Deep in the heart of Tuscany — perhaps the most fabled of all of Italy’s 21 regions — lies a trio of exceptionally beautiful, serene, and luxurious resorts (all are rated four stars).
Jointly owned by the Paradise Hotel & Spa group, the hotels are now part of an innovative—and surprisingly affordable—package that allows savvy travelers to experience, in any combination of their choice, all three of these magnificent properties.
For a little over $700, visitors can design their own itinerary during a six-night stay, in a double room including a lavish breakfast fit for — I had to say it — a king, or even a Pope. And you’ll feel like one, too, after waking up in a thirteenth-century palazzo or a seventeenth-century villa.
The resorts are all within driving distance of each other, so traveling time is minimal, leaving visitors free to engage in other pursuits such as spending a day in Siena, one of Italy’s most glorious cities, or visiting one of the area’s spectacular vineyards, where some of the world’s greatest wines are produced, or shopping in one of the many elegant shops in Cortona, another exquisite city with roots dating back to the thirteenth century.
The Grand Hotel Terme is located in the spa town of Chianciano Terme (pr. kyan-CHAN-o TAIR-me). It rises on a steep hill overlooking the Val d’Orcia—an important natural, artistic and cultural park, the source of inspiration for numerous Renaissance artists, and which has been declared a World Heritage Site.
This intimate hotel contains 50 rooms, each firmly planted in the twenty-first century with all its technology and comforts. There’s an outside swimming pool with a solarium, a spa, and an excellent restaurant called the Belle Vue. Chianciano is a thermal center, rich in mineral waters that aid the digestive system. Chianciano rises more than 1,700 ft. above sea level, a height that has allowed the town to preserve huge amounts of green in its thermal parks, villas, hotels and public gardens.
Chianciano’s Civic Archaeological Museum houses a remarkable array of Etruscan art, including a prince’s grave, precious vases, Hellenistic pottery, and alabaster urns found near the necropolis of the ancient city it once served. For those in search of quiet and reflective solitude, a lovely pine forest lies a short walking distance from the hotel. The surrounding area contains several picture-perfect medieval hamlets that are sure to delight, and the artistic cities such as Città della Pieve, Castiglione del Lago, Montalcino and Montepulciano are all short distances from one another. If any of them rings a familiar bell, you may have drunk some of these top-quality wines at your table.
The Cortona Resort and Spa, located a short drive from Cortona, is a seventeenth-century villa located in a private seven-and-a-half acre park complete with walking paths, doves billing and cooing their way throughout the day, and the scent of rosemary, thyme, and lavender perfuming the air. This intimate, 26-room resort is actually made up of three different villas—Villa Aurea, il Villino, and la Limonaia. The resort contains a contemporary wellness center located inside the Villa Aurea, and an Aqua Spa Gold, a true piece of paradise in a cave surrounded by the enchanting natural park.
The Wellness Center contains:
- Five cabins for holistic treatments and advanced beauty
- A Finnish sauna
- An impressive hammam
- A salt cave treatment with chromotherapy
- An icefall
- Three showers
- A warm pool containing a whirlpool area with twelve seats
- A relaxation room with music therapy
- An exclusive “Spa Suite” designed for the treatment of couples, with a Jacuzzi for two, sauna-infrared, LCD TV, and a private bathroom.
Located in the picturesque scenery of a natural cave, the Aqua Spa Gold offers:
- Thalasso-spa treatments: sub-rain massages, a tepidarium, aroma steam baths, and mud and algae applications that take advantage of the virtues of sea water
- Eastern holistic treatments including Ayurvedic massage, Shirodhara, and stone therapy to rebalance the mind, detoxify the body and reshape your body
- A truly unique sensory experience: a red wine massage to benefit from the virtues of treatments, massage milk, chocolate, champagne, aromatherapy, music and massage-rain to enjoy a tactile, auditory and olfactory experience
- Personalized treatments to reduce stress. Guests can also experience the IPM, a unique vacuum massage using the unique properties of thermal or sea water.
Cortona Resort and Spa doesn’t stop there. The Court restaurant serves high-end gourmet meals that usually include seasonal tastings typical of the area. As for the wines—well, they are simply superb, representing some of the finest vineyards in Italy.
A short drive from the resort is the town of Cortona, an exquisite hill town with entrance steps so steep the town has actually built gleaming escalators into the hill. For those expecting the same treatment on the way down, however, there is no downhill equivalent. This picture-perfect town is one of the most important medieval and renaissance centers in Tuscany, with town squares, gorgeous palaces, churches with precious frescoes and a medieval fortress. The restaurants are many, and delectable; a simple dish of freshly made ravioli sprinkled with nothing but truffles and parmesan cheese is out of this world. The town is also filled with elegant (and expensive) leather and jewelry shops.
Cortona is the epicenter of an area that represents a large part of the world’s artistic heritage. Not far away are the Fameta Abbey and the Franciscan Eremy of Celle, both very beautiful; and day trips to Lake Trasimeno, Monte Amiata, Val di Chiana, the medieval hamlet towns of Arezzo, Gubbio, Montepulciano, and the cities of Siena and Florence also allow visitors to be dazzled and amazed in ways they may have never thought possible.
Last but by no means least on Paradise Hotels & Spas’ resort package is the Castello di Leonina Relais, a spectacular, thirteenth-century fortress that underwent a major renovation in 2002. The fortress sits high atop a hill surrounding the Siena Clays, a beautiful area included by UNESCO on its World Heritage List; the name “Clay” derives from the material that casts a peculiar-light blue color to the landscape that might even be described as “lunar.” The Castello once served as the residence of the princely Chigi family, and used as a summer residence by Cardinal Fabio Chigi, who later became Pope Alexander VII. Following Paradise’s tradition of intimacy and quietude on their estates, Castello Leonina contains but 21 rooms (Standard, Deluxe, Senior, Junior Suite, and Suite) that maintain historical purity (they are all gorgeous, retaining their period style), while also offering every modern comfort. It also boasts a very fine restaurant—two, in fact—as well as a Wellness Center containing a sauna and Turkish bath, each offering an array of various treatments that are sure to reduce stress and produce relaxation.
Located between Asciano and the spectacular city of Siena, famous the world over, the Castello sits amidst a glorious landscape that serves as home to countless medieval villages, villas, castles, churches, monasteries, museums and archeological sites. Siena’s historical center, including its very beautiful town square (which is actually a circle), is under UNESCO protection. To miss this gorgeous city would be a crime.
Paradise Hotels and Spa’s six-night package in Tuscany is highly unusual both for its reasonable cost and the beauty and serenity of its three stunning properties. The summer months—the season associated with Tuscany by so many visitors—are, as always, a popular time of year to go, but it must also be emphasized that there are fantastic opportunities to avoid the crowds in the spring and fall. The weather is equally temperate even in off-season—it was 84°, crystal clear and sunny, with little or no humidity when I went—and offers tourists weary of summer crowds a warm, relaxing and incredibly restful sojourn they will never forget.
Paradise Hotels and Spa’s six-night package of choosing which hotels to stay in, and for how long, offers its guests a rare opportunity to spend a spectacular week in three luxurious and highly unusual resorts. After all, how many tourists get to spend a few nights in a castle? O.K., so designing your own kingdom may not be easy, but someone has to do it. The far more difficult decision? Knowing when to leave. Now that’s a real toughie.