LA DOLCE VITA
With more natural thermal spas than any other country in the world, Italy is the perfect destination for health-boosting holidays all year round
There are few better holidays than a spa break to nourish body and soul. And Italy’s natural spas are set in stunningly beautiful landscapes, where you can treat yourself to the therapeutic benefits of mineral-infused thermal waters and health and beauty treatments all year round. From ancient baths to natural salt caves and chic spa hotel resorts, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
This being Italy, food is important too, so you’ll find spa restaurants serving divine healthy food too.
Add in Italy’s innumerable other attractions... art, music, history, artisanal food and fizz – and the only question is when can you go?
Tucked away in the northeast corner of Italy, this small region is a well-kept secret, though its popularity as an upmarket tourist destination is growing, thanks to its coastline, mountains, Roman ruins and gastronomy.
Near Trieste, the Portopiccolo Spa by Bakel offers a jaw-dropping view of the Adriatic Sea through its floor-toceiling windows. Here, you can soothe mind and body in a salt cave and a seawater plunge pool.
For a beachfront spa, head to Venetian-style Grado, an island connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land. The Marine Baths of
Grado have two seawater pools, one with hydromassage jets. Treatments include thalassotherapy, steam therapies to boost your respiratory system and psammotherapy, a sand treatment that soothes arthritis.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Sample the wonderful local produce – this area produces excellent white wines and a local speciality, cave-aged Jamar cheese. Sight-seeing treats include the Miramare Castle, perched impressively on the Gulf of Trieste, which has a beautiful 22-hectare garden, and the remarkable Roman ruins at Aquileia.
Best known for its style capital Milan, Lombardy is also famous for rolling hills and glittering lakes.
Aquaria spa, based in the pretty medieval town of Sirmione, overlooks Lake Garda, and its mineral-rich thermal waters bubble up from a spring under the lake at an ambient temperature. Bathing in the warm water on a crisp autumnal day, while gazing at a snow-tipped Alpine panorama, is a joy.
For a spot of mountain air, try Bormio Terme: Bagni Nuovi has seven outdoor pools and 30 different spa facilities;
while neighbouring Bagni Vecchi offers Roman baths, a grotto leading to a thermal spring, and a clifftop pool with superb views over the Bormio Valley.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Head to Milan for architecture, art and fashion. The opera house Teatro alla Scala, the white marble Duomo cathedral and Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to Da Vinci’s Last Supper, are must-sees. And stock up on Milan’s world-famous pannetone and Christmas sweets.
This beautiful area of central Italy is famed for its diverse landscapes and the art and architecture of cities such as Florence, Pisa and Siena.
To the south of the region, you’ll find the luxurious Terme di Saturnia Spa and Golf Resort, one of the best thermal spas in the world. Alongside thermal pools with steam, waterfalls and jacuzzis, you can enjoy massages with mud or honey and essential oils, plus there are detoxing and slimming packages on offer.
If you want to take advantage of free thermal waters in a spectacular natural setting, head for the Gorello Falls or the Molino Falls – beside an old mill – where the water gurgles up from the earth at around 36°C.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE. You’ll find charming towns near Saturnia, especially Pitigliano. Its cliff-edge houses overlook a ravine and the winding streets are packed with artisan workshops, plus there’s an impressive fortress and cathedral. Stock up on cantucci (almond biscuits) and finocchiona, a fennelflavoured salami.
With a mild climate, rich history and terraces of citrus, olives and vines that stretch down to the sea, one of the jewels in this region’s crown is Ischia. This small, green island, nestled in the Gulf of Naples, is home to some 300 spas.
The charming town of Casamicciola has the oldest thermal baths on the island, or you could try the largest at the Giardini Poseidon Terme, which specialises in antiageing and de-stressing treatments.
Negombo Thermal Gardens has 12 pools, including a seawater pool overlooking San Montano beach. One of the highlights is a Japanese Labyrinth Bath that uses different temperatures to boost circulation.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Ischia is popular for outdoor activities, from walking to snorkelling and sailing, while history lovers will be in heaven with a visit to Naples, home to Pompeii and Herculaneum. When it comes to relaxing, the island’s fine cuisine and wines – Biancolella, Forastera and Piedirosso – will go down a treat, too.
Clockwise from top left: Bagni Nuovi, Bagni Vecchi, both part of Bormio Terme, Lombardy; Terme di SaturniaSpa & Golf Resort, Tuscany; Portopiccolo Spa by Bakel in Friuli Venezi Guilia; Bagni Vecchi, Lombardy