Glamour was allowed to reside exclusively in Plars Castle in Algund, a romantic love nest in the middle of the South Tyrolean vineyards with only 12 rooms. A picnic for lovers was also included. Why it also is the perfect place for an unforgettable marriage proposal? Read for yourselves!
From Raven’s Tower to Romantic Castle – Surrounded by Mediterranean trees, rose bushes and vines, the Vinum Hotel Schloss Plars with its towers, battlements and arcade windows could easily pass for the residence of a Sleeping Beauty. Except that it would not need to be kissed awake. The four-star hotel with eight rooms and four suites is always fully booked. Word rapidly spread that the fairytale castle is a perfect romantic refuge for lovers and honeymooners.
When we meet its owners Irene and Andreas Theimer, we immediately know why this is the case. The couple welcomes us upon our arrival. You can notice very soon – the two halves form a whole. They are so calm and relaxed that their smile makes us forget the daily routine. Irene’s eyes shine like the sun’s crown.
We are thrilled by her beautiful long skirt with the wide band belt. We speak to her about it. Embarrassed, she tells us that she sewed it for herself. She is a seamstress, but she doesn’t get around to it as often. We were told that the beautiful lady of the castle was a baking queen. The breakfast, rather a luxurious brunch, is a real hit and is very popular with the guests. Especially the homemade cakes, tarts, pies, baked goods … The sweet list is long! Andreas is the peace in himself. The passionate winemaker gave up his job as a successful banker to dedicate his time to nature. Thus he is making wine in the third generation on the family estate.
Both of their auras breathe a soul into the castle. The way the two of them keep on looking at each other with affection – yes, there is still love in the air and it is contagious. We enter the castle. In the arch of the cross a staircase leads up to our rooms. Warm tones and thick stone walls, as well as traditional wooden furniture make the walls cosy. Indeed, we were not promised too much. From my spacious suite I have a wonderful view over the flowery garden, the infinity pool with a view of Merano in the valley and the house’s own vineyards, which decorate the hillsides around the house.
Pictures: © Peter von Felbert/Vinum Hotels.
Irene and Andreas have prepared a surprise for us – a romantic outdoor snack: “You simply walk along the Algunder Waal. And I’ll wait for you a little further on.” Waals are old historic watercourses that run through the vineyards. It may be hot, but the clear splashing water creates a pleasant cool breeze, as does the shadow of the romantic vine arbours. I am surrounded by vines and trees with twisted roots, on which the inhabitants have placed magical talismans and lucky charms.
Andreas is waiting for us already. We stand in front of a wooden gate. A sign announces that we are in front of the entrance to the house’s vineyard. We walk down a few serpentines. Hidden in the vineyard is a wooden bench and table with a clear view over the valley and the endless horizon. Such beauty takes our breath away. Andreas smiles: “This is our pulpit. What we cannot see from here is that we are on a large rocky outcrop that provides us with this view. It is my father’s favourite site to this day.” We sit on the bench and even forget the lovingly arranged picnic: cheese from the valley, pickled vegetables, including balsamic onions, olives, game and beef salami. Of course, the South Tyrolean Vinschgau Valley is not missing from the bread basket, all baked by the mistress of the house herself! Drinks are served with the in-house Sauvignon white wine “Marzan” and organic apple juice. For dessert there are delightful little fruit tartlets prepared by Irene.
The picnic can now be booked by couples in love. “The idea for this romantic snack for two came to us after my wife surprised me here with a picnic.” We’re melting away. For us too, it is the perfect place for a marriage proposal – secluded from everyday life, in the middle of nature, surrounded by one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history, whose fruits are considered divine. We want to know how he proposed to Irene. Andreas laughs: “Well, I was a committed bachelor who thought nothing of marriage. When I asked her to marry me, she didn’t believe me at first.” We walk back and take our time. When we get to the hotel, we sunbathe in the infinity pool and relax until the sun goes down. Dinner will not be served at the hotel. Which is not necessary. Algund is surrounded by great restaurants and Meran is a stone’s throw away.
