Fonteverde is a very special place. There is a magic about it, forged in its location in the heart of Tuscany around natural thermal springs and its history. It was built as a palace spa retreat in the 17th century by none other than the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de Medici. The very Medici family who left its mark of power, wealth and progress across Italy and indeed Renaissance Europe. Their coat of arms, an oval with 6 circles inside surrounded by variations of postured angels, lions, crows and other figures, is found all over Tuscany, built into the architecture, decor and history of its many medieval villages that dot the rolling hills and peaks. The history of the area dates back before even the powerful Medicis, however. The Estruscans in the last centuries of BC were also drawn to the healing powers of the thermal waters and left their mark in the Tuscan hills in the form of ancient villages, wine cellars and sheltered caves in the hills.
You need not, however, trouble yourself with any of this pish-posh whilst you relax every last worry away at Fonteverde.
Fonteverde is an ideal escape. It’s a full refresh, cleansing you of city life or offering you the distinctive wonders of a countryside with character and cuisine in a class of their own.
It is also a full on wellness resort, offering a plethora of consultations, treatments, fitness classes such as yoga and pilates and dietary options to ensure complete relaxation, regeneration and well being of body and mind.
San Casciano dei Bagni and the Surrounding Area of the Siena Hills
San Casciano dei Bagni is the small, rustic village to which Fonteverde abuts. Nearly every morning at 8:30am, resort guests can join in on a morning walk through the countryside and surrounding area, and on the particular morning that we joined, the walk took us up a winding road into the village. In the main square, we gazed on the hilly earthen landscape from a different vantage point. It’s the perfect place to sit for a cappuccino and biscotti, the real Tuscan breakfast (for anyone who doesn’t do it the Fonteverde way).
The resort is ideally situated in the middle of southern Tuscan countryside but within easy distance of many of the cities you may hope to venture to on day trips in the area. Florence is about 45min-1hour away, Siena the same, Rome is about 1.5 hours and Pisa the same. There are also a sprinkling of very, very old villages throughout the countryside. Chiusi is really close by, and we took a 45-min drive to Montepulciano to indulge in their renowned wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The de’ Ricci Wine Cellars were absolutely phenomenal, as was the wine tasting we indulged in after a tour.
While all food in Italy is locally sourced, fresh, organic and top grade, each region in Italy actually has very distinctive cuisine. Tuscany is a powerhouse of flavour, with local sources aplenty for delicious wines, cheeses, vegetables and meats. Fonteverde is then the next level up, harmonising top notch Tuscan favourites with healthy options that contribute to your overall happiness and well-being. There is a generous selection on the menu, including such memorable dishes as stewed wild boar, rabbit and chicken pâté, but you are more than welcome to request anything you like.
I requested a simple spaghetti pomodoro several times, because NO ONE, NO WHERE makes a spaghetti pomodoro as it is made in Italy, and the taste is unforgettable. As there is a medical and nutritional specialist on site available for consultancy, Fonteverde can arrange to have your meals follow whatever dietary guidance you have been given. Fonteverde is also very conscious of special dietary requirements and the kitchen staff ensured all my meals contained gluten free pasta and made the best gluten free bread rolls I’ve ever tasted. (Fonteverde kitchen staff, if you ever read this: Were they actually gluten free, guys? Were they?)
One of the most outstanding, and I mean outstanding, culinary treasures from the trip was (and I wish I had some more beautiful and awe-inspiring way to present this up my sleeve but I don’t) the tiramisu. It is, hands down, the best tiramisu in all the land. And all the world. This is not a joke: Fonteverde is worth a trip just for their tiramisu. We were excited to discover that we would learn to make it in our cookery course with none other than Salvatore, Fonteverde’s head chef. But !surprise! – it didn’t taste as good as his own grand, rolling, cocoa-laden, heavenly lunchtime creation. There is a giant silver pot of it at the lunch buffet, which happens to be accompanied by two bowls of rich chocolate and orange sauces…induulllggeee me. If you reading are a foodie, this has to be tasted. End of story. (P.S. I’m not even a foodie, I just feel this strongly about it.)
