Tuscany Stories and Tips

Terme di Saturnia (Italian Spa)

Thermal Pool at Sunset Photo, Tuscany, Italy

The Terme di Saturnia was by far the busiest spa I visited while in Italy. Despite on-going construction and renovation on the grounds (To be completed by Spring 2002--Golf Course in 2003), it is also one of the most luxurious spas in Tuscany.

While waiting in the reception area for check-in, I watched a group of tall Italian men in fluffy white robes and Saturnia slippers gather around chatting. A friend in a suit walked through the front door, and the robed men erupted in loud sounds of enthuisiastic greeting, slapping the newcomer on the back, using Italian words so full and warm that I could hear fond emotion in their mere inflection.

This group of men summed up the mood of most of the Saturnia clients I encountered in my stay at this spa....

I also received a new treatment at Saturnia. I was escorted to a room by an attendant who was versed in reflexology. My feet received a twenty minute massage. The soft, deliberate strokes of the attendant's strong fingers were meant to stimulate nerves connected to other parts of my body such as my lungs, heart, and stomach for over-all health benefit.

The only negative thing I can say about my massage is that I was in more of a cubicle than a room, and the undercurrent of conversations of people in other rooms was as ubiquitous as the opera playing through the wall speakers.

Still, I really enjoyed this treatment more than any other I received at any other spa in Italy. (Admittedly, part of this pleasure had something to do with the fact that my modesty was left--for once--in tact!)

I was also told that private rooms for treatments are being built to promote a more private atmosphere for clients in the future. This was good news to my friends who received hot stone treatments (a type of massage incorporating stones that finds its origins in the American West!) and face massages. They enjoyed their experiences, too, but would have liked a quieter environment.

A big attraction to the Terme di Saturnia is an outdoor thermal pool. I went swimming in the 98.6 degree F water. Despite the sulphur smell of the pool, the cold air and the warm water proved to be heavenly. The sun setting over the white umbrellas of the spa, the purple and pink sky lightly kissing the hills of Maremma, made my visit to the pool that much more enchanting.

The actual idea of going into the pool is to soak more than swim, and there are ropes lining the pool for people to hold onto while enjoying their treatment. This ancient thermal cure is beneficial because of the hydrogen-sulfate in the water that is supposed to work on the cardio-circulatory system, dilating surface veins and reducing arterial pressure, while also relaxing inflamed muscle tissue. Drinking of the water is supposed to positively influence digestion, too. The pools are open to residents of the area, and the Italians believe so greatly in the health benefits that they travel to Terme di Saturnia from miles around just to enjoy a day.

At Terme di Saturnia, 80% of the clients are Italian. 20% come from other countries including the US. While doctors are on staff, and healthcare is certainly part of this spa, too, there is a definite move to promote this place as a spa of luxurious indulgence.

The staff is doing something right.

In 2000 the hotel boasted over 90% occupancy at the height of the season. The average client is 45, but 8 out of every 10 clients revisits the spa. One of the things I think contributes to this success is the hiring of staff from different cultural backgrounds to contribute input on how to make the spa more appealing. After all, marketing for different groups of people should be focused on specific wants.

For instance, Americans might find the fact that they can get a quick physical at a spa while on vacation appealing. This is actually done at all the spas I visited, but the Terme di Saturnia did the best job of presenting its medical facilities as a benefit to someone like me who already has a primary care physician and prescription card back home. As the spa director pointed out: Americans live in a fast paced culture, and they don't always make time for things like check-ups. Yet they don't want to be in a hospital during their precious moments of leisure either. Hence Terme di Saturnia focuses on relaxation as the prescription offered during any stay. Grounds are provided for exercise. A PT leads stretching classes in the gym. A driving range (soon to be golf course) is availabe for familiar, leisure activities. A dietician prepares balanced (but yummy) Tuscan meals for clients who are watching their diets.

In the Terme di Saturnia restaurant, I enjoyed eating dishes such as polenta with porcini mushrooms (Made from corn. Has a consistency similar to Cream of Wheat.), lamb chops with chocolate and pine nuts, sauteed potatoes with braised savoy cabbage, and assorted cheeses including a sumptious ricotta cheese and chocolate dessert!

The rooms at the spa are also very spacious. I practically wanted to move into the walk-in closet! All the ammenities one would expect from a luxury hotel are included, right down to a bottle of wine and fruit waiting on a marble side table in each room to welcome guests.

For more information on Terme di Saturnia, please visit www.termedisaturnia.it.

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