Adler Thermae Spa Resort | spa retreat, Italy
Super-relaxing family-friendly thermal spa in Tuscany
The Quick Read: Adler Thermae is a deeply relaxing family-friendly spa retreat in rural Tuscany set a few minutes walk from the picturesque Roman spa town of Bagno Vignoni. Its centre piece is the large, warm outdoor pool of soothing, healing thermal waters, set in calming landscaped gardens next to a huge pool for proper swimming. There’s also a fabulous indoor-outdoor spa, and a comprehensive spa treatment menu offering pampering, holistic and healing treatments. The surroundings feel sophisticated, but the vibe is beautifully relaxed – come for a de-stress holiday and enjoy gourmet Italian food in the rooftop restaurant, or make the most of the resident experts and book in for personal one-to-one sessions. Weight loss and detox programmes are also on offer, though you might find it hard to resist the Italian food. It’s popular in the summer, but would make a soothing break all year round, most especially for long weekends if you’re in Europe (fly to Pisa, Rome or Florence and hire a car or arrange for transfers).
Who it’s best for: Mainly friends, families and couples looking to deeply relax, kick-start a healthier lifestyle and take pleasure in treatments, thermal water and good food. It’s an especially perfect place to bond with your child/children in privacy and comfort. Solo travellers on a programme would feel ok here, and there are breaks specifically to help you lose weight or detox, though do note that right now the only evening dining options are in the rooftop restaurant, so you will likely be surrounded by people in groups eating and drinking indulgently around you. All children can bathe in the thermal water, there’s a special kids spa and dinner menu, and a kids club for fun activities and outings with English speaking staff. Children aged 12 and above can use the steam rooms and sauna.
What you can do: Come to relax and indulge or go deeper and get healthier. Bathe in the indoor-outdoor mineral-laden thermal water pool (which has jets and bubbles that go on and off on a cycle) to help boost your immune system, cleanse your skin, re-oxygenate your muscles, improve your breathing and generally feed your whole system. Swim in the cool pool (which is very large and the perfect temperature for lengths and also has a rather fun fast-water circuit). Take time each day to use the extensive spa, and be sure to have some treatments. There’s a well equipped gym, you can book private sessions in personal training, Pilates, yoga and the like, and there’s a daily programme of activities anyone can dip in and out of, from yogic breathing in the thermal water to nordic walking, hydro biking, circuits, Pilates and abdominal workouts.
You’d be insane not to get out into the local area to work out. Two running machines are cleverly set outside so you can pound away whilst enjoying a soothing Tuscan view of Cypress trees and hills, there are bikes and e-bikes free of charge for guests and plenty of walking and running trails – use the hotel’s special walking and biking apps as your guide. To venture further, there are small (free) trips to see local wine, saffron and olive oil estates, go truffle hunting in season, walk to the local castle of Spedaletto, and so on. Siena is just an hour’s drive away.
More on the spa & wellbeing: There are some lovely hot and cold options at the extensive, tawny-coloured, light-filled spa. In an outdoor attractive quadrangle exclusive to adults you can use a hot, dark steam room based in a little grotto and a fabulous wooded sauna with a natural cold plunge pool beside it. Inside, sort your lungs out in the breath-clearing steam room infused with salt, or relax gently in the ‘Artemisia’ herb-infused steam room (our favourite).
Near the main thermal pool, there’s also the Grotta Salina – a heavily salted bath in which to float and cleanse for 15 minutes which you book and pay for separately. To relax, there’s a separate quiet area with day beds or water beds overlooking the outdoor quad, or for more perfect quiet, take yourself off to the other end of the hotel and find the ‘deep refuge’ relaxation area.
Adler Balance programmes focus on detox or weight loss and include check ups, treatments, group and private activity sessions such as breathing and personal training, or just select your own range of treatments from the menu which has everything from vinotherapie, hydrotherapy, osteopathy and physiotherapy to bodywork such as Watsu, Shiatsu, Thai and Tui Na and Ayurveda consultations and massages.
Pampering, beautifying body treatments and facials use Adler’s own spa products, which are preservative and chemical free and draw on the natural benefits of red grapes, milk, honey and olive oil, and there’s an aesthetic medical spa menu for skin treatments to sort out problem areas such as wrinkles and stretch marks if you so choose. You can even get your hair cut.
An elegant medical doctor, Stefania Mazzieri, offers general check ups and holistic medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, cell nutrition consultations, acupuncture and homeopathy, and there are other experts to help with specific issues such as back pain or arthritis. The team can oversee various tests for stress, food or gluten intolerance, and so on – though these tests are not done on site, but sent away to a lab.
