I’ve just returned from an heavenly
spa experience in rural Italy and I’m still floating on Cloud Nine. My
stress level’s down, my skin tone’s better, I’ve retained a bronzed glow
from a bit of Mediterranean sunbathing, and I feel absolutely great.
Well worth travelling
Terme di Saturnia is located
about three miles from the ancient hilltop town of Saturnia in the
heart of Italy’s Tuscan Maremma. This wellness oasis gift wrapped
in old world country elegance is well worth travelling for -- about
170 km from Rome, 200 from Florence and 450 km from Milan.
spa, itself, stands in an age-old park with impressive stone walkways
leading to the entrance and past an imposing fountain. The green
lawns are manicured to perfection; waist-high clay pots filled with
vibrant red geraniums circle the building.
Saturnia is no newcomer to
the healing game. In fact, this region’s renown goes way back to
the Pre-Roman age. Its fame stems from the therapeutic thermal water
which, today, still gushes from deep down in the earth at an unbelievable
rate of 800 gallons per second. This water is the spa’s ‘liquid
gold’ -- rich in healing sulfurous-carbonic properties as well as
rare vegetable and mineral substances. For five days I had access
to this 98.6F (37 C) “magic” water and I thrived on it.
no ordinary pool...
thermal pool area is the natural hub of all activity at the spa.
Although it looks like any pool area in any other resort you’ve
been to, it definitely isn’t. There is no music, no hustle and bustle,
no shrill lifeguard whistles. Instead a quiet calm prevails. A posted
sign cautions “only twenty minutes at a time in the water” and a
clock is prominently displayed so that guests can discipline themselves
accordingly. After all, too much of any good thing can tax your
body and drain your energy. And while there are lifeguards of the
very handsome Italian variety on duty, this is not really a pool
for swimming. Instead guests stand or sit in the water, chatting,
basking in the Tuscan sunshine and absorbing the water’s nourishing
qualities. From time to time, the bar staff circulates poolside
serving fresh fruit cocktails to guests relaxing on their lounges.
At Terme di Saturnia, enjoying
the benefits of the water doesn’t stop with simple twenty minute
immersions. There are options galore. Getting into the smaller pool
with its multi jet streams is like enjoying a water massage in a
giant Jacuzzi. Walking against the current in the narrow ‘water
walk’ burns calories beautifully, stimulating circulation and providing
wonderful toning for your legs. The warm mini waterfalls located
in the same area are designed to cascade onto your shoulders and
wash away your stress. And, if travelling has affected your tummy,
you can find the appropriate prescription at a designated poolside
tap. According to the staff, a few gulps of this mineral laden elixir
could help eliminate constipation.
These are not
ordinary spa treatments...
a brief medical examination by one of the physicians, guests are
assisted in designing their personal spa program. I was keen on
testing the stress management program and couldn’t resist the reviving
beauty treatments that I had heard so much about. The active ingredient
in all of the spa’s skin-care products is their moisturizing thermal
plankton, an extract of the Terme’s famous waters. I was ready and
willing to put it to the test.
“You must trust me completely,”
said the aqua-relax therapist as we walked over to a mini pool.
“You will be like a baby in a womb and I will take care of you,”
she explained when we were both partially immersed in the water.
A floating pillow was placed around my neck, what looked like a
large rolling pin went under my knees and suddenly I was floating.
The therapist began to slowly turn and twist my body, stretching
it first to the right, then to the left, moving the top part of
my frame in one direction, the bottom part gently in another. It
felt wonderful, I relaxed completely buoyed by the water and the
therapist’s capable technique. Gradually, I lost track of what she
was doing and my mind and body seemed to be floating aimlessly.
After the allotted time of this “womb-like” existence, the therapist
brought me slowly back to reality. I had never experienced anything
like this before. I slept for ten hours that first night.
The next day I was introduced
to multi jet stress reduction. This time I was submerged to my neck
in a computerized bathtub where a succession of 90 jet sprays played
up and down my body. This thermal water massage began on the soles
of my feet, slowly made it’s way upwards until it reached the top
of my shoulders and then began all over again. My stress level was
slowly but surely being cajoled into submission.
Interspersed with these stress
reduction treatments were multiple sessions designed to exfoliate,
moisturize, tone and repair my skin. I was pampered silly with everything
from a deep cleansing facial to anti-cellulite treatments to my
favorite regimen -- something called ‘gommage’. In this session
my complete body was exfoliated to restore the skin to baby softness
(well almost) and then rehydrated with the dense, enriching properties
of thermal plankton. I honestly felt like new again.
It was a pleasure
to get up early...
morning Rocco the lean, good natured athletic director led a walk
in the vicinity of the spa. I never missed one. This wasn’t exercise;
it was a wonderful scenic walking tour. Think winding country roads,
old stone farmhouses, farmers bringing in the hay and in the distance,
high on a hill, our destination -- the ancient hilltop town of Saturnia.
We arrived there just as the church bells were tolling the hour.
It was an experience I won’t soon forget.
While I chose to loll on a
lounge and read in my spare time, there were many other guests taking
full advantage of the fitness program at the spa. Rocco and his
team offer something for everybody from early morning water classes
to light aerobics to Sit and Be Fit taught in chairs and described
as “fun and effective for those who exercise rarely.”
One of the very big pluses
for non-Italians who visit this Italian spa is that it is exactly
that -- an Italian spa. All activities and lectures are in Italian
and while there is always somebody to translate, this is a splendid
opportunity for immersion into the language, food and the culture.
I was delighted to be called ‘Signora’ and had great fun practicing
the few Italian phrases I knew on anybody who would listen.
Meals at the spa’s Ristorante
Villa Montepaldi are a study in elegance. Classical music plays
quietly in the background. Large oil paintings and gilt-edged mirrors
grace the walls. Green potted plants stand on gleaming marble floors
and gold embossed tablecloths grace the tables. The staff wear white
jackets trimmed with gold braid; the service is impeccable, the
choice of foods--wonderful and healthy. The spa’s motto seems to
be, eat well but eat wisely; try everything in moderation. At breakfast,
local cheeses and yogurt sit alongside bran cereal, baked pears,
biscotti and Parma ham. At lunch and dinner, local wines are readily
available, the antipasto table groans with choices and there is
a salad bar heaped with fresh produce.
This standard of elegance and
comfort is reflected in the guest rooms as well. Linens are changed
daily, a thick white terry robe and slippers are laid out for you,
there’s a hairdryer in every unit and a heated towel rack in every
bathroom. The shutters on the windows combined with the spa’s thick
stone walls allow for an absolute stillness at night. I slept like
Terme di Saturnia is not simply
a spa. It is a health club, an aesthetics center, an excellent restaurant,
an elegant resort hotel and a wonderful immersion into Italian culture.
It is truly “la dolce vita.”
Ed. note: For further information
and wonderful photos of the spa, please visit their website at :