Endless wheat fields, Cyprus trees and terracotta roofs. Tuscany is one of those places that I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. The serene landscape with its rolling hills stretches out across central Italy and far away from the cities, life moves at a slower pace. While Rome is the beating heart of Italy, I've always felt like Tuscany was its soul. And in some ways, how could it not be with its vast fields of wheat that supply the country with its staple diet?
There's something about that peaceful landscape, and the slower pace of life. The sort of place where phone signal is sparse and you feel more at one with yourself. The air is thick and humid, perfumed with rosemary and the buzz of cicadas. It's one of the most idyllic places that I think I'll ever visit and the most perfect place I could think of to situate a luxury spa. So when I received an email inviting me to visit the incredible Adler Thermae, how could I possibly refuse?
Set within the parameters of a formerly abandoned quarry in Bagno Vignoni, tiny village in San Quirco d'Orcia, and with natural pools of thermal water running through it, Adler Thermae is a luxurious slice of paradise set within the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Far from the bustle of larger neighbouring cities, the hotel has an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. And at night, stars light up the black skies in the most incredible way that you only get at a place that really lies off the beaten track. It's hard to believe that such a paradise lies only a couple of hours from both Rome and Florence.
Before we go any further, I have a confession. I've never bought into the idea of staying put in a hotel. When I visit a place, especially one that I'm seeing for the first time, I'm filled with a sort of restless energy. The buzz to see everything that the place has to offer, and get a real feel for where I'm staying, takes over.
But it's easy to see why so many people would choose to stay put at Adler Thermae. Even though it's situated close to some amazing places (which of course, me and Helen couldn't resist visiting) like Montepulciano and Siena, the resort has focused on creating such a tranquil setting that it's sometimes hard to want to tear yourself away. Or remember why you would even want to in the first place.
Situated just a five minute stroll from the sleepy village of Bagno Vignoni, Adler Thermae is first and foremost a place to relax. The spa is at the very heart of the resort, from the numerous relaxation rooms, saunas, salt baths and thermal waters. It's a place to escape the stresses and pressures of real life. With temperatures rising to the late thirties, we decided against venturing into the saunas. But visiting in Tuscany's colder months, I imagine the experience would be idyllic.
The spa itself draws inspiration from nature, using natural materials like wood and water, to help rooms feels balanced. It's a peaceful place to escape the sun and relax by the indoor pool or sink into a meditative state in one of their relaxation rooms. But it's really the spa's thermal pool which takes centre stage.
Since the Etruscan period, the ancient civilisation preceding the Romans, the thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni were renowned for their healing properties. Leaving the spring at 50 degrees centigrade, the thermal waters are classified as bicarbonate-sulphate-alkaline and hyper thermal. Raising body temperature, and triggering vascular dilation, the water is said to improve breathing and draining effects. Thanks to the body's response to its enhanced oxygen supply, the muscles relax and inflammation is reduced. Rich in minerals, it's also suggested the waters can be beneficial for osteoarthritis, rheumatism, abnormalities of venous lymphatic circulation, gynaecological and dermatological disorders.
With their focus on wellbeing, the spa offers a range of holistic treatments for both the body and mind, from water yoga to full body massage. The mentality that a healthy body equals a healthy mind certainly plays a huge part of the spa resort's ethos. And from the treatment rooms to the gym, with its beautiful view over the gardens, everything has been carefully considered and designed. If you choose to work out that is! But if a traditional gym isn't what you're looking for, the varied programme of classes, offers something for everyone's tastes. Rising early, soak in the peaceful gardens and delicate morning light with traditional yoga. Or wait until the midday sun has passed and enjoy an energising aqua spinning session.
Cycling is also a great way to stay in shape and make the most of the surroundings. With a range of bikes available to hire from the hotel directly, it's an easy way of taking in the Tuscan countryside and venturing to nearby sleepy villages.
Although we didn't have time, I think my next trip to Tuscany will almost certainly be including a bike ride! Instead, we opted to take advantage of the hotel's car hire, hiring out their BMW i3 for a day to visit nearby Siena. As well as tagging along on their excursion to neighbouring Montepulciano for a tour of the town and an afternoon of wine tasting at Contucci Cantine.
If there's one thing that Adler Thermae excels at, it's food. And from a five star, luxury resort, what else would you expect? Beautifully prepared, using locally sourced, fresh ingredients, it's food like only the Italians can produce. From mouthwatering dishes of fresh pasta to perfectly cooked meat and fish dishes, each day's menu is carefully curated and beautifully presented.
It's the sort of food that almost looks too good to eat. The kind you need to take a few minutes to admire, or in our case to take a million photos of, before you pick up your fork. Throughout our stay, we sampled a range of local cuisine and specialities, getting a real taste for traditional Tuscan cooking. Generally, one of the reasons I prefer not to stay within resorts is because I like to try out different places to eat. But with a new menu each day, the hotel keeps its restaurant feeling fresh and vibrant.
Each evening we were greeted by pleasant staff, who invited us to enjoy an energising salad before perusing the menu for that night's offer. Taking great pride in its Tuscan identity, each evening's selection was always sure to include at least one traditional dish for the region.
As is the traditional Italian way, the courses are served small and many. And from the buffet style salad bar, with its irresistible fresh balls of burrata and mozzarella, and ruby red tomatoes bursting with flavour to the rich pasta dishes and wholesome meat and fish courses, it's a place that demands that you bring your appetite. I promise you that even if it means coming home with an extra few pounds, the experience is most definitely worth indulging in. Of course, that's not even taking into consideration the hotel's daily selection of complimentary cakes and fruit offered to all guests in the afternoon. Like I said, it's worth disregarding the calories for the sake of enjoying the experience. Although there is always a fitness class or the gym...
The restaurant itself is much like the hotel, simple and tastefully decorated. The dress code is relaxed, allowing guests to wander down to breakfast in robes to enjoy their breakfast cappuccino. During the day, the removable glass roof lets the warm sunshine flood the room and at night, it's a beautiful map of stars over your evening meal.
With its chic decor, heavy use of local marble and antique Persian rugs, the hotel itself is easy to fall in love with. Its interior is clean and white, helping add to the relaxed ambience of the resort. With waters running throughout the grounds, across the gym and the spa's indoor thermal pool joining seamlessly to the outdoor one, there's an intrinsic feeling of balance in its design. One where the natural world merges with the interior of the hotel.
It's beautiful design makes it an easy place to feel relaxed and let go. And that's without taking into consideration its picturesque setting in a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The beautiful, untouched landscape of Val d'Orcia, makes the perfect setting for a spa like Adler Thermae. Somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life for a little luxury and relaxation. But of course, in a setting that makes it easy to explore the nearby towns and villages, should you want to tear yourself away from your relaxation.
Though it's definitely pricey for a stay, Adler Thermae is an incredible resort and one which is definitely worth splurging for. I don't think I've ever stayed anywhere that made me feel as though I had no reason to leave the resort before. And probably I'm unlikely to find somewhere quite like this one again.
Big thank you to the Adler Thermae for inviting me to experience their amazing hotel and spa.