Terme di Saturnia
Those Romans knew how to live. Not only did they throw great parties and build splendid temples and buildings, they perfected the art of the spa bath. Large cities and small towns alike had public baths for healing aches and pains, for relaxing, and for general socializing. These mini-spas generally consisted of a suite of dressing room and bathing chambers, with hot, warm and cold-water baths alongside an exercise area. Over time, these relatively modest structures grew in stature and luxury, eventually incorporating libraries, lecture halls and vast public spaces elaborately decorated with statues, mosaics and paintings.
ccording to legend, Roman soldiers bathed their wounded limbs in the therapeutic thermal spring waters of Saturnia. Rising undisturbed from the earth s core at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, these waters had healing powers known not only to the soldiers, but also to Roman civilians, who sought out the hot springs as a cure for various aches and pains and as a relaxation treatment.
Today, it s possible to enjoy the benefits of those ancient thermal waters at the Terme di Saturnia, the luxurious resort and spa located in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma region, at the foot of the medieval village of Saturnia.
Being at this getaway often feels like being in a Fellini film. Though entire families including well-behaved dogs come to the resort, the atmosphere is quiet, seductive and eminently soothing. Guests lounge lazily in fluffy white robes, reading newspapers and magazines or simply doing nothing, as if the cares of the world had long ago been left behind. (The Italians have a phrase for this dolce fa niente meaning It is sweet to do nothing. ) Doing nothing wearing a robe is especially sweet. It s allowed all day long until 5 p.m. in the resort and until 6:30 p.m. in the spa.
When not doing nothing , guests soak in the thermal pool (not more than 20 minutes at a time is the recommendation) and then perhaps adjourn to the spa for a treatment or two. At mealtimes, the simple yet elegant Villa Montepaldi Restaurant opens its doors to welcome dieters and gourmands alike, with offerings to satisfy any palate and any regimen. In the evening, when the lights of the resort twinkle against the darkened landscape, guests move to the bar to sip healthy cocktails or delicious coffee, and to listen to live music and perhaps watch the smoky vapors rising from the thermal waters in the cool night air.
Like so many of the world s most inviting places, Saturnia has had its share of celebrity visitors including Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Tim Burton and Andrea Bocelli.
The resort consists of 140 rooms, including eight suites and 65 junior suites, the Villa Montepaldi Restaurant, two bars, a fitness center, a meeting room for up to 250 people, and the 3,000-year-old thermal pool at the heart of the resort. The spa has 60 treatment rooms. The architectural design of the hotel and the quiet d cor of natural colors blend harmoniously with the Tuscan landscape.
I had looked forward for weeks to my getaway here and I was not disappointed. My junior suite was beautifully furnished and well appointed, and my bathroom invited the indulgence of long, relaxing baths.
My days began with the breakfast buffet, which was as bountiful as it was pleasing to the eye. (I could have had room service, but that would have meant I couldn t sample everything that caught my eye.) In addition to the fresh fruit, yogurt and cereals, there was a tempting array of breads, from standard white for toast to soy bread to country Tuscan loaves. There were croissants, too, and an amazing selection of pastries. Eggs, any style, were available, as were sausages and bacon. And let s not forget the European staples: prosciutto, salami, and a selection of cheeses. Although it is possible to have a formal diet program at Saturnia, Europeans generally don t believe in deprivation, even if they are at a spa.
Meals here are generally accompanied by wine, as Italians have long considered wine to be part of a healthy diet. While there is always an appetizing selection of diet foods delicious soups made of the freshest vegetables, grilled vegetables, well-prepared fish and so on it is hard to resist all the other possibilities. Among the mouth-watering dishes I sampled were the Tuscan salami and cheese with chestnut honey; wild boar with polenta au gratin; homemade freshly made noodles with porcini mushrooms; and beef entrec te with artichokes, parmesan and baked potatoes. And that doesn t include desserts like hazelnut mousse in vanilla sauce, or hazelnut crunchy nougat with chocolate sauce. (Italians love hazelnuts.) Needless to say, weight reduction wasn t among my expectations.
For me, the heart of the resort was the spa, which is as well run as any I ve seen. One of the elements that surprised me was the number of doctors six on staff. Beauty treatments are performed by estheticians, while Aesthetic Medicine Treatments (those involving Botox, peels, mesotherapy, lasers and so on) are performed only by physicians.
