Although the Sud Tirol has been Italian by right of conquest for nearly a century, its heart remains in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire that shaped its destiny before the change of ownership in 1919.
As a result, the regional benchmark hotel is yesteryear Teutonic, with cherubs on the ceilings and dirndls in the dining rooms. Not so the Lagacio Mountain Residence, a new-build with attitude and a statement of intent. American condominium-style luxury is rare in this area, but Lagacio offers a flexibility that signals the shape of things to come.
Set in the upmarket village of San Cassiano, one of the Sud Tirol's quieter resorts, it is a suites-only boutique hotel. The exterior is sleekly contemporary – right-angled blocks delineated by horizontal wood, stacked up against the hillside. The natural theme is even more emphatic inside, with slate, wood and leather underpinning impressive interior design.
San Cassiano is in the heart of the Dolomites, nominated as a Unesco World Heritage Site for the drama of its towering cliffs, which glow every colour of the rainbow in changing light. The Piz Sorega gondola, 100 yards up the road from Lagacio, links into the Dolomiti ski circus, 1,200km (750 miles) of pistes and 450 lifts covered by the Superski pass, the most extensive in the world.
The Residence has 24 suites in five categories, each named for a fossil type, ranging from Megalodonte for the smallest to Ammonite for the largest. This is in honour of the 18th-century French geologist, Deodat de Dolomieu, who gave his name to the mountains in which he did his ground-breaking research.
The bedrooms have padded leather headboards built into wooden walls, sturdy wooden-framed beds, and crisp white linen with tan cashmere throws. Cowhide cube seats and rugs add a rustic touch. The bathrooms, each with shower and tub, sparkle in ceramic and chrome. The sitting area is dominated by a widescreen TV and French windows open on to a small private terrace.
As is normal for condos, each suite has a cooking area, with fridge, hob, sink, microwave, and Nespresso machine. It would be a shame to dine-in too often in one of Italy's many great gastro zones, but the management will stock the pantry with organic foodstuffs on request.
The food and drink
The Lagacio continental breakfast is so delicious that it's hard to get out on to the slopes before it ends at 11am. Predictably, the theme is healthy eating: crisply fresh brown and grain breads, cereals with nuts and raisins, fruit, yoghurts, juices and homemade conserves. The coffee's great, too. The café and bar area near reception is a good meeting place, with hot and alcoholic drinks served throughout the day. The two-Michelin-starred St Hubertus Restaurant in the Rosa Alpina hotel (00 39 0471 849 500) down the road is a "must eat" at some stage – even if it means self-catering on other nights.
The La Pulsa Wellness area has a choice of saunas and a range of massages, baths, and beauty treatments. Alternatively, you can ski or snowboard until you drop, without taking a bus or taxi. The Sella Ronda circuit – linking Arabba, Canazei, Selva/Val Gardena and Corvara in the heart of the Dolomites – is almost on the doorstep. Skiable and well marked in both directions, it makes a rewarding day trip for anyone who can tackle a red run. Or you could drive to Cortina for challenging slopes, irresistible mountain restaurants, posh shopping, and Italian culture.
There are lifts to every floor and three of the suites have been specially adapted for wheelchair access. No dogs. WiFi access in suites and public areas.
A suite for two, with continental breakfast, costs from £160 per night.
Lagacio Mountain Residence, Strada Micura de Ro 48, 1-39030 San Cassiano, Alta Badia, Italy (00 39 0471 849 503; lagacio.com).