Where you stay: The low-rise property is surrounded by calming landscaped gardens and sensitively designed to blend in with the Tuscan landscape and take your view out to the sky and hills whenever possible. A central terracotta-pink building contains the garage, the spa, the reception and bar on three different floors, and is capped by a splendid rooftop restaurant with a retractable glass roof that opens in warmer weather so you can enjoy the turquoise skies or array of stars while you dine.
There are lots of pale grey comfortable loungers dotted around the pool, and for children, a little tucked away outdoor play area, as well as table tennis and table football. The 99 sleek, soothing cream and yellow bedroom suites are arranged nicely in arcs around the central pools and hotel. All have ensuite bathrooms with cream leather day beds and walk-in showers, soft wooden floors and either a terrace or balcony facing the gardens, the pools and looking out over the Tuscan hills.
How was it for us: I have been to Adler Thermae three times over the last 10 years and always loved my visits. The most recent was for a week with my husband Tom and five year old daughter Annoushka for some serious family bonding in privacy and comfort. Most of the guests are Italian and we don’t speak the language, but this suited us, as we kind of disappeared into the cosy bubble of each other’s company.
We loved the simple space of our room, tripping down to the thermal pools all together in our white robes (little one clad in her own provided by the hotel) and taking time over meals. I would wake early and do yoga on our balcony (we visited late October and yet it was still sunny enough) while Annoushka slept and Tom, tempted by the steam coming off the hot water pool, took a pre-breakfast bathe followed by lengths in the cool pool.
We borrowed e-bikes one Sunday morning for a cycle ride through the Tuscan hills to the local town of St Qualico D’Orcia, arriving in the town just as the church bells were peeling, and we ambled a few times around the pretty little spa town of Bagno Vignoni, but we spent most of our time swimming in the large pool or hanging out in the thermal pool, with my husband and I taking it in terms to have treatments or use the sauna and steam rooms.
Tom reported an ‘awesome, thorough and deep’ Thai massage with Thai therapist Somkiat Eamroaud, and Annoushka enjoyed her very first treatment here – a 20 minute ‘Chocolate Massage’ with a friendly therapist called Kristina who used olive oil infused with chocolate essence and was gentle and kind. After, my daughter reported she felt ‘very tired’ (which I assume meant relaxed) and that she ‘wanted more’. I was impressed that afterwards they gave her a cupcake magnet, rather than a sugary chocolate bar.
Apart from a short but expertly hydrating bespoke facial with Elisa on my last night to make up for all the pool and sun action and a friendly hair trim with Laura, I was on a bodywork journey here, trying to sort out very tight shoulders from too much computer work. Treatments were consistently good, usually carried out to a mix of piano and other classical music. I had a strong ‘physio-therapeutic’ massage with Claudia (though wasn’t convinced by her pronouncement that ‘a two hour strong massage is too much for the body’ – for me, it’s just right!), and a good deep tissue massage with Simone, who had kind brown eyes and encouraged me to breathe through my mouth throughout to help me relax more.
I also had a ‘Kerala’ – or ayurvedic oil massage – with Raymondo, who is an osteopath, and whose massage felt far more osteopathic than it did ayurvedic. If you want a 100% nurturing experience, do ask for the right therapist – whilst both Simone and Raymond were good, I wasn’t entirely sure what either of them were going to do next, so couldn’t entirely relax. By contrast, my Master Ayurvedic sesame oil massage with Dr Babu, was deep, nourishing and induced in me a feeling of total peace.
What we took home: Clean, clear, brown soft skins, tension-free bodies and happy hearts.
Would we go back: Absolutely – I have been back three times now.
People watch: All the staff throughout our stay were helpful and effective, but most especially the child-friendly restaurant staff, including Manfredo, Seldon and Marco. The therapist we enjoyed most was Dr Babu, the resident ayurvedic doctor from Kerala, who had soft strong hands and a perfect nurturing touch that some of the other male therapists lacked.
Food watch: Breakfast is a sumptuous buffet that can be as indulgent or healthy as you want, from champagne and chocolate pancakes to egg white omelettes and a pear, carrot and ginger juice made yourself at a juicing station. The offer lacked anything green on our visit (apart from the celery on the juicing station) but when we asked they happily provided steamed local spinach with our omelette.