Fonteverde Resort & Spa
Built in the 17th century by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de Medici, Fonteverde was originally a palatial spa retreat for the wealthy family built around the natural, healing thermal springs in the area. Even these though had been valued for their health benefits as far back as the original inhabitation of the Estruscans circa 700 BC, who built the original baths, dams and canals harnessing the healing powers of the waters. Before the grand Medici portico was built next to the spring Fioncella, the area was also valued by the Roman empire as a place of healing.
The thermal baths were expanded and updated in the 1900s, and the portico was renovated to absolute splendour. An arch was built at this time as a decorative tribute to the history and beauty of the site, which still stands proudly in front of Fonteverde today. In the 2000s, further updating work was carried out to bring Fonteverde to its current day grandeur.
A Room with a View
Fonteverde is extremely spacious. Even when completely booked out, as when we were there, the resort never feels crowded. There are 66 rooms, 7 junior suites and 7 suites, including two very exclusive suites. The hotel also welcomes pets and provides special double rooms with terraces when you want to bring along Sparky, Spot, Winston, Shakespeare or Pink Floyd. In fact, there’s even a special doggie pool.
Our particular room was a spacious double with a terrace overlooking the vast rolling countryside to the front of the resort. Medieval buildings (I can’t really say ruins because the buildings are still actually used in these parts!) can be spotted on some of the hilltops. It’s all ancient hills, big blue sky, fresh air and freedom. You can’t help but feel like a king surveying his kingdom. Everything the sun touches…
The service is 5 star; professional, helpful and friendly. Some staff were definitely more personal than others, but not everyone needs to try to be your friend, so that was fine. All of our needs and enquiries were handled promptly, and ultimately we felt very well taken care of. The spa staff were exceptionally friendly as well, and definitely extended the sense of peace, relaxation and wellness of the general spa and fitness facilities.
Breakfast was as much of an affair as you would hope it would be in a 5 star Tuscan spa resort. A whole wall of pastries and breads, a whole wall (minus the kitchen door) of hot, Tuscan foods, cheeses and meats all over the place, gorgeous fresh fruits, freshly pressed grape juice, other fruit juices, a gluten-free cracker filled basket, cereals and granolas and mueslis, a juicer surrounded by an assortment of fresh fruit, veg and ginger, and the tastiest organic, no sugar added preserves arranged in baskets above the wall of pastries. Plus, of course, anything else you can think of to request from the wait staff, like poached eggs, teas and coffees (cappuccinos, mochas, etc, as they can only be done in Tuscany).
What is check-in like?
Fast, easy and friendly.
Were we upgraded?
We were expecting a standard double room but we were upgraded to a superior room with a terrace.
Was there a valet service?
There is indeed, also fast, easy and friendly. The front entrance to the resort is wide and spacious.
Did the hotel staff address us by name?
Not generally, but they were extremely friendly nonetheless. Most spoke very good English, which was helpful, and where they struggled with it, they went out of their way to ensure we understood one another.
Was there free Wifi?
Free wifi is provided. The signal is slightly weaker in the room at times but still worked perfectly fine.
Were the recommended local restaurants and attractions good?
As we were on a full board option, we didn’t venture to local restaurants for meals, but we were so well taken care of in that aspect that I can’t say I feel we missed out! Local attractions however were great, as there are many villages and cities to visit at leisure. Montepulciano, famous for its incredible wine and the fantastic de Ricci winery and cellars, is within 45 minutes by car, and Siena, Florence and Rome are all within reach with a bit longer drive. Driving, however, is an attraction in itself in the lovely southern Siena hills. The countryside is also fantastic for cycling, horseback riding, runs and long walks.
Spa staff were extremely helpful and friendly. If you wish, they’ll happily assist you in your treatment selection. All our treatment experiences were fantastic; the staff were very skilled and gracious and ensured that you were relaxed. Veronica, my masseuse, even made sure I finished my green tea before beginning my treatment!
