What could be better than a few days spent food and wine tasting in Northern Tuscany? I passed several days sipping delicious wines, sampling tasty food and savoring serene spa moments in Tuscany — all while escaping the mid-February doldrums in Philadelphia. My base for exploration was the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, nestled on an expansive estate overlooking the mountainous Serchio Valley. From here I easily explored the Italian cities and towns of Castelnuovo di Garfagna, Barga, Pisa and Lucca, discovering lesser-known parts of Tuscany. In addition to the spa, Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa boasts more than 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space as well as updated guestrooms and suites, two pools, on-site dining options and a spacious fitness center — making it the perfect Italian treat for couples, families or large groups. During my off-season visit, there were two large groups also staying for company meetings and incentives. Further appealing to guests is the location, offering the opportunity to easily explore the region or to stay at the resort and partake of unique offerings. The property assisted in arranging a number of my sightseeing activities, including a daytrip to Pisa for a glimpse at its iconic Leaning Tower and a visit to nearby Podere Concori Winery for an exclusive tasting of its local, biodynamic wines. The resort’s culinary experience with the chef offers a great diversion for groups of any size. I set out with both the executive chef and pastry chef on a foggy Saturday morning to peruse Barga’s local markets for fresh, vibrant ingredients before heading back to the property to prepare my own lunch from scratch — of course, with the assistance and guidance of the professionals. Travelers can curate the menus to their liking; I opted for eggplant Parmesan, spinach ravioli, fried zucchini blossoms and a fresh fruit tart. But I was also there to kick back in the spa, and relax I did with a treatment at both the beginning and end of my five-day visit. The spa’s smaller size lends an air of exclusivity to the experience; it feels as if it’s all your own. Treatments, which include facials, massages, scrubs, wraps and hair removal, use authentic and indigenous ingredients from the Serchio Valley such as lavender, rosemary, chamomile, mint, olive oil, chestnut honey and grapes.
The spa offers a number of signature treatments. A bio treatment uses eco-biological ingredients from Tuscany to provide antioxidant, anti-aging and moisturizing benefits through a face and body mask; a scalp, face and body massage; and an eye and lip cream application. And the Wine Therapy experience, which utilizes wine, lemon juice and grape pomace, caps off with a glass of red. I’m a sucker for massages, so I opted to indulge during both visits. Upon arrival in the late afternoon after touring on my first full day in Italy, I wanted to rest my jet-lagged body with a full-body massage. The moisturizing honey massage sounded tempting, combining the spa-goer’s choice of either gold, lavender or rose with honey extract. I selected rose. The locker room, though small, was still well-equipped with amenities for a post-treatment shower; however, it lacked some of the elements of privacy found at larger facilities. I changed into my robe and slippers quickly, eager for the treatment to begin. The treatment room was simple yet calming, with cool beige tones and a striking, black-and-white piece of artwork on the wall. For my second treatment a few days later, I found myself with the same therapist in the same treatment room, and each time, the artwork caught my attention and drew my eye both upon arrival and exit. When I returned again after a full day of sightseeing on my last day, I chose the 50-minute head, neck and shoulder massage. I had been daydreaming of a scalp and face massage since seeing the option on the spa menu a few days prior. I find massages focused on that region of the body particularly soothing. Post-treatment, guests are invited to unwind in a second-level area, with a long row of cozy lounge chairs facing a wall of windows overlooking the tranquil, mountainous vista. The view alone is relaxing, but when coupled with the dream-like trance that follows a luxurious massage, it’s otherworldly. Both treatments were, in a word, blissful. Nestled in the storybook setting of Tuscany, this crazed, winter-weary traveler found a fairy tale.
RENAISSANCE TUSCANY IL CIOCCO RESORT & SPA
Via Giovanni Pascoli Castelvecchio Pascoli Barga, Lucca 55051 Italy tel 39 0583 7691 marriott.com
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.
Are you looking for a truly unique travel experience and considering a new vehicle? The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program is the perfect solution to create your own refined adventure of a lifetime. You can custom order your new Volvo, tailored to fit your needs and desires. They will fly you to Sweden to pick up your Volvo so you can drive and explore Scandinavia and Europe on your terms for up to two weeks.
When you think of a relaxing spa day, mountains, rivers and view of gorgeous landscapes pop in your head; a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city’s booming music and honking taxis. SoJo Spa Club and Hotel gives you the relaxing feeling of being away while still staying close to the busy center of Manhattan.
Dance the night away with Grand Hotel’s Ballroom Dance offer, available May 16–18. Dancers of all skill levels will experience a diverse range of ballroom dance styles, alongside daily breakfast and dinner, a welcome reception and complimentary golf green fees.
Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.