My first spa appointment was for a thorough analysis of the skin on my face and body by a cosmetologist. (Cosmetologists here take a three-year degree that includes the study of physiology.) My face was examined under light and magnification. Oiliness was measured in various sections, as was sensitivity. This was done by placing various substances on my skin. An extensive questionnaire completed my screening. Later that day I got the results, which were not surprising: I had combination skin, irregular pigmentation (freckles), some sensitivity (which was expected because of the medication I was taking), and dry skin on my body. There was a recommendation of various products, including a dietary supplement with anti-oxidants to counteract the effects of aging but, and I was pleased by this, no hard sell of Saturnia products, many of which can, in fact, sell themselves.
My first treatment, the Kerolytic (130 Euros), which is similar to a glycolic peel, was performed by one of the spa s physicians with the aid of an ultrasound machine that heightened absorption and then the removal of dead skin. When the treatment which is said to rejuvenate the deeper layers of the skin was finished, there was no redness at all. My face was shining and bright and glowing.
A complete treatment, one that did for my body what the Kerolytic did for my face, was the Gommage and Thermal Plankton combination (70 Euros). After a thorough exfoliation that would make the skin more absorbent, my body was covered with thermal plankton. At the end of the 50-minute treatment, my skin was indeed moisturized and as soft as the proverbial baby s bottom.
To enhance my already smooth complexion, I chose the Multivitamin Oxygenating treatment (95 Euros), which is a kind of one-two punch that combines the effect of oxygen therapy (delivered by aerosol) and anti-aging cosmetic products. This treatment made my skin look even better, and I resolved to wear no makeup for the rest of my stay at Saturnia.
The spa has a very long and extensive menu that features just about any treatment a client could desire. The quirkiest selection I made was the Shiro Bliss (which I later nicknamed Oily hair that requires two shampoos ). Shiro Bliss has ayurvedic roots and combines two other treatments, the Mukha Bliss and the K sa Bliss. The first was an ayurvedic face massage to stimulate the marma energy points and to ease stress lines; the second was a relaxing ayurvedic hair massage with precious essential oils. The c
mbination treatment is said to have a pleasant soothing effect on mind and body. Indeed I was quite relaxed, and though it did take two shampoos to remove the oil, my hair was quite shiny.
In addition to the spa treatment rooms, Saturnia has a well-equipped fitness center, where it s possible to have a fitness evaluation and a personally designed exercise program. Among the exercise options offered at Saturnia: an early morning walk for those who d like to work off breakfast calories and take in the stunning mountain scenery, water aerobics, Pilates, Yoga and stretching classes.
In between treatments, I soaked in the thermal waters and noticed a general softening of my skin, as well as a pleasant drowsiness afterward. As for other health benefits, I could not personally vouch. However the resort s cat, Saturnia (or Mina, she she s called), drinks the thermal water twice a day and appears happy and healthy at age 17.
True to its Etruscan roots, the spa recently added a Roman bath, an in-ground pool made of travertine stone. The bath complex is adjacent to the spa s renowned outdoor thermal pool and includes a set of showers, a steam room, and sauna all elements in the traditional Roman balneum.
To begin their Roman-style treatment, guests immerse themselves in a pool of warm spa water to get their bodies adjusted to the initial temperature change. This helps to acclimatize their bodies (breathing, blood circulation, and vegetative nervous system) to the sequence of different temperatures to follow. The second step includes a cold shower, with the option of being enveloped by orange-colored rays of the aromatic shower ; an invigorating shot of cold mist and blue lights; or a massage in the traditional vertical showers. Once refreshed by the shower of their choice, the guest is ready for a 15-minute steam bath at a high temperature of 55 C (131 F), which helps boost circulation. The steam bath is followed by a brief cold shower and then relaxation. The next phase involves 10-15 minutes in the sauna at a temperature of 70 C (158 F), which is designed to stimulate the body and force perspiration to release toxins and purify the body. The final phase of the bathing program involves covering oneself with crushed ice, housed in a receptacle just outside the showers, allowing the body to complete the process triggered by the sequence of hot and cold stimulation.
According to Dr. Nicola Angelo Fortunati, the spa director at Terme di Saturnia, The Roman bath experience provides another dimension of relaxation and well-being. Guests who undertake the entire program will enjoy the same rejuvenating properties of bathing the early Romans discovered coupled with the unique properties and benefit of our 3,000-year old thermal waters. The Roman bath adds an exceptional element to our comprehensive array of health and well-being treatments.
The traditional Roman bath and balneum are available to all guests of Terme di Saturnia at no additional charge.
Room rates at the resort start at 170 Euros, double occupancy, for a standard room, breakfast included; add 30 Euros daily for half-board.
Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, located in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma region of Italy in the medieval village of Saturnia. The resort is owned and operated by Manuli Resort S.r.l. For more information, visit www.termedisaturnia.com.