La Dolce Vita: Italian spa resorts that nail the wellness retreat

With a history of R&R that stretches back thousands of years, the Italians know a thing or two about unwinding in style.

By Mark Sissons 04/02/2019

Spas have been popular in Italy since the ancients settled affairs of state in toga-optional grottos and ‘took the waters’ in natural hot springs. It’s a tradition that is very much alive today, with many still frequenting those geothermal pools in regions like Tuscany, where luxe wellness hotels like Adler Thermae Spa & Relax Resort tap into the same curative agua sana that once revitalised the Etruscans and Romans. Now, as then, aquae anima vivens. Water is life.

Located near the ancient spa village of Bagni Vignoni south of Siena, Adler Thermae leads the pack of Italian spas that consider wellness retreats to be far more than one of travel industry’s current favourite buzz words. Overlooking an expansive thermal pool, the property’s spa features a menu with over 30 types of massages, mineral and mud therapies, along with non-surgical procedures ranging from facelifts to lipolytic mesotherapy (which helps reduce targeted areas of fat). Some treatments are specifically designed to appeal to men, who make up a full fifty percent of the clientele. And for those wishing to combine a blissful spa vacation with cutting-edge medical diagnostics and treatments, there’s also an onsite team of physicians that can address chronic health conditions like thyroid malfunction and osteoporosis, along with weight loss and stress management.

In between treatments, guests have full access to a series of therapeutic pools, saunas, relaxation rooms, and even a subterranean grotto. There’s also a farm-to-table Tuscan restaurant and plenty of ways to get your blood pumping on solo or guided hikes and bike rides through the region. This refreshing combination of exquisite spa pampering, superb organic cuisine, and vigorous outdoor activities is even more prevalent at Adler Mountain Lodge, a 30-room ski-in, ski-out Tryolean chalet occupying a slope overlooking a lovely meadow on the largest alpine plateau in Europe. Adler Dolomiti gets the balance right as well—combining Germanic efficiency with Italian charm.

And though Adler does it well, it isn’t the only spa on the Italian peninsula offering a cutting-edge approach to relaxation. Read on to discover five others that offer innovative wellness treatments in spectacular settings, promising a vacation combining the best of Italy with la dolce vita sana.

Courtesy of Bagni di Pisa

Bagni di Pisa
Originally built in 1743 as a place for Francesco Stefano of Lorena, the Grand Duke of Tuscany to catch up on some R&R, the exquisite Bagni di Pisa spa hotel on the outskirts of Pisa has hosted royalty, dignitaries, and celebrities for centuries. Today, it is still full of 18th-century charm, with preserved frescoed ceilings, extravagant furnishings, and expertly manicured floral gardens—where we’d recommend heading for a zenned-out post-treatment stroll. Its long history as a spa retreat is put to good use with treatments like the Bioaquam Thermal Circuit that mix technology (think hydro-massages specifically designed for sculpting and drainage) and tradition (think fully-restored original thermal pools). Or, you can opt to unwind like the ancients would have done by sweating out toxins in the property’s recently re-discovered 700-year-old Cave of Grand Dukes.

Courtesy of Belmond

Belmond Castello di Casole
Constructed in 998, this former castle has been fully restored and transformed into an impressive spa hotel and residences in the rolling Tuscan countryside near Siena. Set in a former wine cellar with vaulted ceilings, restored stone walls, and expansive valley views, Belmond Castello di Casole’s Essere Spa offers an extensive menu of treatments and rituals inspired by local ingredients such as rosemary, olive oil, and honey—which are used in treatments ranging from the Sweet as Honey anti-ageing facial to the Divine Etruscan four-hand massage. Treatments putting premium beauty products by luxury brands like Carita and ILA to work are also available.

Courtesy of Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Located in the heart of Lake Como with unparalleled views of Bellagio and the stunning Grigne mountains, this authentic Art Nouveau landmark dates back to the early 1900s. Situated next to the Villa Carlotta’s famous gardens, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo offers in-house gourmet Italian dining and year-round indoor and outdoor swimming pools (a rare luxury in what is often considered a seasonal destination). In as a remedy to all of the aristocratic indulgences of Lake Como, its luxurious T Spa specialises in anti-stress and rebalancing treatments, all custom-designed in partnership with the experts at ESPA. Treatment rooms include a couple’s Spa Suite, a hammam suite, multiple saunas, and a steam bath. There is also a salt relaxation room and whirlpool, where guests are encouraged to unwind after treatments.

Courtesy of Four Seasons

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Offering a combination of Old World luxury and lush modern amenities, Florence’s most luxurious spa retreat is the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. Although it is just a 20-minute walk from the Duomo di Firenze and Uffizi Galleries, the property, which is housed in a Renaissance-era Palazzo set on eleven acres of gardens overlooking the Giardino Della Gherardesca, feels like a sanctuary in the heart of Tuscany’s most famous city. The hotel’s opulent spa, housed in modern, low-slung building on the property, stocks products from the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, oldest pharmacy in Florence, and many of the treatments in its ten luxurious spa rooms come complete with a tasting of fine Chianti.

Courtesy of Palace Merano

Palace Hotel Merano
The Palace Hotel Merano in South Tyrol is as famous for its opulent interiors (the space was once home to one of the region’s grandest castles) as it is for its cutting-edge health and beauty treatments. Both are based on resident French biologist Henri Chenot’s fascination with the application of biontology—the science of understanding and slowing ageing through the lens of lifestyle, genetics, and environment. Legions of medical staff are on-hand to administer all manner of anti-ageing, extreme weight loss, and detox programs at the Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot wellness center, while the spa offers hydro-aromatherapy, phyto-mud therapy, Turkish herbal baths, cupping massages, lymphatic drainage and more. And though guests are given only minuscule portions of carefully selected food served at each meal, we promise they provide just enough energy to truly enjoy this most healing of holiday retreats.


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