I get up early the next morning. I prepare myself a tea (Nespresso machine and kettle are in the room) and sit down on my balcony to enjoy the sun and view. And above all the peace and quiet! Soon I will have breakfast, which is known beyond the borders of Algund. We sit on the terrace. Each of us has a different motif on the dishes. It is playful. I go to the buffet and marvel. The cakes, tarts and pastries are indeed works of art! They’re still in one piece. I don’t dare cut them. Irene laughs: “Please, they’re for eating!” Even the different kinds of bread are all homemade and fresh. There are several kinds of organic honey to choose from, as well as homemade jams and organic nut spreads. The salty palate is also catered for: homemade vegetable tarts, salmon, cheese and sausage slices are lovingly presented under glass bells.
Strengthened after the brunch Andreas takes us under his wings again. He shows us his historic wine cellar. The moment he opens the heavy doors, is like entering another century. Here we also find ourselves in the oldest part of the castle. A cosy historical sitting area is framed by original equipment for the cultivation of wine and in the very next room we find the modern wine cellar. He talks about his work with great passion and about how he himself cleans the wine barrels from the inside, just like he did when he was a boy.
Uhhhhh, through which opening? Is there a door behind it maybe? No, that opening. But it’s way too small! Yes it is small, but with skill, it works! Even Irene thought it was crazy. Should he do a demonstration? Sure. Of course he crawls through the hole like Houdini himself and sticks his grinning head out of the upper opening. Twice a week there are guided tours and wine tastings for the guests. Don’t miss!
We spend our afternoon in Meran. It is the city which became famous as a health resort due to the several visits from Sissi. She is present in many corners. We stand in front of her seated statue in the park. “Do you know that she was a very unhappy person and that the movie with Romy Schneider is not true?” Yes, I knew that. As we continue our walk, my colleague tells me several anecdotes about the arguably most famous Austrian-Hungarian empress. Sissi was unhappy with her beauty craze and the arranged marriage. She was sitting in a fairy-tale castle that looked like a golden cage to her. But they do exist, fairy tales with happy endings that become real! Schloss Plars by Irene and Andreas Theiner is such a place.
Trattoria Flora (Laubengasse 75):
The Trattoria Flora is located in a building from 1400, in the former court seat of Merano. The “Flora” was Merano’s first star restaurant before it became a trattoria. Today it offers Italian cuisine with homemade pasta, made from regional ingredients and high-quality products.
Pizzeria 357 (Plankensteinstraße 357):
Gourmet Pizza in Merano? Yes, there is! Star chef Andrea Fenoglio opened a new restaurant in February 2016; it serves Italian antipasti and the best pizza in Merano.
Restaurant Meteo (Winterpromenade 51):
On the Gilfpromenade on the bank of the river Passer you will discover the restaurant with a beautiful terrace on the promenade. It is being managed by a young couple for a few years now; here you can enjoy fresh, experimental cuisine in vintage style.
Kallmünz (Sandplatz 12):
Here they cook with seasonal, market-fresh ingredients. Local suppliers from Merano and the surrounding area often come straight by and thus in spring you can enjoy freshly harvested asparagus, in summer the finest summer vegetables, chanterelles and the popular summer truffle, in autumn and winter hearty and warming dishes.
Café Wandelhalle (Winterpromenade 25):
This is where you can get a very good espresso, the guests sit directly at the tables in the Wandelhalle or at the parapet to the Passer River! On Saturday morning this is a meeting place for young families with children.
Café Villa Bux (Karl Wolfstraße 19):
Small café near the Ottmanngut. Insider tip: Enjoy coffee and cake in the backyard.
Café-Konditorei König (Feiheitsstraße 168):
Historical café in Meran. Our tip: Don’t miss the Merano Cake!
Café Darling (Winterpromenade 9):
Stylish Art-Deco Café on the Winter Promenade.
Aperitivo Bar Kallmünz (Sandplatz 12):
Whether Italian or South Tyrolean wines, the place can become a preferred place for those who avoid the superfluous but are looking for something simple and genuine. Great cosy bar in the courtyard of the Kallmünz Castle in the city centre.
Rossini Cocktail Bar Café (Freiheitsstraße 19):
skilfully mixed cocktails and a large selection of champagne, gin and whisky make this lounge bar with its chic interior a popular meeting place.
Palm Lounge Hotel Therme (Thermenplatz 1):
The bar of the Hotel Therme in Merano is perfect for an after-work drink, with inviting sofas and a colour palette in strong Bordeaux and gold tones.