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Italian RetreatsAugust 11, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
Borgo Finocchieto, an 800-year-old farming village in Siena, is restored with modern amenities
Are you ready for a new Tuscan villa hotel experience that comes with a pampering spa and dining provided by chef Gordon Ramsay?
Castel Monastero, in the small medieval village of Monastero d’Ombrone in Chianti, has just opened. It’s just 14 miles east of Siena, set atop a hill, of course, as all good villa hotels should be.
What’s cool about Castel Monastero, aside from the fact that it’s set in an 11th-century village, is that it has a 10,000-square-foot, 10-room spa, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait for an appointment. “Urban Retreat” is actually housed in two buildings connected by a glass tunnel, which sounds sort of charming. There are also three outdoor swimming pools for that “Under the Tuscan Sun” experience. Another nice touch: Couples can book their own spa suite.
The 76 guestrooms and suites are spread out among 13 buildings. Local artisans were employed to provide antiques and light fixtures from the area, as well as wall frescos and stone floors.
Wall frescoes and stone floors add to the rustic beauty of the rooms and suites at Castel Monastero
Be sure to ask the concierge to arrange a trip to Siena or a wine tour to a local vineyard. Travel Agent has been to San Gimignano and fully recommends it; it’s a vibrant village with wonderful shops and restaurants. In the late afternoon and evening, the locals come out for a stroll. Be sure to save time for a glass of wine or two at a café or to stay and enjoy dinner; when you step outside after your meal, you’ll be enchanted by the velvety evening darkness, something that’s special to Tuscany. And then there are those sunsets, but don’t get us started.
Back at the villa hotel, there’s Gordon Ramsay at Castel Monastero, where some of the items on the menus include “Sour green apple and horseradish risotto flavored with broth of red mullet and baby fennel” and “Chianina beef tenderloin with artichoke ravioli and Certaldo onion jam.” What we like, besides the thought of that food: The restaurant overlooks the village’s 15th-century piazza.
We are told that if you book now, you’ll pay about $565 per night through October.
Il Salviatino, a former 15th-century palazzo on the hillside of Fiesole, underwent a $21.6 million restoration to become a 61-room luxury villa on the outskirts of Florence. Every room here is unique, honoring the building’s history as a private home while moving forward into the 21st century. (Modern touches: Rooms have plasma TVs, iPod docking stations, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet and sit-down rainshowers.)
The Devarana Spa at Il Salviatino spreads out over more than 6,450 square feet with five treatment rooms and suites, plus 14 Devarana De Luxe rooms designed to bring spa services to the privacy of hotel rooms.
Every room in Il Salviatino blends medieval and modern motifs
Devarana was inspired by ancient Thai literature Traibhumikatha. The spa incorporates contemporary Thai decor, blending the artistic charms of Europe and Thailand to create a cultural and sensory journey. Devarana also uses authentic Thai healing therapies and western disciplines to offer a range of “East Meets West” treatments.
Among these treatments is the ancient Harmony of Tad Si therapy, which is based on Buddhist teachings, and the Tuscany Journey Reviver, designed for relaxing and unwinding after a day’s sightseeing.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, Lake Como
Want a spa vacation on Italy’s Lake Como? It’s possible at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, which has an actual “beauty farm.” We can also call it a spa, and it’s housed in a historic villa at the Grand Hotel, next to its indoor pool.
What’s the service concept at the beauty farm? In its own words: “All our treatments are inspired by the same philosophy: true well-being can only come from that free flow of energy which creates harmony between mind and body.”
You can visit the spa for a single treatment, a day of pampering or for a longer “well-being week to forget one’s stress and regain one’s vitality.” If you really want to detox in one of the most beautiful regions of the world (this is Bellagio, you know), you can theme your entire stay around wellness.
L’Albergo della Regina Isabella
Since ancient times visitors to Ischia have recognized the health benefits of the hot springs flowing from the slopes of Mount Epomeo. Back in the day (we’re talking eighth century BC), the Greeks caked themselves in the mineral-rich mud, followed by the Romans who realized the therapeutic properties of the thermal springs, creating a resort there that was the talk of the Roman Empire. Today the health retreat has garnered a devoted following. Its hotel, L’Albergo della Regina Isabella, is a gorgeous beachfront property with pools and sea-facing terraces. It was a favorite haunt of Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable in the 1950s.
The thermal spa is turning the big 100 this year. Here, your clients can slather on some “five-star mud” packed with medicinal qualities. In fact, Marie Curie herself studied the mud for its mineral properties. Focused on health and well-being, the spa offers a range of medical and regenerative treatments, including Thermal Plastic Dermatology.
Need a Tuscan retreat you can take over for your client’s family reunion or clandestine corporate getaway? Borgo Finocchieto is a fully restored 800-year-old farming village in the province of Siena.
The painstaking restoration left the good stuff untouched (think 500-year-old wood-burning stove and an ancient stone-carved Borghese crest over the dining room’s entrance) but also introduced some posh new amenities, such as a 60-foot oval swimming pool and a spa with a gym, Jacuzzi and, of course, a bocce court.
Other good things: The 22 suites are all large and private; the public spaces are intimate and encourage networking. A conference facility holds 50.
Count on chef Luigi Ricci of Paul Bocuse fame to create the most elegant customized menus; we hear his breakfasts of breads, tortes and made-to-order eggs are legendary.
Your group won’t be bored in the Tuscan hills; there are more than 200 Brunello producers within a mile and a half of the Borgo.
Contact Mary Grace Hicks in the U.S. ([email protected], 011-919-606-6603) for more information on booking the Borgo. She can also fill you in on outside activities that can be arranged around the area, including the Palio, a.k.a. the running of the horses, which takes place every July in Siena. For small groups, the Borgo can arrange a special Palio getaway, featuring personalized guided tours of Siena, special meals en suite that reflect the history, tastes and sensibility of the local area, and a “ringside” box reserved for guests to view the spectacle. Culinary adventures can also be arranged in San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. Florence is also a close drive away.