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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Escape to Tuscany

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Sean Sheehan

Summer in London can be a bit of an ordeal: the tourists, the weather, the grumpy brexiters, so while we’re still attached to the continent, we should embrace our europassports and our European Health Insurance cards while we still can and get out there. Traditional beach holiday places to get away to — Sharm el Sheikh, Turkey’s west coast beaches, Tunisia — have got a bit scary in the last couple of years so where better to find a bit of peace than Tuscany. The pretty ancient city of Florence beckons for a few days before heading off into the heartland to a tiny village called Bagno Vignoni and its resident luxury spa hotel.

Going from one overcrowded city to another makes sense in the case of Florence: beautiful artwork, elegant ancient buildings, pretty squares and cobbled streets offer hours of sunny people-watching and gift-buying. Your evenings can be spent high above the streets in places like Se-Sto on Arno (sestoonarno.com) a cocktail bar and restaurant with magnificent views over the city, or La Terazza (lungarnocollection.com/la-terrazza-lounge-bar) at the Hotel Continentale or spend long lazy lunches people-gazing in the city’s squares at venues like Irene Firenze at the Savoy Hotel (roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/hotel-savoy) in the Piazza della Repubblica or on the terrace at JK Place (jkplace.com) in Piazza di Santa Maria Novella.

Travel, Escape to Tuscany

Even a city as beautiful as Florence can be exhausting, even if it’s just watching the crocodile lines of tour groups weaving their way around the city while you sip a cocktail in one of its squares. After a satisfying culturefest in the city, it’s your body and not your mind that demands to be pampered. Enter Adler Thermae (adler-thermae.com), reached by a short train ride from Florence to Chiusi Chianciano station where a hotel pickup and a 45-minute drive is all that stands between you and a four-day package of rest, country walks, spa treatments and the comfort of having you every need catered for.

Travel, Escape to Tuscany

The resort hotel is built around ancient thermal hot springs in the Tuscan hillside outside the tiny village of Bagno Vignoni and its tempting to stay within the hotel grounds, enjoying the 1000 sq meters of indoor and outdoor healthy hot spring waters and choosing from the many spa treatments. The hotel organises activities ranging from yoga sessions and pilates to wine tastings, cycling tours and trips to small farms and vineyards. Meals are part of the package and quite fancy affairs in the huge dining room open to the summer sky.

Most people come to the resort for its spa which treatments are extensive and make use of several of the hot springs. Its offerings include various types of massage to beauty treatments, detox and weight loss programmes and a whole string of medical programmes from traditional treatments to holistic and more alternative ones. Packages include the cost of one spa treatment per person but more can be arranged.

Travel, Escape to Tuscany

Best of all are the very spacious guest rooms, all with comfortable lounge areas, huge bathrooms filled with Adler’s own toiletries, terraces or balconies built around the several hot spring pools and beautifully manicured gardens with lovely views over the surrounding hillsides. Ask for a room on the top floor for the best views and most privacy.

If you can tear yourself away from the hotel there are signposted routes in the surrounding countryside to walk or cycle using bikes provided by the hotel. A pleasant morning’s walk is to the nearby medieval town of San Quirico d’ Orcia with its ancient churches and walled garden. The walk passes through quiet flower-bedecked fields and vineyards while the little town has craft shops, and cafés and the gardens make a perfect spot for a picnic.

From the earliest light, relaxing in the volcanic waters of the swimming pool, to watching the sunset over the rows of cypress trees on the hills beyond the hotel, your days can be as activity-filled or indulgent or as restful as you choose. Florence and the Tuscan countryside, between them, provide solace and pleasure to the body and the mind.

Escape to Tuscany, Travel

Vueling (vueling.com) and Cityjet (cityjet.com) do regular flights to Florence from Gatwick.

A bus service from Florence airport to the city bus station runs every 30 minutes; taxi fares are fixed for direct journeys to your hotel

Trains travel to Chiusi Chianciano from Florence (Firenze) station. Journey time is a little over one and a half hours.

Tickets can be booked in advance at Italiarail.com

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