Adler Thermae Spa – a luxurious Tuscan interlude
My built in GPS for luxurious experiences hit gold when it navigated to the lobby of the 5 star Adler Thermae Spa and Relax Resort in Val d’Orcia of southern Tuscany. There is more to Tuscany than meets the eye and the hot springs of the Bagno Vignoni are one of the secrets yet to be discovered.
We took a few days off our month-long stay in Florence to indulge in the healing qualities of the mineral-rich water bubbling out of the deep earth and into the pools at this beautiful Italian spa resort.
A pleasant train ride (1h 20 min) on the regional TrenItalia line from Florence delivered us to Chiusi Chianciano Terme where a shiny black Mercedes-Benz driven by Paulo of Biagiotti Driver Service was waiting to take us on the half hour ride to the hotel. Things were shaping up quite nicely.
The drive to the hotel winds through incredibly beautiful Tuscan countryside, just the kind of images you think of when you dream about Tuscany: soft rolling hills, cyprus-lined roads leading to sprawling stone estates, medieval hilltop towns and mountains in the distance.
Our driver Paulo had an encyclopedic knowledge of the history, economy, food and wine of the region and by the time we arrived at the hotel we had a pretty good idea what this region is about from an insider point of view.
Arriving at the hotel we entered a driveway framed by iron gates announcing the Adler Thermae Spa Resort and were immediately conscious of the luxurious feel of the place.
This sense was confirmed when we walked into the lobby, filled with comfortable furniture and spectacular view of the valley. Hotel guests wrapped in white bath robes and wearing flip flops, hair still wet from the pools, lounged around the lobby sipping aperitivi and I felt slightly over-dressed in my Italian aubergine coloured cashmere dress, fur vest and high heeled Italian boots. I didn’t mind though, I’ll get into the bathrobe later.
The friendly staff checked us in and offered a tour of the hotel once we got settled in the room.
Our room was spacious and perfectly located on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the thermal pools and the gorgeous views of rolling hills beyond. The bed was simply made with good quality linen and a crisp, clean feel. The large bathroom had a rain shower (no tub, but you have the pools outside), thick white towels and spa quality lotions and hair products. A spa bag with two bathrobes, flip flops and towels was set on the bench ready for us to indulge in the spa ritual.
We unpacked our bags and went downstairs to explore the hotel. The Adler is constructed in a modern yet classic architecture. The main building is in the center, partially built into the hillside and two wings house the guest rooms, some looking over the pools, others over the Tuscan countryside. The lobby on the main floor is tastefully decorated with plenty of comfortable sitting and a large balcony, a perfect place to watch the sun go down with a glass of aperitivo from the bar. An adjacent lounge has a wood burning fireplace with more comfortable sitting to relax by the fire. Everything was festive, decorated for Christmas.
We went downstairs to check out the spa and choose a few treatments for the next few days. The spa occupies a large space on the ground floor in the main building. There are several treatment rooms and a few rest areas with comfortable lounge chairs where you can rest between treatments. The variety of spa treatments is almost overwhelming. Which ones to choose? Adler vinotherapy with blue grapes, olive oil, honey and milk? A Baccus ritual with Brunello bath and grape seed oil massage? A fango bath with volcanic clay? A hydrotherapy with high pressure water jets and warm Thalasso mud? They all sound so tempting.
I eventually settled on a few signature treatments, each including a massage and using Adler’s own luxurious line of skin care products. The Baccus ritual was definitely included, as was a weightless floating in the Grotta Salina enriched with salts and minerals from the Dead Sea. Custom facial and and olive oil massage rounded up the spa plan. I will begin with treatments tomorrow.
In front of the spa are the large mineral pools with thermal water drawn from far below ground. The water bubbles up at 50 degrees celsius and cooled down to 38 degrees for the pools. A computer program regulates a series of waterfall, jets and bubbles in different areas of the pool allowing you to indulge in an underwater massage or invigorating waterfall experience on several intervals throughout the day. The indoor thermal pool is connected to the outdoor pools with a sliding door though which you can swim in and out. This means that if it is cool outside you can enter and leave the water indoors. The pools are large enough to never feel crowded even when the hotel is fully booked, which evidently it is most of the year.
The spa includes a well equipped fitness room with a dedicated trainer and several options for classes, from yoga to pilates to stretching and more. Thankfully I didn’t bring my running shoes and gym clothes so I was off the hook for this part of the spa service.
I did bring my hiking boots though and was looking forward to participating in the outdoor activities program run by the lovely Christina who takes a group of guests on hiking or biking tours in the area. They even do a full 42 km walking marathon in April, which is now on must do list.
We checked out the dining room on the top floor, a large, bright atrium-like room with a retractable glass ceiling and an olive tree growing in the center, having been lowered there by a helicopter through the open roof. The hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinners in the dining room and you have a dedicated table reserved for you so there is no need for making reservations as long as you are within the specified dining hours. Only hotel guests dine here, no outside guests are permitted.
Talking about food, you will not go hungry at the Adler. Apart from the fabulous food in the dining room (more on that later) you have fruits, water and tea at the spa all day long and coffee and drinks in the lobby anytime. At 4:00 pm every day they set out an afternoon cake buffet in the lobby-bar that you can enjoy with a drink, coffee or tea until about 5:00. After that they set out a table with savoury snacks to go with aperitivi. A very inviting offering that keep people around the lobby throughout the day.
The Adler has 90 rooms and a staff of well over 300, meaning nothing feels crowded and there is always a staff member to look after you. What can I say, I knew we were in for a treat.
