Best Travel Experience in Italy

Adler Thermae, Italy Tucked away in the Tuscan hills and part of the World Heritage Site of the Val d’Orcia (named after the river that crosses through the valley), this low-slung thermal spa and wellness resort has sophisticated surroundings but a relaxed vibe. I Discovered it one summer with a friend after a particularly gruelling yoga retreat which left me craving some pampering,and I wasn’t disappointed – so much so that I’m returning for my third visit.


All the resort’s 99 rooms have a terrace a balcony facing the landscaped gardens, pools or undulating Tuscan hills with a long line of cypress trees and the pretty hilltop village of Castiglione d’Orcia in the distance. Sour cream-coloured open-plan bedroom is soothing and contemporary, with a leather daybed and walk-in shower in an en suite bathroom,soft wooden floors and a balcony on which I do yoga daily – the staff are so considerate, they even put out a yoga mat for me in the room.

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My husband, five-year-old daughter andI spend a lot of our time soaking in theindoor-come-outdoor thermal pool, which shares its natural water source with the nearby (and gorgeous) medieval town of Bagno Vignoni. The mineral content and constant warmth of the waters are wonderful for de-stressing, easing stiff joints and exfoliating and softening the skin and, as the days go by, we watch the stress lines drop from our tired faces.I become addicted to a particular group of hydro jets, which are set just at the right angle to pound out the tightness of my shoulders. One morning, I also try a gentle yogic breathing class in the waters, expertly led by resident ayurveda expert Dr Babu.


Inside the spa, the hot and cold rooms are seriously impressive. We pay regular visits to the Salino, an Etruscan sauna where the salty steam helps clear up my lingering cold, to the large and fragrant sauna, which has a natural outdoor dipping pool beside it, and to the Artemisia, a herb-infused steam room with smooth, throne-like seatsand a stained glass window in its ceiling. All Three of us share a relaxing naked float in the Grotta Salina, an underground private salt bath which you book as an extra.


Dr Babu’s ayurvedic massage treatments turn out to be the best I have during my week – he has a firm but cosseting touchand clearly cares about everyone he treats.My daughter has her very first ‘chocolate massage’ with the kind and gentle Kristina,and my husband enjoys an excellent shiatsu massage. There’s a wide range of treatments on offer, from water-based body work such as watsu and hydrotherapy to beautifying facials using Adler’s own spa products that draw on the natural benefits of red grapes, milk, honey and olive oil.


If you want a more regimented health kick,Adler Balance programmes focus on detox or weight loss, and there’s also a daily programme of activities, from hydro biking in the main swimming pool to circuits, Pilates and abdominal workouts. Or, just do as we did and take ourselves off for walks and cycle rides in the nearby Tuscan hills (bikes are free).Bagno Vignoni is worth a visit for its historic architecture, little cafés and boutiques full of pretty dresses.


The star of the show is Adler’s rooftop restaurant, which has a retractable glass roof to reveal the stars or blue skies on warm days. Here we feasted on a daily-changing, locally sourced menu of tasty Italian morsels such as king prawn with herbs, veal carpaccio and pheasant breast with wild fennel. I personally wouldn’t come here to detox – the buffet features dozens of glorious puddings from pistachio mousse to chocolate tarts, and so knowledgeable and enthusiastic was our wine waiter that we found it difficult not to try out the best wines in the region.Although if you do want to lose a few pounds, there’s always the weight-loss programme. For me, this is a place to truly relax, and we all left feeling suitably serene.


From €717 for a four-night stay, including breakfast, afternoon cakes/fruit salad andà la carte dinner, plus use of the spa, gymand mountain bikes;


We love Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm (£38 for 100ml; Cleanser, make-up remover and overnight mask in one,when you add a few drops of water to this luxurious botanical balm, it softens into a beautifully scented lotion that glides over your skin.Moringa seeds, wild sea fennel and vitamin E help to balance,purify and minimise the appearance of open pores, while a blend of uplifting orange and neroli revitalise your complexion. Add To this the double-sided cleansing cloth – gentle microfibre on one side (think oh-so-soft bamboo)and a fine, exfoliating muslin on the other – and you have the perfect ingredients for a pampering home facial. It’s a serious contender for Eve Lom’s iconic cleanser!


H&F’s Mary Comber tries an organic anti-ageing facial.

What? Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial, £75 for 60 minutes.

Where? Neals Yard Remedies Spa, Kings Road, London;

‘As a firm believer in natural beauty,I’ve long been a fan of NYR products,from the chemical-free body treats to the delicious, aromatherapy bath oils.When it comes to moisturisers though, I’d often been tempted away by other brand’s anti-ageing claims.Until the arrival of NYR Frankincense skincare range. At last,a natural moisturiser and serum that actually delivered. My skin immediately felt happier; nourished and smooth.So I was pleased to discover the brand offers a Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial. I headed to the NYR Organic Beauty Spa on London’s Kings Road where all treatments,from body to face, use only the purest organic products with no added parabens, GMOs or nano technology. Hooray, no microdermabrasion,evil peels or other similarly harsh techniques here!My therapist asked about my skin before deciding her plan of action.Then came an hour of blissful,organic pampering as she cleansed,steamed and gently exfoliated my skin before nourishing it with layers of unctuous frankincense goodness,from mask and serums to eye creams and facial spritz. An expert facial massage eased away tension and I left the spa looking and feeling decidedly refreshed. In the following days, myskin felt just as, if not more, plumped and glowy than after any so-called high performance’ facial.

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