From secluded villas in Tuscany and Umbria to the historic cityscapes of Florence and Rome or the sublime beaches of Sardinia, Italy boasts a diverse range of holiday destinations. While the most famous spots have much to offer, where’s best to visit when nothing but 100% relaxation is in order? Unwind with this selection of Italy’s best wellness retreats.
Nestled on the edge of the Stelvio National Park in the Italian Alps are the Bagni Vecchi, or old baths, of Bormio. Snow-capped peaks, winding mountain valleys and unspoiled alpine flora provide the backdrop to these ancient hot springs. Used as far back as Roman times, both Pliny the Elder and Leonardo da Vinci are said to have taken a dip here. As well as relaxing in a 2000-year-old cave that holds the original Roman baths, guests can melt away stress in a natural Turkish bath set 50 metres into the rock face and admire the views of the Bormio basin from the resort’s outdoor infinity pool.
Just outside Padua in northeast Italy lie the Euganean Hills. This volcanic region has a high concentration of natural hot springs; many of which now exclusively feed individual spas and resorts. The Hotel Millepini Thermal Spa is one of the most popular and offers a particular range of fangotherapy treatments. Fango, or mud, from the nearby Lake Costa is mixed with thermal water and kept at 38°C for 60 days. The resulting bacteria have anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat a number of ailments and illnesses – as well as making a scientifically soothing spa treatment.
Originally an 11th-century monastery and later a walled hamlet, Castel Monastero is a luxury resort tucked into the Tuscan hills not far from Siena. The rural yet refined stone buildings that make up the complex are home to elegant hotel suites, a gourmet restaurant (where Gordon Ramsay is consultant chef) and, of course, a spa. Castel Monastero offers wellness with a purpose – guests can book specific three or seven-day programmes tailored towards anti-aging, detox or weight-loss. It’s even used as a sanctuary for patients to recover from plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Kaliyoga runs a number of wellness retreats across Europe but their base in Puglia is especially stunning. This sunny region that forms the heel of Italy’s boot is characterised by dry-stone walls, rows of twisted olive trees and trulli. These distinctive stone houses with cone-shaped roofs provide the accommodation for the retreat while guests practice yoga in a traditional Puglian farmhouse. Natural health treatments such as reflexology and massage compliment the sessions while the alcohol-free, vegetarian menu is prepared using the best produce from local farms.
If lounging in pools all day and having to stay still while a masseuse rubs essential oils on you sounds less than fun, an active stay at Verdura Spa in Sicily might be more your thing. The 7-night retreats take place in the sun-drenched setting of Sciacca, a seaside town near Agrigento on the southwestern coast of Sicily. As well as the usual programmes focused on stress management or detoxing, guests can choose from more intense retreats packed with exercise classes to aid weight loss or even a week of private tennis coaching.
Set in 27 acres of gently rolling hills, woodland and olive groves overlooking Lake Garda, Lefay Resort & Spa have built a wellness retreat which is kind to the environment as well as to aching bodies. The building itself was designed to blend in with the natural environment both inside and out – natural materials from the local area were used for the interiors while the outdoor infinity pool appears to merge seamlessly into the lake. Eco-credentials aside, the spa boasts indoor and outdoor salt-water pools, six saunas at varying levels of temperature and humidity, an ice pool, and a nature and fitness area where guests can take part in outdoor activities exercise classes. Perhaps it’s no surprise this resort won the Best Luxury Eco-Spa award in 2017.