Florian Ellmenreich, host and storyteller at Merano’s first self-proclaimed “iconic hotel”, the Hotel Adria, who shares anecdotes from the history of this landmarked Art Nouveau gem in the middle of the city’s mansion district, Maia Alta.
Historic: What’s iconic about this place?
Host at the Adria
Our motto is: ‘Original remains original.’ We have re-staged what this old house offered. And that’s iconic for us.
‘Original remains original.’ Could you explain the motto?
This is a historic building: not straight-forward Art Nouveau, but a so-called eclectic style using various elements from the years 1870–1880. The construction and the materials are typical for that era: terrazzo flooring, solid-wood parquet floors, the staircase in ‘biancone veronese’, marble from outside of Verona. Some of the elements originate in the time of reconstruction by builders Musch & Lun in 1914. We still have the original lift car, for example.
We excavated all these originals over time. The parquet floor, for example, had been hidden under carpets since the 1960s or 1970s. We exposed it centimetre by centimetre as part of the reconstruction. Some spots creak when you step on them. That’s when I tell you the Adria ghost is talking to you. We turned presumed architectural weaknesses like a creaky floor or a not-fully-closing door into strengths. You won’t find that anywhere else. Hence: Original remains original.
The beds are made—with style and the knowledge of generations.
The history of this original began in 1868, when waiter Ferdinand Langguth from Thuringia arrived in the drowsy little town of Merano and fell in love with an innkeeper’s daughter. In 1885, the hardworking couple were able to build a hotel in Obermais (Maia Alta). Why there?
Maia Alta was only sparsely populated then, but already a residential area for the upper class. Some of the villas, castles, and residences here date back to the late Middle Ages. In 1840, the first sanatorium of Merano was opened here, just opposite the hotel: Dr. Mazegger’s cold water sanatorium. This doctor brought many guests to Merano with his massages and Kneipp baths. It was the first institution of its kind, far beyond the borders of Tyrol, and it marked the beginning of the health spa business in Maia Alta. Wealthy guests including the Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) came here; of course, they required adequate accommodation in the vicinity.
»Today, everything has to be quick, even on holiday. Our hotel, however, calls for slowness.«
The hotel was called Hotel Austria then. Where does its modern name Hotel Adria come from, given it is quite far away from the Adriatic?
After World War I, South Tyrol joined Italy. Tourism restarted in Merano, only then the guests came from Italy. The fascists Italianised many names. Obviously, the name Hotel Austria should have been replaced given that Italians and Austrians had just finished beating each other up. Still, the clever owner, whose name was Rosa Mair, managed to keep the name. When they did rename the hotel eventually, it was for commercial reasons: ‘Austria’ gave the Italian guests a funny feeling, so it was better to find a name Italians associate with holidays: Adria.
An early-1950s headline in the German paper ‘Bild’ read, ‘Buttermilk baths in Merano’. Your mother-in-law, visionary Merano hotel pioneer Zenzi Glatt, shaped that era before she bought the Hotel Adria in 1983.
Yes, like many hoteliers, Zenzi went to a health spa during the winter season. When she returned, she told her family, ‘I bought a hotel’—the Hotel Adria. My wife, Sissi Amort, was 21 years old at the time, and the family told her to run the new hotel. Which she did, quite successfully.
Zenzi Glatt referred to guests back in the day as ‘kommod’, meaning comfortable, easy-going. What can modern-day, stressed-out city dwellers do to be ‘kommod’ guests to Zenzi’s liking?
(laughs) People used to spend three to four weeks here to enjoy the fresh air, have a little chat, a sip of wine, take their time. Today, everything has to be quick, even on holiday. Within five days, I must quickly relax while I manage to do everything from yoga to Pilates to “forest bathing”.
Our hotel is a hub that calls for slowness even through its rooms. They invite you to take a deep breath before you quite casually explore the area: the promenades, the treks along the irrigation channels, the hiking trails. Who needs forest bathing? Just walk from the Adria into Val Passiria. The trek will lead you through the forest—an oxygen tunnel if you breathe purposely—and that’s all you need!