Tucked under a thick, snowy blanket in Switzerland’s Engadine region lies the wood-clad In Lain Hotel Cadonau, a charming property where family heritage is kept alive.
The scent of Swiss pine welcomes me as I step inside the picturesque Engadine-style house, the warm woody aroma contrasting sharply with the wintery mountain breeze blowing outside. A log fire is blazing in the background, providing the soundtrack to my three-day-immersion in the natural treasures growing in Switzerland’s thick pine forests. For many centuries, the people of the canton of Grisons have been using the five-needled Swiss pine in construction and furniture-making due to the tree’s abundance, but mostly due to the comforting and vitality-inducing essences of its wood. “In Lain” means “made from wood” in the local Romansh dialect, and indeed every corner of this undeniably cozy, 14-bedroom Relais & Châteaux property is a celebration of the scented pine and its positive effects on well-being.
Incorporating local wood was a natural choice for Dario and Tamara Cadonau, the maîtres de maison of In Lain. Dario comes from a family of carpenters; his brother, Marco, is currently running the Cadonaus’ 40-year-old woodworking workshop at which all of the hotel’s furnishings were crafted. “Our ancestors have lived in the main building for over 450 years, so our hotel is very much rooted in family history, past and present,” Dario explains to me over a welcoming drink in the wood-paneled La Stüvetta restaurant, the centerpiece of what was once his grandparents’ inn. “When we opened In Lain in 2010, it was clear that it should double as a showroom for my brother’s work, all the while respecting the history of the place.” Original chalet chairs with carved-heart backs, solid wood tables, and grandfather clocks have been lovingly restored by Marco and given a contemporary overhaul with linen fabrics in neutral colors. Traditional woodworking and modern design blend harmoniously at In Lain, as exemplified by the new extension where my guest room is located. In my spacious junior suite, decorative accents worthy of a design catalogue abound, from the leather lounge chairs and clean-lined sideboards to the floor-to-ceiling windows behind which the forest panorama unfolds.
Days at In Lain begin in the most relaxing way. After an invigorating sleep in my Swiss pinewood bed and a visit to the outdoor sauna, a breakfast spread of local delicacies awaits: homemade mountain cheeses from the in-house fromagerie, berry-laden Birchermüslis, freshly baked brioche, and egg dishes cooked on a wood-fired stove. Outside, the sun is rising from behind the white-powdered mountains, the snow glistening in the soft morning light. In Lain sits at the heart of a snow-globe version of Switzerland, surrounded by quaint villages, arched railway bridges, and hundreds of skiing slopes and hiking trails, where I spend my afternoons working up an appetite for dinner. At Vivanda, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, tasting menus change daily, but there is one ingredient that remains a staple whatever Chef Dario Cadonau’s mood: the Swiss pine, which flavors anything from prosecco cocktails to creamy butters, adding a decidedly In Lain touch to my fine-dining experience. “I’m always trying to incorporate the nature of the Alps into my cooking,” Dario says as he comes to my table after a delectable hay-broth starter. “It’s our philosophy in everything we do.”