by Melinda Gallo

Two nights at the terme

On Sunday, my marito (husband) surprised me with a trip to a resort spa with terme (thermal baths) for our wedding anniversary. I have been wanting to go for a long time, so I was very excited when he told me that we were going and spending two nights there. A few years ago, I went to Montecatini with a couple of girlfriends to spend a day at the terme, but we didnít spend the night. I have been dreaming about going to a spa resort with terme for a long time. After all the traveling Iíve been doing lately, I was eager to take a break without having to fly anywhere. And, to me, Monsummano Terme fit the bill perfectly.

We arrived at the gate of the resort and were told to drive up to the reception and drop off our luggage before parking the car. Before being brought to our rooms, we were escorted to the spa to set up appointments for massages. We quickly unpacked our suitcase before going to the grotta termale (thermal grotto). We didnít know if we should wear our bathing suits under our robes, so we called a friend of ours who had previously been to the same resort. After he stopped laughing, he told us that we should wear our bathing suits underneath the robes that the hotel lent us.

When we arrived at the entrance to the grotta termale, a man handed us each a tunic to put on and told us that we could take off our bathing suits, so we did. The long white tunic was thick like a potato sack and made it difficult for us to walk. We were told to go from paradiso (heaven), to purgatorio (purgatory), and then down to inferno (hell) where it was the hottest. We were already sweating with the tunics on, but we descended to inferno where we lay down on chaise lounges in the dimly lit and humid grotta. I expected it to be hotter and steamier than it was, but it was quite relaxing.

Afterwards, we walked down a maze of long hallways back to our rooms to take showers. We only had a few minutes before our massages. We each had a different type of massage in separate rooms.

Iím used to massage therapists who keep my private parts covered up, but all I was given was a thin, gauze string bikini to wear. Even a hand towel wouldíve been nice to have, but the only thing between me and him was the oil he massaged on my skin. Iím used to undressing in front of the doctor in Italy, but this was a first for me.

While he was massaging my bare legs and bottom, the massage therapist asked me if he could darmi del tu (use the formal you with me), I said, ďCerto (Of course).Ē I quickly reasoned that heís probably seen more of me than most of my girlfriends.

After our massages, we went to the piscina termale (thermal pool). The outside piscina filled with warm water with hydromassage jets was perfect. We must have stayed in the piscina at least a half hour before sitting in the adjoining room where we felt the affect of the water.

We both felt so relaxed. We had only been at the resort for a few hours and already we had done a lot. We walked back to our rooms to get ready for dinner. It was the only time we had to dress up.

We had a table that was reserved for us and were given a menu to select a four-course meal. We both started with the salad buffet, a primo (pasta dish), a secondo (meat dish), and a dolce (dessert).

We had a busy first day at the spa and at 9:30pm we went to sleep. The massage and thermal water must have done its magic because we didnít wake up until 8am.

We put our robes on and walked downstairs for breakfast. I enjoyed being in a robe and slippers while I selected different things to eat. Afterwards, I went to the gym for an hour.

We made appointments to do the fango (mud) treatment, which was my favorite part of our stay at the spa. Before we were allowed to have the fango treatment, we had to speak with a doctor who took our blood pressures. We were then separated into different sections--one for men and one for women--and escorted into a room. The woman asked me to sit on the table, again naked, where she put a thin cloth behind me and sloshed hot fango on my back. She told me to lie down and continued to put the fango on my shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

She covered me up completely and told me that sheíd be back in fifteen minutes. Before she left, I shut my eyes because they felt heavy. Even though the light was rather bright and it was a bit noisy, I still felt very relaxed. I could feel the sweat roll off my face and body, but it felt good.

Afterwards, the woman returned and told me to walk to the adjoining room to get in the bath she prepared for me. I was able to stay another fifteen minutes and felt wonderful. I was almost sad to leave. When I asked Alessandro why it was so noisy and seemed a bit clinical, he told me that some people get ricette medicali (medical prescriptions) to get the fango treatment. I vowed to talk to my family doctor upon my return to find out how I can get prescribed fango treatments.

After lunch, we went for a walk on the hotel grounds in the woods. It was so quiet and lovely to walk along a wooded path toward the hills and through olive groves. We had to rush back because my marito and I scheduled two more treatments: a massage for him and a facial for me. We met in the piscina termale afterwards and stayed until it closed. We washed up, went to dinner and headed off to bed.

On our last morning, we woke up a little earlier so we could go to the larger piscina termale to go for a swim before our Qigong class. We packed our bags, paid our bill, and drove up to Montecatini Alto. Even though it was raining, I felt incredibly relaxed and pleased with our trip.

We returned to Florence early this evening and walked around our neighborhood to say hello to a few friends. Even though the city appeared a bit busy and chaotic, I still felt enclosed in my tranquility. I dream of getting another fango treatment, which was more relaxing than any massage I've ever had. Iím even considering a day trip to the spa since itís not that far from Florence.

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