tak­ing the wa­ters

In her quest for well­be­ing, Sara Wax­man dis­cov­ers an oa­sis un­der the Tus­can sun and dives right in

DINE and Destinations - - DRINK -

The more they raved about Tus­cany, the more I doubted. I be­come un­easy when I leave the city. Give me sky­scrapers, con­crete, glass and steel and I am in my com­fort zone. Empty fields and forests make me anx­ious. It is too quiet. Now, driv­ing through the rolling green coun­try­side of Tus­cany, I ap­pre­ci­ate the sym­me­try of na­ture, as if a car­ing gar­dener was here mo­ments ago. Along the high­way, reg­i­mented rows of cy­press reach for the sky like an honour guard; fruit trees burst with fra­grant blos­soms, bright pop­pies and yel­low gorse flow­ers dot the hills. Lis­ten­ing to the Ital­ian Top 40 on the car ra­dio, I feel waves of calm wash­ing over me. Uh oh, I’m be­ing se­duced by the Ital­ian land­scape.

My des­ti­na­tion is the renowned Adler Ther­mae Spa & Re­lax Re­sort in the heart of Val d’ Or­cia, a UNESCO Her­itage site, to “take the wa­ters,” just as Ital­ians have been do­ing since the time of the an­cient Etr­uscans. Set be­tween the wine ar­eas of Mon­tepul­ciano and Mon­tal­cino, the Adler is a 5-star ho­tel that has gained fame for its ther­mal baths. The ther­mal wa­ters in Bagna Vignoni are rich in min­er­als that have pos­i­tive in­flu­ences on body, mind and spirit.

Clau­dia meets me in the lounge, and over a most de­li­cious cof­fee, presents me with a menu of treat­ments and ex­pe­ri­ences from which to choose my pro­gram. She tells me about the Five Pil­lars of Health: Di­ag­no­sis, Nu­tri­tion, Equi­lib­rium, Ex­er­cise and Tar­geted Special Treat­ments.

Read­ing through the dizzy­ing menu of more than 120 treat­ments such as Body-styling, Aqua Well­ness and Fan­gother­apy, Ayurveda, Mas­sages, Fa­cials, Ther­a­peu­tic Treat­ments, special tests and treat­ments, I say, “I will have one of each, please.” They of­fer not only re­lax­ation and beauty ser­vices, but also modern West­ern medicine as well as home­opa­thy, herbal medicine and al­ter­na­tive heal­ing meth­ods. Their own team of doc­tors of­fers many dis­ci­plines in­clud­ing aes­thetic medicine, gen­eral medicine, modern Mayr medicine, lab­o­ra­tory medicine and nu­tri­tion. How about a fa­cial with the stem cells of sour grape berries? Or an anti-ag­ing treat­ment with red grapes? I feel like I am plac­ing my­self in the hands of min­is­ter­ing an­gels and will come out the other end, re­newed. Right now, I suc­cumb to dreaded jet lag. Look­ing through my slid­ing glass doors that open to a grassy ter­race, I see clouds of steam ris­ing from the ther­mal pools that are just a mo­ment away down a stone path. To­mor­row I will ex­plore it all.

Break­fast is my favourite meal of the day. The din­ing room is an­chored by an an­cient tree that grows in a room that is open to the sky. Later, I see that its se­cret is a re­tractable glass roof. And there are many more sur­prises in this room. Fresh vegeta­bles and fruits from nearby gar­dens make my eyes light up. Or­ganic? It has been ever thus. I will be­come ad­dicted to the heir­loom tomato salad dur­ing my stay; I will taste ev­ery one of the lo­cal cheeses be­fore I leave, es­pe­cially the Pecorino crusted with grape skins; and I will find the ar­ray of lo­cal char­cu­terie ir­re­sistible. I will make sure to try a slice of each of the healthy seeded breads still warm from the oven, along with sweet but­ter and kitchen-made fruit pre­serves. Eggs with bright orange yolks tell me the chick­ens here are roam­ing free, eat­ing grass. This meal is de­serv­ing of a tip­ple of Prosecco in my squeezed-to­order orange juice.

A post-break­fast hike is in or­der, and I just fol­low the signs along the na­ture trail and over the grassy hill un­til I reach Vignoni Alto, a for­ti­fied ham­let of historical sig­nif­i­cance. Af­ter many friendly “buon giorno’s” to lo­cals and tourists alike, I make my way back. The “For­est Panorama Sauna Vent­ing” awaits. When the ice cubes with es­sen­tial oils hit the bra­ziers in the Fin­nish saunas, they im­part the scent of moun­tain pine, orange and herbage that has a dreamy detox­i­fy­ing ef­fect, sim­i­lar to “for­est bathing” in Ja­pan.

