When I first started covering Italian wine in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a whole lot of comfort—never mind luxury—in wine country. Digs were usually two- or three-star hotels in remote, quiet towns miles away from the vineyards, or a few rustic farm B&Bs in the country.
Fast-forward 15 years, and traveling around Italy’s wine denominations has become part of the famed Dolce Vita lifestyle (that quintessential Italian love of the good life), with sumptuous hotels near or in the vineyards that offer great food, memorable wines and world-class amenities.
In Tuscany, however, a number of accommodations have gone a step further and are part of the growing “wine and wellness” movement that has taken off in Italy. These upscale establishments include on-site spas, many offering treatments using local grapes and olive oil, while others also boast pools filled with curative thermal water sourced from underground springs. Staying in these hotels offers the ultimate wine country experience.
Here are just a few of my favorites, so if by any chance you’re heading to Tuscany this summer, be sure to check these out.
Hotel Adler Thermae
Immersed amid the stunning scenery of Val d’Orcia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the hamlet of Bagno Vignoni, just a short ride away from famed Brunello vineyards in Montalcino and those of Vino Nobile in Montepulciano, Hotel Adler Thermae is an oasis of comfort and relaxation. The splendid hotel, modeled after a typical Tuscan villa and boasting breathtaking views of Tuscany’s quintessential rolling hills, has a top-notch spa that uses many local products and ingredients from Val d’ Orcia for its wellness and vinotherapy treatments. But Adler’s most outstanding features are the naturally warm thermal indoor and outdoor pools, open even in the winter months. The water itself is sourced from Bagno Vignoni’s ancient spring that was once the vacation destination for Renaissance-era popes and the Medici family. Located on one of Italy’s most popular wine routes, the hotel’s underground cellar, carved from the local travertine rock, carries more than 400 labels and offers wine tasting by the glass.
Castello di Velona
Located in the Montalcino hamlet of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Castello di Velona was originally an 11th-century fortress prior to its modern incarnation as a luxury hotel, resort and winery. After being transformed into an elite residence during the Renaissance, the castle fell on dark times and lay in ruins for centuries until it was lovingly restored in 1997. In 2003, it was carefully expanded to include wonderfully integrated indoor and outdoor thermal pools fed from a spring located directly beneath the castle. After a long day of touring Montalcino’s celebrated Brunello vineyards, an afternoon at the hotel’s day spa, which offers numerous treatments or the option of just relaxing in the thermal pools and taking in the stunning views of Mont Amiata and the rolling Orcia hills, can only be described as perfect.
Borgo San Felice
Located in the township of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the heart of the Chianti Classico denomination and just nine miles from Siena, this stunning winery hotel is a must for enotourists who want to be pampered after exploring the vast landscape. Owned by the San Felice estate, one of the top Chianti Classico producers (the firm’s 2011 Chianti Classico Il Grigio Gran Selezione won the number one spot on our “The Enthusiast 100 of 2015” list), the restored medieval hamlet is surrounded by 140 hectares of estate vineyards. The elegant country hotel offers wine tasting, tours of the winery, and has two onsite restaurants: the sophisticated Poggio Rosso or the more informal Terrazza di San Felice, which specializes in traditional, home-style dishes. Besides two tennis courts and an outdoor swimming pool, the resort also has a wellness center that includes treatment products and cosmetics derived from olive oil and wine.
Tombolo Talasso Resort
Across the street from the hotel’s private beach along the Etruscan coast, the Tombolo Talasso Hotel and Resort is just a stone’s throw away from some of Italy’s most celebrated wineries, including Tenuta San Guido of Sassicaia fame and Guado al Tasso, the Antinori’s estate. Located in Marina di Castagneto Carducci, eight miles from Bolgheri and owned by the Antinori family, Tombolo’s original structure was built in the 1930s and has been marvelously restructured and furnished in a modern, comfortable style. Tombolo also offers guests thalassotherapy in indoor pools where fresh seawater is piped in from the coast directly to the hotel and heated. Other amenities include a spa and wellness center as well as an on-site restaurant. While many of the more celebrated wineries in the area, including Guado al Tasso, are usually closed to the general public, a number of rising stars around Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci encourage visits. However, visits to Guado al Tasso can be organized for guests of Tombolo.
While visiting wineries in Tuscany and the rest of Italy is always a fantastic experience, combining wine and wellness takes wine appreciation to a whole new level.