Emma Hellenstainer

The story
of an extraordinary hotelier

It all began in 1817, with the birth of Emmerentia Hausbacher at St. Johann in Tyrol. When she was just a teenager, she started work in her parents' hotel, but didn't seem to find this a burden. On the contrary, as a young waitress she showed enthusiasm and commitment in her treatment of the guests. As part of her education, she learnt Italian and various skills, such as knitting, sewing, and of course cooking, the art that would later make her famous all over the world.

History Emma Hellenstainer

At the age of 20, she was sent to Toblach (Dobbiaco), then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where she took on the management of a farm, with servants, labourers and various livestock, as well as a brewery by the River Rienza. She married Josef Hellenstainer, the son of the postman in Villabassa, and soon afterwards she inherited the "Aquila Nera" Hotel. The young couple moved to Villabassa. Emma sold the beer business and soon transformed the Aquila Nera into what she had always wanted: a hotel visited by a cultured clientèle, including scientists, professors and noblemen of high social standing.

Hotel Emma storyHotel Emma at Villabassa NiederdorfHotel Emma

Thanks to her expertise and hospitality, combined with her pioneering spirit and excellent cooking, the Aquila Nera soon became known as the best hotel in Alta Pusteria; and this was long before the opening of the Val Pusteria railway, which gave a great boost to local tourism. International visitors undertook long journeys from America, England and France, not only to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Indeed, they all headed first to the Aquila Nera, to meet the legendary Emma in person and to enjoy the delights of her loving attention.


So now you can visit the life's work of Tyrol's most famous hotelier. The former Aquila Nera is now known as the Hotel Emma, and you can still feel the presence of that wonderful lady in our hotel. Her ideas and work have infused every corner of the building, transforming it into what our guests now enjoy: a place rich in history. Where past, present and future meet ...


Restaurant Emma at Villabassa Niederdorf

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Offers & Packages

7=6 Special week
in the mountains of South Tyrol

Special week in the mountains

24.04.2023 - 15.06.2024

7 days for the price of 6!

Stay 7 days for the price of 6 and enjoy the magnificent mountain setting of the Dolomites.