First sighting of Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort at a bend of the road in southwest Tuscany is a large speckled building near a splashing waterfall with people sitting contentedly in the midst of the foam – and the faint aroma of rotten eggs.
Welcome to the thermal baths of the Maremma region.
Since ancient times, this region among the Grosseto hills has been home to numerous underground sulfurous hot springs lauded for their health-giving qualities – for skin, respiration, blood circulation and rheumatic ailments.
A member of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World,’ the 5-star Saturnia, owned by Antonella Manuli, has attracted visitors for generations, with all 128 rooms bearing the names of local plants and trees such as azalea, lavender and bay.
A long winding road that begins at a sturdy electronic gate before skirting the hotel’s eco-friendly, Bermuda grass golf course, the only one designed by American architect Ronald Fream in Italy, leads under a stone archway to a walled, gravel parking lot.
With five accommodation options, including two grand suites and 11 executive rooms, the hotel offers plenty of choice. Our spacious upper-floor deluxe room overlooked a grassy inner courtyard resplendent with olive trees and a trellis festooned with pink and red roses, a most tranquil retreat.
Highlight of the hotel is, of course, its much-heralded healing waters. Located in a large open space beside a terrace where breakfast is served, the bathing area consists of a large central pool with threads of nutrient-rich algae floating on top and a network of smaller, step-in Jacuzzi-like tanks around it. Housed inside a few steps away are sauna and steam rooms and a 54-room spa.
A clear view is offered from the main pool to the castle turret in the hilltop village of Saturnia a few miles away and an airy relaxation room with comfy sofas and chaise longues overlooking the pools and surrounding countryside. Treatments in the spa are diverse with some lasting several days comprising a regime of exercise, such as pilates, physiokinetic therapy, facials and frequent mud applications.
There are three notable massages – the ‘Saturnia Amber’ that I enjoyed immensely in which balls of ancient fossil resin from the Baltics were used to help relax and detoxify my body; the ‘Gold Experience,’ in which a mix of 24-carot gold, silk and ginger are used to help stimulate production of collagen and elastin, as well, as a scrub enriched with extracts of ginger, chamomile, silk protein and jojoba oil to exfoliate the skin; and the ‘Emotional Four Hands’ massage, with two masseuses working together in harmony. My companion opted for the ‘Saturnia Mud Pack,’ known for its high anti-oxidizing properties, followed by a revitalising massage with aromatic oils. She emerged smiling broadly.
We enjoyed dinner in a cozy corner of the hotel’s Michelin-star All’Acquacotta restaurant, with the food prepared under the guidance of young chef, Alessandro Bocci. The quality of bread often being a strong precursor of the quality of the food to come, All’Acquacotta passed with flying colors, with five different varieties – saffron, chamomile, unsalted Tuscany-style, red onion and focaccia with tomato and oregano. They were accompanied by a miniature porcelain carafe of zesty olive oil called La Maliosa, named after the daughter of the owner, from groves on the Manuli family estate.
Of our two starters – carpaccio of veal overlaid with a light yoghurt and tuna cream and the trio of fois gras, the latter was more irresistible. How could it not be when one of the trio was a tiramisu – brioche soaked in coffee, layered with a mousse of cream cheese and foie gras and another was in the form of a hazelnut and pineapple lollipop.
Our second plate was pure Tuscan, rigatoni with goose ragout and black truffle sauce presented like a miniature stack of logs. The ragout was a delightful example of authentic Italian meat sauce, with the added umami flavor from the truffles. Our main, seared deer terrine, was a crumbly meat loaf nestling on a layer of bread, accompanied by black cabbage and potatoes, cream of leek, crispy polenta and raspberry sauce, the dish a gourmet version of the traditional Tuscan dish, crostino, in which meat, mainly liver, is pan-seared with a slice of bread on top that absorbs the juice.
Inspired by the Italian ‘merenda,’ a midday snack of prosciutto, pecorino cheese and pears accompanied by a glass of wine, chef Bocci created his own variation – ‘taste of Maremma,’ a tube of spiced Morellino wine jelly filled with pear and sheep’s milk ice cream.
After-dinner drinks showed a touch of kitchen flair, chocolate bon bons filled with sambuca, grappa and rum all handmade near Puglia.
Tucked away quietly in the rolling hills of southern Tuscany, Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort is a relaxing retreat, a haven for mind and body pampering.