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.
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.
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.
is 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
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.
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
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.
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 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.