Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol: adventure in Swiss hospitality

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1948 Citroen 2CVCanton Graubünden is Switzerland’s largest, its varied landscapes and villages offering much for discerning travelers to discover. Tom and I recently spent a week exploring three Graubünden valleys, where we were treated to diverse local attractions and extraordinary hospitality. We began our tour in the far reaches of the canton, after putting our car on the “car ferry” for a 20-minute ride through the Vereina Tunnel to the lower Engadine. Our first stop was a nostalgia-rich stay in the village of Santa Maria, a few kilometers shy of Switzerland’s easternmost border with Italy.

Hay field in Graubünden, SwitzerlandVal Müstair stretches from the Swiss National Park and the Ofen Pass to the border of Südtirol (South Tyrol, or Alte Adige to Italians). The valley is dotted with picturesque villages set in lush meadows. Val Müstair is also home to one of Switzerland’s UNESCO World Culture Heritage sites, the Benedictine Convent of St. John. Our base was the Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol in little Santa Maria.

We visited Val Müstair in summer as hay was being harvested, by machine and just as often, by hand. The rich fragrance of new-mown hay was our first sensory experience in this place of nature and long-standing traditions.

 

Santa Maria, Val Müstair, Graubünden
Looking toward the Swiss National Park, over the rooftops of Santa Maria in Val Müstair.
Benedictine Convent of St. John at Müstair, Graubünden
The Benedictine Convent of St. John at Müstair is renowned for its series of figurative murals, painted in the 9th century. It is still an active convent, with a small community of ten nuns.

 

The “Knight’s House”

The Ritterhaus, or Knight’s House in Santa Maria, originated in the 12th century as a hospice with a refectory and private chapel. In the late Middle Ages, it welcomed singers, poets and politicians as guests. The cellar is much older, dating back to the 7th century and the time of Charlemagne. The manor house takes its name from the Venetian Polo family, who were made counts in the 15th century and served as the secular administrators of the nearby Convent of St. John in Müstair. The house truly creaks with history, with wide-planked floors, several rooms paneled with Arolla pine, tiled stoves and a vaulted chapel. The last Capol died in 1838, and the house stood empty for over one hundred years, until the 1950s.

Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, Val Müstair, Graubünden
The building we see today was constructed in the 18th century, its facade in the style of the 17th century.

 

A Swiss Historic Hotel

Sixty years ago, Ernst T. A. Schweizer, a musician originally from Basel, purchased the property, and gradually made it into a hotel. He was for a number of years the artistic director at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, and memorabilia from those days reflect the family’s long connection with Venice. Ernst Schweizer’s son Ramun trained in hotel management in Lucerne, and has now taken over management of Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, assisted by his wife Elvira.

Today, Chasa de Capol has just nine one-of-a-kind rooms, rambling higgledy-piggledy across the three structures that comprise the hotel. Accommodations are snug and comfortable, furnished in an eclectic mix of antique pieces and with homey touches.

The Schweizer family delivers attentive services with nostalgic flair, and Ernst Schweizer still entertains guests with his stories of Venice and the Capols.

“We live for this…it’s a question of heart!”

Mozart and SalieriThe unique treasures of the house–many of them associated with theater and music–can be seen on a guided tour of the premises. Among other treasures is a gilded mirror that hung above Verdi’s piano as he composed La Traviata, and a piano upon which both Chopin and Liszt–said by some to be the first “rock star” of classical music”, played in Paris. The 500-year-old hospice kitchen, blackened by ancient cooking fires, is still used on special occasions, such as the annual “Sylvester program” celebrating Christmas and New Year.

Chasa de Capol has a fine in-house restaurant, popular with both locals and guests of the hotel. Meals are served in the Rittersaal, an atmospheric dining hall adjacent to the kitchen, where Ramun Schweizer, a trained chef, wields his copper pots and pans. In fine weather, meal service shifts to an outdoor terrace. In the evenings and in winter, guests gather with the owners before a fire in the Marco Polo bar.

Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol has been a member of Swiss Historic Hotels since 2006.

Ramun Schweizer, owner and chef, Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, Val Müstair, Graubünden
Ramun Schweizer, owner and chef, Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, welcomes guests into his kitchen, with its copper pots and wood-burning stove.

 

Chasa de Capol in pictures

1948 2 CV
This perfectly maintained 1948 Citroen 2 CV is used to take hotel guests on tours of the valley and on picnics.
Room at Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol
Rooms at Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol are one-of-a-kind, simply furnished and comfortable.
Window box in Santa Maria, Graubünden
Window sills in the pine-paneled dining room are lined with posies.
Garden trellis in Santa Maria, Graubünden
Rear entry to Chasa de Capol’s garden terrace and bar, a popular choice for dinner on warm evenings.
Household memorabilia at Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, Val Müstair, Switzerland
Nostalgic collections of all sorts of household paraphernalia are scattered about the premises at Chasa de Capol.

 Grandmother’s attic, filled with curiosities!

Val Müstair, Graubünden
View from the terrace garden and pool area behind Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol.
Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol, Val Müstair, Graubünden
Ernst Schweizer shows Anita historical booking and inventory records.

“Our mission is to keep this house alive!”

If you go

The beauty of Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol lies in its quirky charms, an excellent kitchen and a superb location for exploring the valley. This is a place to set aside notions of a conventional hotel, and revel in good food and the warm hospitality of a family intimately connected to Val Müstair and the timeless history of a unique establishment.

  • Don’t miss the UNESCO-listed Convent of St. John, just four kilometers from the hotel.
  • Book a picnic and valley tour, and enjoy a ride in the vintage Citroen.
  • Join other guests in the lounge for a fireside drink and a taste of the house-made pine-flavored Arven liqueur. It’s an acquired taste, very “Graubünden “!
  • The hotel is not wheelchair-accessible.
  • Be aware that Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol accepts reservations ONLY by telephone and email, and does not accept credit cards. Contact information here.

Pinterest-perfect images

Time travel at Ritterhaus Chasa de CapolNostalgia at Reception, Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol

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Many thanks to Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol for hosting our first visit to Graubünden’s Val Müstair. It won’t be our last!

8 COMMENTS

  1. Val Müstair is picture book Switzerland right out of Heidi. You had me at the vintage car, the views reeled me in and the Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol looks and sounds like our kind of place. Wish I was there!

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