The Tuscan landscape is archetypally etched into the psyche of most travellers to Europe: rolling fields of golden wheat, undulated rows of grapevines, centuries-old villas, ancient hilltop villages and those tall, pointy cypress trees that belie no doubt of where you are.
There are many reasons this land has been coveted at least since Etruscan times: It’s bountiful, soothingly beautiful and invites languorous exploration.
That same bounty, beauty and languor awaits at Adler-Thermae Spa & Relax Resort, a luxury property adjacent to the picturesque spa town of Bagno Vignoni, in the Val d’Orcia region south of Siena. Open since 2004, the resort has its own naturally heated thermal pools and an ultra-pampering spa. Its warm, modern design conveys that sense of understated elegance that one expects from a 5-star country property.
Adler’s generously sized guest rooms are spread across two floors, and offer views of either the Tuscan hills or the outdoor thermal pools and waterfalls, complete with steam rising during our autumn stay. There are two room types: double superior and slightly larger family rooms. Both are outfitted with the same upscale comforts, with wood floors and furnishings, underfloor heating and cooling, patios or balconies (to better take in that view or to quickly access the pool), cushy beds and, my personal favourite amenity: spacious, sexy bathrooms with walk-in showers big enough for two, rainfall showerheads, and deluxe, bespoke bath products made from honey and grapes. Robes, spa towels and slippers are at the ready, as is free Wi-Fi and satellite TV (though we never used the latter).
The resort’s half-board program means no one goes hungry. Menu offerings veer towards Tuscan-meets-spa cuisine, which basically means you can eat as decadently or as healthfully as you like. Meals are served in a pretty courtyard dining room that’s romantically lit at night. The breakfast buffet offers chilled prosecco, made-to-order omelettes, fresh fruit and veg for DIY juices, plus yoghurt, cereals and an entire table dedicated to baked goods, all made in-house.
Dinner service starts with a sumptuous antipasto buffet, which includes a giant leg of prosciutto, fresh buffalo mozzarella, canapés, salads and cheeses, and is followed by first and second courses (we are still in Italy, after all!) ordered from the day’s menu. Even though plated portions are modest (justly so), it’s difficult to resist the temptation to overdo it at the buffet and not have room for the a la carte offerings. Wine is not included, but the resort’s wine list runs the gamut, from reasonably priced bottles (some from its affiliated winery just up the hill) to sky’s the limit. In case you need an afternoon pick-me-up, a dessert and fruit buffet is offered every afternoon at the bar. Lunch is available for an additional fee.
Soaking and Spa-ing
Really, that’s what we’re here for, right? And Adler-Thermae’s spa and thermal facilities are among the nicest I’ve seen, in Italy or anywhere. Guests follow a circuit of saunas and steam rooms, including two Finnish saunas perched over Adler’s artificial travertine lake. Both of these offer a bracing finish to those who dare—cold water plunge pools to reduce and regulate body temperature. Of the three steam rooms, the Salino, with its salt- and herb-infused vapours was our favourite—a lung-clearing, skin purifying experience. Unlimited access to the thermal circuit is complimentary; extras include the Grotto Salina, a shallow warm water pool in a cavelike chamber, where salt from the Dead Sea means you float effortlessly in the calm stillness. There’s also the Rasul room, where couples can have fun applying and scrubbing off curative mud. That’s on our list for next time.
The thermal mineral water at Bagno Vignoni bubbles out of the ground at a scorching 50 C (122 F); it’s cooled to 36 C (97 F) in Adler’s ample indoor/outdoor pool and children’s pool. There’s also a freshwater lap pool with a countercurrent feature.
An extensive menu of spa offerings include vinotherapy treatments, which incorporate grape seed oil and red Brunello wine. We opted for the couples’ Brunello ritual, which started with dual relaxing massages, followed by soaks in wine-infused side-by-side whirlpool baths, and ended with us sipping wine and nibbling cheese on a waterbed for two.
With the best of Tuscany just outside your door, it’d be a shame to spend your entire vacation on premises—tempting as it may be to do so. Bagno Vignoni, distinct in Italy—and possibly the world—for having a thermal pool in place of its town square, is just a short walk, and the idyllic towns of Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino are all a short drive away. You can explore on your own, or take one of the resort’s guided excursions. Walking and biking trails fan out from the property, which also offers a fully equipped fitness centre, classes and access to personal trainers.
Clientele includes just about everyone: we saw couples young and old, families with kids (minimum age is 4), and groups of gals taking a girls’ weekend. The resort was fully booked during our stay, which meant we were unable to book last minute spa treatments—so plan your pampering in advance.