A couple of weeks ago on a particularly OMG-it-could-almost-be-spring Friday morning I found myself hurtling down the A12 in a taxi on my way to Stansted Airport at about, oooh 4.30am. My destination? A five-star spa resort nestled deep in the Tuscan hills. I know right, poor, poor Hannah.
First up, I’ve never *actually* flown on my own before, well, bar that time I was 12 and flying as an unaccompanied minor to New York, but that was different because I had a fellow unaccompanied minor to irritate for the entire 7-hour flight (she was 16, from Queens and did not want to answer any of my questions about whether NYC was really as good as it looked in films – bore).
The airport feels like a really odd place when you’re alone – mostly because people think you’re a bit of a weirdo when you’re wearing £4 gold Primark sandals at 6am when it’s about six degrees, and so you get a few looks. And also because what IF you get pulled over in security and there’s this MASSIVE mistake and who’s going to back you up and make sure you’re OK? (I was fine just FYI).
I had a bacon and egg muffin and a cappuccino from Leon and then downloaded a few This American Life podcasts to see me through my sunny holidays whilst I waited for my flight – there were three other press guests to the Fonteverde Spa Resort and it was fun trying to work out who they were as we queued to board the Ryanair flight. Thankfully, they were not the annoyingly hip couple who sat next to me for the two and a half hour jaunt over the English Channel and Alps. Guys, they read books with no covers on and didn’t even flinch a teeny tiny eyelid muscle when our plane got caught up in some of the most OMGTHISISIT turbulence I’ve ever experienced. I both hate them and want to be them. Don’t worry, I munched my sweet and salt popcorn really loudly to make a point about how annoyed I was about how cool they were.
We landed into Perugia airport to grey skies, and any THIS IS JUST LIKE ENGLAND woes were immediately swept away when I felt the warmth hit my skin. OK, warmth is *maybe* me over exaggerating, but the wind didn’t carry that crisp Arctic chill that it does in the UK, and it felt good to have my toes out and for them not to be at a very high risk of frost bite, so there’s that.
I met my new pals and the official hotel driver past customs and we set off on an hour long jaunt deep into the heart of Italy. We bonded, we shared OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT VIEW, wow how cool is that lake? Is anyone else hungry? Woah, what was that turbulence abouts, the entire time. I liked these people and was instantly at ease about the megathon of a Mediterranean weekend I was embarking on.
Then we pulled up outside a grand pair of electronic gates that swung open for us and we were here. And I felt a bit like I was Kate Middleton arriving at Buckingham Palace and this was just my life now and the view made me feel a little bit giddy with happiness deep down in my belly.
Fonteverde was built in the 17th century on top of ancient thermal baths that date back to forever ago (or circa 700 BC if you want to be specific) and so all the heated water in the pools is entirely natural. There was original architecture everywhere and it felt so immensely special to be staying somewhere draped in so much glamorous history.
We were warmly greeted by staff and then swept into the dining room for a lunch buffet – Tuscan style. Now, if you’ve never eaten Italian food in Italy you can’t even begin to comprehend how much better it is than the tomato-ey carbs we serve up in the UK. Everything is locally produced in an ethical way and everything tastes so damn heavenly. I spent the entire trip drowning in mozarella and proscuitto and rocket and olive oil and bread and pasta and I’m not even slightly ashamed about the several pound weight gain, because Italian food wins everything.
The hotel offers bed and breakfast, half board and full board – and we were lucky enough to get the full board treatment which meant we got to eat the hotel’s speciality – the tiramisu every single damn day. And when I say I ate it every day I mean I ate two portions every day, because obviously. Although I did pair it with strawberries, so there’s that.
And the dinner menu was something else – the chicken liver pate was COME TO MUMMA good, and the boar ragu was like the sexiest version of a spag bol known to man. My stomach is literally growling aggressively at me as I write this. Sssssh belly, you beast.
After lour stellar lunch we had a guided tour of the maze of treatment rooms and spa facilities – I say maze because it was by far the most well-equipped spa I’ve ever been to. There were rooms I couldn’t even dream up – mud rooms where warm clay is placed on your shoulders to release tension, breathing rooms for help with asthma, a variety of different heated saunas and steam rooms – and then, the outdoor spas. The real winners of the entire resort.
I won’t lie to you, I spent about 60% of the trip just lying in the warm water (unprotected by the sun and so burning like a true Brit abroad) just marvelling at the view and wondering how best to get my camera/phone in the water without breaking it. The water was almost as warm as a bath and we stayed out til 8pm every night when it closed because watching the sun set from the infinity pool was just the most majestic and soul-cleansing thing ever.
I also had a massage and did some wine-tasting in the nearby Montepulciano, which is were some of the Twilight series was set. It’s a beautiful little Medieval town that basically just makes you want to move to Italy and maybe give up with social media and computers and life and just become a pasta eater for a profession.
We were also treated to cooking classes at the hotel – I’m now an ace at proper pizzas and tirimasu, a 30-min yoga session (there’s a lot of fitness classes and a gym on site for those that way inclined on holiday), and an 8am power walk which is an entirely new way to start a Saturday for me. I definitely earnt my scrambled eggs and cappuccino, uh huh. (There’s alos a brekafast juicer, but I think I *might* have broken it by putting in an apple before a carrot, who knows…)
The holiday was beautiful and Italy was beautiful – it was my first time there in about 17 years and somewhere I’ve been desperate to get back to, I have such stupidly fond memories of long summers in Rimini with my brothers as a kid which is where my uncle used to be based when I was growing up. But for me, the thing that made is so insanely dreamy was the ability to switch off. Sure, there’s WIFI, but I found myself checking Instagram 5 times a day rather than 500 times. Placing my focus on relaxing and appreciating how beautiful the world can be (I felt a little bit vommy at just writing that, it’s such an un-Hannah thing to write) just made everything seem OK. It felt like reassurance that everything will be OK.
Staring at curved lines (such as those of those lovely rippling Tuscan hills) is apparently instantly calming on the brain, compared to the straight edges we see so much at home, and I believe that entirely.
It was also a stark reminder of how many beautiful and enchanting places there are to visit close to home. I’ve become so obsessed with looking for long-haul luxury and visiting new places thousands of miles away that you sometimes forget there’s even greater places (and food that’s 728546473 times better) a £50 flight away.
Fonteverde is nestled about an hour away from both Rome and Florence, and for me it’s the perfect treat after a few days in the city. I’d love to come again with Chris and make a 5-day trip of it – start in one of the cities and then unwind at the spa and totally switch off and just smile at how different it feels to every day life.
Mostly I love the fact that people staying at the resort just saunter in for lunch and breakfast in their dressing gowns – it’s that sort of place. We even spent a good hour on our last afternoon sitting outside on the terrace in just our robes sipping Prosecco like super civalised and elegant beings (we also did a lot of new-friend sharesies which were, err, less civalised, but Prosecco will do that to you).
On the drive to the airport on the Monday morning Jess Glynne’s Hold My Hand came on, just as we were whizzing round country bends and taking in our last sights of blue skies and happiness and in that moment I felt incredible. I felt uplifted, renewed and so ready to tackle life again, to be the very best version of myself. So now when that song comes on I’m instantly transported back and I feel a little bit invincible.
YEY TO TUSCANY, YEY TO FONTEVERDE.