The Valdorcia is one of my very favourite areas to visit in Tuscany, it embodies so much about what I love about this region — the green and golden rolling hills, magnificent stone hamlets, rustic and genuine country food and the delights of the natural landscape, in particular the pampering hot springs.
In Bagno Vignoni, one of the most charming towns of the area, natural thermal springs flow that have been attracting travellers since Roman times who appreciated the water’s curing and revitalising properties. Not surprising then that Saint Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo the Magnificent liked to visit too. In Piazza delle Sorgenti is an enormous, stunning, fifteenth century pool filled with the steaming hot spring water — particularly beautiful to see in the cooler months when the steam is rising up from the water into the cool air. These thermal waters are the hottest in Tuscany (about 50C) so this is another reason why this is a spot I love to visit in the winter because there is nothing like being outdoors in the water in the winter but feeling like you are wrapped up in a warm cocoon!
Recently, I was invited to experience Bagno Vignoni’s thermal waters at the Adler Resort, a short walk from the historic town. The whole theme of this resort is comfort and relaxation — once you walk in, you feel immediately taken care of. The girls spied the Kids Club and just wanted to stay there for the rest of the stay! Our 8 year old joined in on movie night after dinner in their mini cinema, walks to Bagno Vignoni, lunch, crafts and free play (which the little one loved too). There’s also an outdoor playground and an area to play bocce (boules), so it is full of things to keep kids busy.
Our room was a large family suite with a second bedroom attached, a comfortable lounge area and a terrace that overlooked the valley and hills with those iconic cypress trees lining the long driveways to hill top farmhouses. I’m told this is the quiet side of the hotel — indeed, it is incredibly peaceful and private. The opposite wing of the hotel has a view over the hot spring pools, which is popular for those who like to be amongst it all.
The first thing we did when we arrived in our room was get into our swimmers — of course! In the room was a whole set of fluffy white dressing gowns for the whole family for going to the pools in and we couldn’t wait to get in — and the out — of them! The pools of thermal hot springs begin with a serene indoor pool that has an automatic door that leads into the main outdoor pool which looks out over the valley, and it is here around which our mornings and evenings revolved. There are sections that have water jets like a jacuzzi and there is a central waterfall that is heavenly to stand under for a great shoulder and neck massage! Coming first thing in the morning at 8am before anyone else was there one was one of the best things we did, and I highly recommend it! We could have easily spent all day here, if it weren’t for hungry tummies rumbling.
The Food and Wine
Considering that breakfast and dinner are included in the stay, the restaurant is an important feature of the resort and they pride themselves on their housemade offerings, from the jam to the bread to the pasta and excellent pastries and desserts. Working with many local producers, the chef Gaetano Vaccaro, likes to highlight the ingredients of the Valdorcia, for example local saffron, honey, salumi, cheese, seasonal fruits and the stone ground, organic ancient grain flour from the nearby Mulino Valdorcia for their pasta and bread (which is so popular that guests want to take it home; you can by ordering it 24 hours ahead of time! During dinner you receive a beautiful bread basket full of different types of baked goodies so you can taste test ahead of time). Seeing as the bread is so good, it is unsurprising that they also do a superlative pappa al pomodoro, a bread and tomato soup, easily one of the best I have tasted. Handrolled pici with local Chianina beef ragu was a highlight — and just what I wanted to eat being in the Valdorcia — and tiny, pillowy gnocchi with creamy vongole sauce was a nice change.
Much appreciated was the children’s menu but there is no doubt that their favourite part of dinner was the buffet of desserts, in particular the gelato. Handy tip: if you see something you like, you better taste it then and there as every night the menu and offerings change! The chestnut cake with rosemary gelato and custard was my favourite. After dinner, you can wander to the bar where you’ll find a view overlooking the lit-up thermal pools and people playing cards in front of the fireplace or live music.