Tea and coffee is provided in the room, as was a lovely mini-bar and snack selection. There are also green tea, lemon water and apples provided in the spa area, and apples are also in the gym.
What was your first impression?
The room was very light and a fantastic start to the holiday. It’s true that it was a bit dated, but in a rustic, antique Italian way that is very much to be expected from a former-palace-restored-to-resort-splendour in Italy. The colours were beautiful and complemented the view of vast blue sky and green Tuscan hills.
Was there a personal welcome note?
There was a handwritten note welcoming us, along with complementary treats including a generous bag of biscotti and a bottle of Vin Santo, a local dessert wine. Excellent personal touch!
Concierge was excellent and timely. Any requests to Reception are delivered to your room, and there is an extensive room service menu.
How was the bed?
The king size bed had a medium-firm mattress and light white sheets that were welcome with the already warm weather (though there is air conditioning in the rooms). The pillows were unremarkable but Reception is more than willing to accommodate any of your requests or find you more suitable pillows.
How was storage?
There was plenty of storage, including a large built-in wardrobe with hanging space and drawers. There was also a large luggage rack.
Bathrobes, or more accurately spa robes, are literally part of the culture at Fonteverde. They call it your ‘uniform’, and indeed most hotel guests where them absolutely everywhere. Including breakfast and even lunch! This was a bit of a shock on our first day, but we snuck in a cheeky spa-robe-lunch ourselves on one or two occasions…
The toiletries provided were not remarkable, but did the job. The body lotion was a nice, light scent of Fig. The resort was scented with Dr. Vranjes’ line for Fonteverde.
The bedsheets were soft, comfortable and of good quality. There were loads of towels provided that were refreshed twice daily should you desire.
The view is one of Fonteverde’s most prominent features. It’s somehow simultaneously breathtaking and extremely calming, and very much complements the theme of ‘restored palace spa’. The sunset is incredible, as you can imagine – most if not all views face the west, where the sun explodes in pink and orange over the mesmerizing hills.
Proximity to other rooms?
Rooms are spaced equally apart, just like that of a standard hotel. Rooms are well soundproofed, though from the bathroom we could here our neighbours just a bit. This is probably as much because our neighbours included rather vivacious children, some of the only ones on the premises though the resort does welcome families.
How was the sleep quality?
Overall, sleep was very restful. My tender head found the pillows a bit too firm, but not enough to request different ones.
Hotel and Grounds
The dining areas were absolutely wonderful in every way. The breakfast and lunch area is light and spacious, looking out over the view and opening up onto an outside patio eating area. These meals are served in a beautiful eyeful of a buffet that is well positioned and easy to manoeuvre. The breakfast is fantastic, but the lunch is absolutely phenomenal.
The dinner rooms of the restaurant Ferdinando I, restored from the original palace, are more impressive. You enter from a richly decorated antechamber complete with candelabras, a fireplace and lush red armchairs fit for royalty. The first and most intimate of the dining rooms has a beautiful painted ceiling and houses the original spring-sourced fountain of the Medicis from whence the name ‘Fonteverde’ hails. The next room is larger and more grandiose, with elegant flower-adorned tables, high ceilings and romantic lighting. Parallel to the full length of these rooms runs a narrower dining area, the ‘portico’, that is equally beautiful but benefits from being opened to the outside in warm months. There are additional dining tables completely uncovered outside of the portico. All in all, there is enough seating that you always have privacy, intimacy and space during meals despite the number of guests in residence.
Next to the large, lower level thermal swimming pool, there is also the Bioaquam Cafe, where you can grab drinks or light snacks as you bask in the sun and healing waters.
Fonteverde’s spa menu is the largest I’ve seen to date, offering everything from classic treatments to Oriential therapies. Within each subset of spa philosophy and therapeutic methodologies, there are further options to choose. The main sets are Ayurvedic, Oriental (including Chinese and Japanese therapies), Mediterranean, fitness related and classic ‘comfort’ treatments. Take a look for yourself at the Fonteverde spa menu here.