We went back to the room for a while and sat on the balcony admiring the beautiful Tuscan view. It was classic Tuscany. At 4:00 pm we went up one flight of stairs to check out the cake buffet. The lobby was already full with guests lounging around in their bathrobes (we were still dressed) and enjoying cake and coffee. We ordered two pink spritzers and settled in the comfortable chairs to enjoy. The drinks came beautifully garnished, pink, not too sweet and very refreshing. We selected a couple of cakes, all made in-house and enjoyed the interlude, beginning to relax and fit into the pace. I declined treatment for that evening in favour of wine, cheese and olive oil tasting with the hotel’s sommelier.
Wine, cheese and olive oil tasting at the Adler Thermae spa
At 6:00 pm we went to the wine cellar built into an underground cave off the lobby and joined a couple of other guests for a wine education and tasting session. We tasted the hotel’s own wine made from grapes they grow in their vineyards, as well as other local wines, culminating with a beautiful Brunello, the king of wine of this region, some say of Italy. We also tasted a local olive oil, spicy, peppery and beautifully green, having just been pressed this month. A selection of local Pecorino from Pienza and thinly sliced meats from nearby farms made this tasting a truly local experience. Everything is made practically next door.
Italians dine late and when in Rome…. so later that evening we went for dinner. The atrium-like dining room was glowing with candle lights and the tables were covered with crisp linen, just the way I like it. We were led to our reserved table (the table is yours for the duration of your stay) and checked out the scene. No bathrobes at dinner time, it seems, everyone was dressed elegantly and, it being Italy, a bottle of wine for dinner seemed de rigueur. The menu had extensive offering of three courses served at the table in addition to a fresh salad and vegetables buffet, homemade breads and dessert, fruit and cheese buffet to end dinner. The selection was so tempting it was hard to know what to choose. Nettle cream soup with quinoa grains? Tuscan ribollita? Pici pasta? Risotto? poletna? and that’s leaving out the meat options on the menu.
We finally settled on three courses, all vegetarian: courgette flowers with ricotta cheese and truffle to start, stuffed conchiglioni (shells) pasta with courgettes, aubergines and buffalo mozzarella cream next and savoy cabbage rolls with vegetables and barley as main course. The flavours were fresh, everything cooked to perfection and plated beautifully, as you can see in the images. Definitely a success. From the desserts buffet I picked exotic fruits (cactus pear, passion fruits) and a couple of pecorino from Pienza (fresh and aged) to taste with local honey and mustards. Serving sizes were perfectly portioned so it was possible to enjoy everything without feeling like you ate too much.
A rain shower and crisp linen finished the first day beautifully, leaving us in anticipation of more good things to come.
The next couple of days were spa treatments, soaks in the thermal pools, touring around and more food. The treatments were fun, done by professional estheticians and registered therapists. I soaked in a Brunello bath, got rubbed with grape seed oil, scrubbed with red grape derived products, floated weightlessly in a red sea salt water grotto and massaged with mineral rich creams.
There are also steam and dry saunas at the spa, and that was a bit of an experience. The instructions for the sauna etiquette stated that for hygienic reasons it is not allowed to wear swimming suits and pants in the sauna: “Please use the towels”. Okay, we are in Europe and they are not as hung up about their bodies as we are in North America but you know, I was not about to sauna with strangers in the raw and then see them at dinner or in the lobby. I don’t think so. However, towels are allowed so I dropped the bathing suit discreetly and remained wrapped in the towel but, you know, everyone else was nude so I wasn’t that comfortable with the whole thing.
In any event, a spa staff member came into the sauna (wrapped in a towel thank goodness) and performed a ritual that was quite fascinating. He soaked several towels in herbs and aromatics and then with dance like movements waved the towels around sending the perfumed air towards us, cooling and refreshing as he did that. That ritual is offered a few times a day at scheduled intervals so you can make sure you go at the right time to experience this. A cold plunge pool was just outside for those who like to torture (okay…refresh) themselves with ice water. As much as I enjoyed the ritual, one sauna experience was enough for me. The steam sauna in the “philosopher’s cave”, which I prefer anyway, was more my thing. I am not sure if bathing suits were permitted in there. I was alone there so I wouldn’t know.
One activity I was looking forward to was a hiking excursion to nearby Pienza with a visit to a flour mill and lunch at an agriturismo. We were to hike about 8 km and two hotel vans were assigned to our group of 12 hikers. The hike was led by Christina, director of the outdoor program at the Adler. The hiking experience was incredible. Christina lead us down country roads among open fields, hills and valleys. The beauty of the scenery will remain etched in my memory forever. It is one thing to drive through the countryside, quite another to walk through it.
Half way through the hike the vans caught up with us and delivered hot and fragrant tea to our group. The mill visit and lunch were a culinary experience that deserve its own post. Suffice it to say that we learned that the Adler’s kitchen was looking for a supplier of organic flour to make their breads, cakes and pasta and found just the right artisanal mill next door to provide it. Going to dinner that night we had a new appreciation for these foods, all made in house at the Adler’s hotel kitchen from products sourced nearby.
A few more treatments, soaks in the thermal pools, fabulous breakfasts, lunches and dinners and our spa interlude came to an end. We felt refreshed as Paulo came to pick us up with his shiny black Mercedes and drive us to the train station. It was a luxurious weekend that will remain in our memories and I am already planning a return trip to this special retreat in the Tuscan hills of Val d’Orcia.
I will be back.
- Hotel ADLER Thermae Spa & Relax Resort
- Strada di Bagno Vignoni
- 53057 San Quirico d’Orcia
- Siena | Italy
- +39 0577 889 001