|Grotta Giusti has natural thermal pools in a park-like setting.|
Aside from the luxe surroundings, the 100-plus acres of parks, and the spa pools fed by natural hot springs, Grotta Giusti is home to the largest cave in Europe, a unique multilevel grotta discovered 160 years ago. It’s also an easy drive west of Florence, in Monsummano Terme. Visitors wear long hooded robes into this Dante-inspired steam bath, which is warmed by vapors from deep in the earth. All is quiet on the three levels—Paradise, Purgatory and the Inferno, with its 98 percent humidity—guests relax in lounge chairs before descending to each more humid level. Garibaldi, Verdi, and actor Vittorio Gassman were regular guests of the Grotta.
Guests who would rather spa in their superior or deluxe rooms can turn on a special tap and the spa waters will flow into the bathtub. Otherwise, there are indoor and outdoor warm mineral pools and treatments galore to enjoy, including Longevity Week, a program devoted to helping guests achieve long and healthy lives. The 8,000-square-feet outdoor thermal pool maintains a temperature of about 35 degree Celsius and contains minerals that have soothed bathers from the times of battle-worn soldiers of the Roman Empire to exhausted CEOs. The hot volcanic mud used for treatments is of the same temperature as the springs and is used for health as well as beauty. The spa has 14 aesthetic treatment rooms, 12 massage rooms and 12 cabins for mud treatments.
Spa Manager Marzia Morini ([email protected]) can answer specific questions for guests inquiring about special spa programs.
The 19th-century villa has 58 double rooms and six Junior Suites, all with white marble bathrooms. The spa building is connected to the hotel, so guests can reach the pools and treatment rooms without going outside. Travel advisors can reach out to Hotel Manager Andrea Petri ([email protected]; 011-39-0572-90771).
We stayed in deluxe room No. 112, with a park view; No. 108 is a similar room with a mountain panorama. We saw two Junior Suites: No. 301 has a park view, walk-in-closet balcony, and marble bath with separate tub and shower; while No. 307 has a view toward the back of the property with a large bathroom (all Junior Suites facing the back view have an accessible second bathroom).
Chef Giuseppe Argentino won the 2011 Collegium Coccorum award from the Federation of Italian Chefs and we found his 0km (zero kilometer) cuisine a great combination of inventive and traditional. A vegan himself, he offers gluten-free and vegetarian dishes, as well as local meats and dairy such as fresh ricotta from Pistoia.
Things to do at Grotta Giusti include morning walks, golf at a course three miles away and day trips to Lucca, Barga, Vinci and San Gimignano.
Wi-Fi is available at both Grotta Giusti and Fonteverde for those who want to stay connected, though we found it easy to leave the smartphone in the room when we went to the pool or for a treatment.
Fonteverde Tuscan Resort & Spa, in the fabled Val d’Orcia area at San Casciano dei Bagni, exemplifies the Latin definition of spa, Salus Per Aquam, “health through water.” (It’s also an excellent location for that other famous Tuscan liquid, vino.)
These natural warm springs were a favorite spot of the Etruscans, the Romans and the Grand Duke Ferdinando de Medici, who built a pavilion on the property in 1607.
Today the villa hotel’s natural waters fill seven therapeutic pools and are the key element in beauty and health treatments. Travel advisors can contact Hotel Manager Antonino Cardillo and Spa Manager Gabriella Carletti (both at [email protected]; 011-39-0578-57241) with special requests.
Suites include the Cristina di Lorena, with a view of the valley, separate living room and two marble bathrooms. The Junior Suites are on the first floor of the original building and all have balconies and a view of the rolling hills. Other levels of rooms include privilege, deluxe and queen rooms designed for single occupancy.
The treatments themselves are so inviting, it’s hard to remember that we are in the wine country, near so many places to visit: Siena, Orvieto, Cetona, Pienza and Montalcino. But we can’t resist the salt therapies and the post-Kniepp red Siena clay wrap. 0Km (zero kilometer) here extends beyond the Ferdinando I restaurant to other local products used for treatments, including honey, red grapes, chestnut flour and pomegranate.
|A Fontverde Junior Suite has a lovely outdoor area overlooking the countryside.|
Chef Salvatore Quarto, from Puglia, has designed a menu that combines southern and central Italy, health and great taste. The chef prepares meals for those with dietary restrictions and offers a lunch buffet that is both guilt-free and delicious—guests using the spa may come to lunch in spa robes. With the summer evening light and the extraordinary view, dinner on the portico feeds both body and soul.
Bike itineraries, horseback riding and hiking can be arranged for those who can bear to leave the spa. There is an enoteca (wine bar) onsite, the Bottigliera, where the sommelier conducts tastings of Tuscan wines during happy hour.
Fonteverde accepts dogs and cats and offers a thermal bath for Fido’s arthritis and skin problems.
Both properties are owned by the STB group and both are members of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.