Af­ter 20 min­utes rest, I am eager to sub­merge my­self into one of the steam­ing ther­mal pools. As I make my way down the stone steps, I re­al­ize that this is what it’s all about; this is the core of Euro­pean spa cul­ture and is far dif­fer­ent from its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part.

If you ac­cept Mies Van der Rohe’s in­sight that God is in the de­tails, then An­dreas and Klaus Sanoner have made Adler Ther­mae heav­enly on many counts with their near-re­li­gious de­vo­tion to fine points as well as their re­spect for na­ture, the coun­try­side and cul­ture. Re­cently, they added a win­ery to their col­lec­tion of spa ho­tels. They say, “the Tenuta Sanoner win­ery ul­ti­mately tells of the love and re­spect that we have al­ways felt for the earth and the coun­try­side. It is also ex­pressed by the fact that we use bio­dy­namic cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods and try to work in the great­est pos­si­ble har­mony with na­ture.” The broth­ers are the eighth gen­er­a­tion in this fam­ily busi­ness, and are not in­flu­enced by fash­ions or trends. They have im­ple­mented the things that they would like to find as vis­it­ing guests. The fo­cus is al­ways to foster a per­sonal con­nec­tion with guests; to be special.

A visit to this bou­tique win­ery to ex­pe­ri­ence a wine tast­ing and lunch on the ter­race is a high­light of the day. We see mile af­ter mile of vine­yards, as we taste the fruit of the land. My favourite is Ae­tos, Sparkling Rosé Brut Milles­i­mato 2016. The bright sal­mon-pink colour, fine bub­bles and el­e­gant bou­quet make the per­fect drink for a lunch of lo­cal meats, cheeses and vegeta­bles on this sunny Tus­can day. It is the Ital­ian way: shar­ing good food and wine cre­ates in­stant friend­ships.

An un­usual dis­cov­ery awaits me at the spa. A steep flight of stone steps, through a heavy, an­cient door takes me into the Salt Grotto. In the dim light, I see a shal­low pool of warm ther­mal wa­ter en­riched with Dead Sea salt that brings deep cleans­ing and har­mony to the skin. I can float weight­lessly in this pool, and am so deeply re­laxed, I al­most doze off. Now I am ready for my Bio­elec­tric check up with the VEGA check. Hands, feet and body are at­tached to a ma­chine that does a print out for about five min­utes. To our sur­prise, my print out is void of mark­ings. Di­ag­no­sis: in great shape. That does a lot for my sense of well­be­ing. Ma­chines don’t care and don’t lie.

In the bar, be­tween 4:00 and 5:00 pm, hot choco­late, cof­fee and tea are served along with fresh fruits and a va­ri­ety of tea­cakes. It is a friendly di­ver­sion be­fore din­ner.

The Ma­jor Domo of the din­ing room is maitre d’ Man­fred. He thor­oughly un­der­stands his role and takes sin­cere plea­sure in pleas­ing his guests. With the mem­ory of a com­puter, he knows our names, where we like to sit, our al­ler­gies and idio­syn­cra­sies. The staff knows the menu and the wine rec­om­men­da­tions re­flect an un­der­stand­ing of bou­quets and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness. They know which is the per­fect wine for say, a cap­ti­vat­ing mille­feuille of sal­mon and ar­ti­chokes, grilled ribs, a whole grilled fish tem­pered only with olive oil, herbs and lemon, or shell­fish in a man­tle of sole. De­cep­tively sim­ple, menus for lunch and din­ner change daily and in­clude ve­gan. This kitchen is bril­liant. No calo­rie count­ing here—and yet, each dish, in­clud­ing pasta, is pre­pared in a health­ful way, and at ev­ery meal, the “en­er­giz­ing salad bar” is a dif­fer­ent mar­ket gar­den of fresh­ness. One night there is the steak with per­son­al­ity, steak Fiorentino from the huge white Chi­an­ina cows, grilled to or­der.

Oddly, I never feel that I have eaten too much, and me­an­der to the ar­ray of a dozen gor­geous desserts: choco­late cakes, cheese­cakes, cream cakes, fruit pies, crisp crusted fruit tarts that stand like dewy fresh jew­els that seem to say, pick me, pick me. Just a tiny slice, please. The lus­tre does not dim, day af­ter day.

Some guests have come for detox, weight loss pro­grams, med­i­cal treat­ments, or to find a heal­ing bal­ance. As for me, it is a re­lax­ing, purifying hol­i­day of health and gourmet cui­sine. At home, a pleas­ant sur­prise of no jet lag. I am en­er­gized, my en­thu­si­asm re­newed, and I’m im­bued with an in­ex­pli­ca­ble feel­ing of well­be­ing. Yes, there must be some­thing in the wa­ter.

“They have im­ple­mented the things that they would like to find as vis­it­ing guests. The fo­cus is al­ways to foster a per­sonal con­nec­tion with guests; to be special”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.