Breakfast, like dessert, is a generous spread, buffet style (in singular portions carefully displayed in glass Weck jars), while you can ask the chef for eggs, any which way, cooked on the spot. There’s also fresh bread, fruit, delicious muesli, any kind of yogurt (sheeps milk? soy milk?) and cereal, fresh juices (we loved the carrot, orange and ginger combination), crepes made on the spot, housemade jam, fresh ricotta and smoked salmon or sword fish, and more. Another thing I liked was the generous timing for breakfast, which is served until 11am, allowing for a leisurely morning swim before an equally leisurely, slow breakfast.
For those who are interested in wine, you can visit the resort’s own winery, Tenuta Sanoner, which is a few minutes drive away on a dramatic spot with a 180 degree panoramic view (above). Here you can do a full tasting of their biodynamic and organic wines and also taste their olive oil along with a platter of salumi and cheese. For the Valdorcia, where you can often stumble across riper, more concentrated wines, the Tenuta Sanoner wines (which are called Aetos) achieve something more elegant. Try the Aetos Orcia Organic Sangiovese Riserva 2017, and also interesting is the project on metodo classico sparkling wine from 100% biodynamic and organic Sangiovese grapes (Aetos Classic Method Extra Brut). The fact that they put a lot of effort into sustainability and being environmentally friendly gives them more points from me!
The Spa and Gym
There is a well-equipped gym with a great view and a soothing stream of water running through it. They have a schedule of classes running throughout the day that you can join in on or you can be free to use the equipment as you like. I joined in on a yoga flow class on our last morning and doing a salute to the actual sun as it rose over the valley was so rewarding!
The spa includes the thermal springs and five different saunas (four of which need to be booked as only one room at a time can go in), but there are also beauty treatments and massages available throughout the day. While I was there, unwinding in the warmth of the outdoor pool, I knew I couldn’t pass up arranging a massage, after all I am at a spa — it is an extra expense but it is totally worthwhile! The serene rooms face another thermal pool (but one that you can’t swim in) where you can also find the saunas. It is private and a curtain gets drawn for more subdued light and a quiet atmosphere. I chose the “Kerala” massage, the ultimate relaxing massage with warm sesame oil, which lasts 75 minutes. Marco always likes something stronger — as he says, he likes to feel pain! — so he chose a Lomi Lomi massage, which is done with elbow and forearms, also 75 minutes, and came out a new person! The kids during this time? They were in the Kids Club!
Outside there is a bocce pit and a beautiful playground with swings, a slide and a cubby, all facing the wonderful view of the valley. The children also loved the thermal pools in general and would have spent all their time in there if it weren’t for the discovery of the Kids Club. The Kids Club is usually for 4 years and above, but Luna (2 1/2) joined in on the free play a couple of times. They have a fun schedule with activities that range from crafts to making popcorn or cotton candy to a walk to Bagno Vignoni and playing in the playground. The kids can eat all their meals with the Kids Club if they like and after dinner there is a movie in their mini cinema! It is open until 10pm so it means parents can enjoy a more relaxed dinner while the kids watch their favourite movie in the cinema. Mariù (8 years) loved it so much she only wanted to be here the entire time!
An important detail: The resort is a “covid-free” area; all guest (except children) are required to either bring a negative result test taken within 48 hours with them (otherwise you can do it on the spot on arrival), so this allows for maximum relaxation as it is something you don’t have to worry about! Masks are worn throughout the hotel but in the water and spa areas you do not wear them.
Some tips for visiting the resort and hot springs: The resort supplies you with a lovely fluffy dressing gown (children included) and flip flops for wearing to the hot spring pools or wherever you like around the hotel (even at breakfast if you fancy!), but if you do have children with you, do bring their own flip flops or sandals as they do not supply those. There are showers by the pool, both outdoors and indoors, but some say for the best effect of the water’s curing properties you do not need to shower after coming out of the water! It is very warm and comfortable in the hotel, even on a cold winter’s day, and I found we needed to dress only lightly and comfortably. We even forgot to put on our coats and jackets when we checked out and left — I think we were still in a haze of delight!