuses and snow drops were pushing up after a winter buried in the cold; the trees were green and blooming with colourful blossom, and the lake was starting to melt, ice giving way to crystal water. And just as the landscape was somewhere suspended between winter and summer, I was utterly content with our late-season weekend of halves - well, the snowshoeing at least was a walk of halves ...
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