Lunch (in the restaurant during cooler months or in the poolside Osteria during the summer) is a salad buffet with home made morsels such as pizza, quiches and Tuscan specialities (the olive alternative to the scotch egg was quite something) to start with followed by daily changing fish, meat and pasta options depending on how hungry you are. The bar serves basic snacks (such as a cheese and ham toastie – though on our visit white bread was the only option).
Dinner is the main event, served from 730 to 930 pm – if you’re used to eating earlier, be sure to secure a snack in the afternoon. Menus are gourmet Italian and change daily, with a seriously impressive salad, vegetable, meat and cheese buffet to help yourself to and dozens of glorious puddings (chocolate fountain, tiramasu, light pistachio mousse, you get the picture – and you’ll find it hard to resist).
Savoury dishes are expertly prepared, beautifully served and purely Mediterranean, using fish and meat sourced seasonally and locally wherever possible such as king prawn with herbs, veal carpaccio, salt cod and truffle wholemeal roll and charred fillet of sea bream with dill. There’s a sprinkling of vegetarian options, such as asparagus cream soup followed by rice timbale with tofu, vegetables and pinenut pesto. Naturally there’s an extensive wine menu (our favourite house white? The St Quirinus Sauvignon Blanc Bio 2014). Children can eat at 7pm with you in the elegant rooftop restaurant, or in the kids club with other children.
In the spa there are bowls of apples available and sachets of Adler’s own blend of herbal teas but other than that, food is quite an elaborate affair here. Do ask if you want specially tailored weight loss, detox or healthy eating options, and note this isn’t the place to come if you want to lose weight but have no willpower, as everyone eats together in the same (very lovely) restaurant. Plans are afoot for a second restaurant for those on special diets for 2017.
What’s queenly: Lingering late over breakfast in the elegant rooftop restaurant after everyone has gone, sipping green tea from our Villeroy & Boch china tea cup, writing, dreaming and soaking up the view of the Tuscan hills through an open window. And in the spa – spending a good while in the ‘Artemisia’ herb-infused steam room, which has gorgeously smooth throne-like seats and an intriguing blue and cream stain glass window design of earth fissures in the ceiling.
What’s lowly: There isn’t any attempt here to limit people smoking. Our early morning yoga practice on our balcony was marred a couple of times by our neighbours smoking on their terrace below, and there were people occasionally smoking around the thermal pool, which felt rather antisocial and smelt horrid. There were also a few ‘rules’ at the hotel which we found frustrating – not being able to have our own iron in our room; having to wear disposable underwear for each and every massage (‘for hygienic reasons’); and not being able to have a table to play cards on near an open fireplace (‘for safety reasons’).
Insider tip: No need to pack a bag – you’ll get a natty slate-grey bag to keep all your bits in throughout your stay which are one of the best we’ve come across at a spa retreat – big enough to carry whatever you need, strong enough to stand upright, waterproof, yet still stylish.
Price with a companion: From 384 euros (£285) for two people based on two sharing, including use of the facilities and half board.
Price going solo: From 262 euros (£187) for two people based on two sharing, including use of the facilities and half board.
Value for Money: This is a very reasonably priced spa resort for the standard of service and facilities you get, but as with most spas, the bill for drinks, teas and treatments can soon add up. You could opt for a spa programme to make things more cost effective – Best of Adler Spa, for example, includes five treatments for 363 euros and works out more affordable than if you booked them separately. Some things are surprisingly affordable – a hair cut is only 23 euros, for example.
Sister retreats: Adler Dolomiti is a 120-bedroomed five star ‘spa and sport resort’ in the town of Ortisei Val Gardena in the Dolomites in the North of Italy. It’s set in 9000 square metres of its own private parkland and has the largest wellness facility in the Dolomites, with three distinct zones: Dolasilla for beauty & vitality, Aguana where the pools, including thermals are located, and AdlerFit for sport & fitness.
Adler Balance is linked to the Adler Dolomiti, via an underground pedestrian walkway, so benefits from all the facilities of the original hotel, but is a 31 bedroomed medical centre with three doctors in residence who can offer a complete health screening and supervised treatments according to your needs, whether they be cosmetic, medical or stress-related. The Balance is also a certified Mayr client for those who wish to follow a strict detox regime and lose weight, and a child-free zone.
Adler Mountain Lodge is great for escaping everything, set deliciously remotely right the middle of the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has just 30 bedrooms, a small spa, daily exercise classes, guided walks and mountain bikes and an infinity wrap-around heated outdoor pool. They also do dedicated yoga weeks here in low season.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
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