The treatments are carried out in spacious, relaxing rooms, complete with mood lighting, soothing music and aromatherapy. The rooms have showers so you can shower off before your treatment or after, particularly for those including scrubs or mud, which is nice as then you don’t have to awkwardly tiptoe off to a shower room after.
There are several staff at the main spa reception desk and a beauty specialist on site with whom you can hold a consultation to determine the best treatments for your wants and needs. There is also a little boutique in which you can buy the Eteria brand products that they use.
I went for a classic 60min full body comfort massage for stress relief, muscle care and general relaxation. My masseuse, Veronica, was fantastic, with the sweet, calming nature you’d like a masseuse to have. The treatment included an extensive massage of my neck, scalp and shoulders that I honestly came away from feeling transcendently relaxed – no neck cracking for me and much better posture for the whole long weekend. A treatment with results is what we really want, isn’t it?
In addition to the treatment rooms, there is a private relaxation room for hotel guests only. There is a selection of fresh lemon water, green tea and ginger drink as well as juicy red apples so you can replenish and rehydrate before or after your treatment. Or just to have as you relax in the relaxation room, with or without treatment. There is also an additional terrace patio with lounges to relax in the fresh air and sun.
Because Fonteverde is an all out spa making the most of the healing thermal springs on which it’s built, there is also a Bioaquam circuit, the Kneipp circuit and the Etruscan circuit. The Bioaquam circuit is a sort of hydrotherapy course with various jets of various strengths and massage points throughout. It is part indoor and part outdoor, with the indoor pool leading out into an outdoor infinity edge pool. While you must pay an additional fee to access this circuit, the Kneipp and Etruscan are included in your package. The Kneipp is also a hydromassage circuit with various treatments in different rooms which address circulatory issues primarily in the lower limbs. The Etruscan circuit includes the sauna, hot plate, a sort of natural cave hammam and a Turkish bath (steam room). So really, there is a lot of spa-ing to enjoy as a Fonteverde guest, and the treatments are very reasonable for a 5 star spa.
On the lowest levels of the spa, you’ll also find an original drinking fountain from which you can drink the thermal spring water. Full of natural minerals, the water is very good for you, acting as a cleansing and replenishing detox for your system. The water is warm, so you have to get over that a bit, but the taste is wholesome. To health and the Medicis!
As you might has guessed, the resort has several pools. There is an upper level private thermal spring pool reserved for hotel guests only, and then a large lower level pool with a large hydromassage waterfall that is also open to the public.
As the thermal spring waters are about 38 degrees Celsius by the time they reach the pools (though around 45 degrees Celsius at source), there is also a cool summer pool for hot weather.
The spa also includes various thermal pools, but of course merits its own feature so we’ve detailed it in the next section.
Il Falconiere, Fonteverde’s bar, is an elegant affair for late afternoon and evening that opens up onto a terrace in the warm spring and summer months. There is often live music in the evenings from a grand piano. We enjoyed a refreshing bottle of prosecco on the spacious terrace in the late afternoon on our last day and it was a divine pairing with the previously exalted view.
On the main spa level of the complex, there is a small gym with a studio room where some classes are held, some free weights and a few weight and cardio machines. The basket of fresh, deep red apples is a nice touch.
There are also meeting and conference rooms in the restored villa home, Casina delle Rose, which is situated at the entrance to Fonteverde. There is plenty of space for meetings, exhibitions, parties and other events. Our small cookery course was held in here.
Near Il Falconiere Bar, on the way to the breakfast and lunch buffet area, there is a small winery with fantastic Tuscan wines that you absolutely must visit, as well as a small boutique with lovely apparel and accessories.
All in all, Fonteverde was a very memorable and relaxing experience. Will and I returned to London refreshed, feeling positive and renewed. The spa experience is one of the best I’ve ever indulged in, and I’ve been to some pretty impressive spas. If you’re looking for an escape, a rejuvenating wellness week/weekend, an adventurous yet relaxing summer holiday, a classic encounter with the wonders of Tuscany or all the above, Fonteverde should certainly be at the top of your list. We officially approve. Please feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences in comments below.
The Luxe Travel Approved.