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Royal Monceau Hotels

 

Terme di Saturnia -- An Italian Spa Experience
la dolce vita (the sweet life)...

 

Evelyn Hannon

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 for...

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.

pinetreesThe 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.


This is no ordinary pool...

summer funThe 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...

doctorAfter 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...

farmerEach 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."


This is Italy...

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.

chef

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 a baby.

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: www.termedisaturnia.com.



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