Recharging your batteries at a Tuscan retreat

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As autumn arrives and the days get shorter, we tend to look for places where we can prolong the feeling of summer for a little bit longer, recharge our batteries before the cold season. What better place than the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, with its gentle rolling hills, dotted by cypress trees and picturesque little towns and villages.

Probably the most beautiful place to stay here is the Monteverdi Tuscany, a collection of three exquisitely restored villas and a boutique hotel in a secluded little hilltop hamlet, Castiglioncello del Trinoro, overlooking the sprawling valley below. Whether you opt to rent one of the villas or stay at the small hotel, you will be able to enjoy not only the beautiful scenery, but also the benefits of Monteverdi Tuscany, including exhibitions at its art gallery, fine Tuscan cuisine made from seasonal, local and organic ingredients, and of course its fabulous new spa, a true oasis of serenity and pampering.

To celebrate the opening of the Spa, Monteverdi is hosting a Wellness & Longevity Seminar from October 22-29. The week-long program will include specialists from Italy, England and the Americas, who will share their expertise on a range of topics including the biology of aging, cancer prevention and holistic approaches to heart disease. A special session will focus on music therapy and the beneficial effects of music on brain activity and longevity. This session will feature one of the world’s preeminent conductors, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. The agenda will also include daily yoga, meditation, and treatments, along with excursions to the nearby hill towns, wine tastings and garden tours.

IRMA spoke with Monteverdi’s spa manager Sara Trabalzini and executive chef Giancarlo Bodoni, who are both passionate about offering guests an unforgettable experience at Monteverdi.

IRMA: How does the environment of the Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, work so perfectly as a place for recharging your batteries?

Sara Trabalzini, Spa Manager: Val d’Orcia is part of a magical and well preserved region and offers an unspoiled environment, essentially unchanged since medieval times. With its magnificent views and spectacular natural harmony, it is a unique place to relax, contemplate, meditate and fully recharge your batteries.

IRMA: Please name a few methods that instantly come to your mind when talking about refreshing and recharging your body and mind?

Sara Trabalzini: A morning hike to the natural reserve of Pietraporciana, breathing fresh and pure air and enjoying a unique and uncontaminated habitat.

An early morning yoga class in the gardens of Monteverdi.

An aperitif while enjoying sunset in the lavender garden followed by dinner at Oreade.

Basking in the unique tradition of Monteverdi Spa, nestled in the rolling hills of Val d’Orcia, and relaxing, refreshing and rejuvenating with one of our exclusive signature treatments. Monteverdi Spa offers the best of healing arts, utilizing local herbs, plants and flowers along with the most traditional proven techniques and modern amenities.

IRMA: What can the plants, herbs and air do for your well-being at Val d’Orcia? Can you name us a typical Tuscan blend of herbs and what it will do?

Chef Giancarla Bodoni: As far as health goes, there are a couple of components that we often cannot control and one is air quality.  Unfortunately in cities, it is very poor.  The Val d’Orcia, being removed from large cities, provides an air quality that is clean and pure. Not only humans and animals benefit from this but so does the plant life. The Val d’Orcia, being kept a unaltered and unspoiled paradise, still offers a very pure ecosystem.

Here are some of the most abundant herbs and plants that grow well in the Val d’Orcia and their health benefits and culinary uses.

Rosemary grows throughout the Val d’Orcia. It is not only is a delicious herb that pairs very well with a variety of meats but does have health benefits. Doctors have discovered it helps prevent damage to blood vessels. It also helps promote memory function and can aid in indigestion. When applied topically, its essential oils aid in muscle and joint pain.

Wild fennel has a variety of phytonutrients and therefore contains many antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Its high content of vitamin C also helps promote the immune system. In the kitchen it can be used raw in salads or to accompany fish or white meats.

Lemon balm, known as Melissa in Tuscany, is wonderful for tea infusions or fresh on salads or fruit. Lemon balm helps aid in intestinal tract disorders and liver problems. It also has a calming effect when infused in tea.

Lavender is a beautifully scented herb that has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. It also aids in nausea and upset stomach. Its essential oils also help relieve burns and bug bites. In the kitchen it has many uses such as in desserts or with game meats.

And this does not even mention other very common herbs, which are very healthful and commonly used in Tuscany like sage, thyme and mallow.

IRMA: Regarding the food, which ideas of fundamental healthy cooking can I take home with me after doing the retreat?

Chef Giancarla Bodoni: As a culinary professional, I have learned a lot about the relationship between food and our bodies. The most important suggestion I have for those who truly want to make an impact on their bodies and on our environment, is to try to source the purest and most unaltered ingredients possible.

IRMA travels the world, writes and illustrates the life she lives.

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