Italy
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Tuscany Part Five: a very chilled hotel-based week

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13th – 19th August 2016

The next week of my Tuscan trip passed way too quick, in a blur of outings to nearby towns, tasty meals and a whole lotta pool time at the Grotta Giusti. I had planned to swim everyday and use the hotel gym but in reality I didn’t enter the gym (obviously) and only managed to swim three times. My sunlounger was just so comfy. I did make it into the pool on more occasions but only really to cool down in breaks from sunbathing. My dedication to lying in the sun did pay off however as, very unusually for me, I managed to actually get a proper tan – and it was almost completely real (full disclosure: my aftersun has a bit of fake tan in it).

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I think we ate lunch by the pool basically everyday. Some days we had sandwiches and fresh orange juice delivered to our sunloungers (and on my birthday, a Margarita) so we barely had to move a muscle. Other days we made the effort to walk all the way to the other side of the pool, where there was a dining area, when we fancied something a bit more fancy. I found that the Caesar salad here wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but was a nice change to the meaty/bready dishes I’d been eating the rest of the time. However the tagliolini pasta with tomato sauce, pesto and cheese and the buffalo mozzarella with grilled tomatoes were both winners.

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For the evenings we felt like splurging, we ventured into the hotel’s La Veranda Restaurant. We were greeted with appetisers (including a tasty risotto ball) and then each ordered an antipasti or a first course and then a second course and dessert. We were never able to quite work up to the full four course meal. On both occasions we ate in the restaurant, I started with the gnocchi with wild boar ragout. I had it twice because it was that good. Gnocchi can sometimes be quite heavy but this was actually quite soft. I then had the glazed duck with gravy and apple puree on my first trip and the beef fillet with gravy and spinach on my second. Both were delicious but the latter was probably one of the best bits of beef I have ever had. Desserts included a very creamy tiramisu and a creme brulee with berries, both of which were a good, light (but filling) way to end the meal.

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The La Veranda Restaurant was also the setting of the buffet breakfast each morning. Here there was a range of cereal, fruits, pastries, jams and even cakes on offer, as well as smokey bacon and eggs (both scrambled and boiled). The staff were generally quite friendly and one guy seemed to remember our drinks order and would show up with one cappuccino and two teas when he spotted us.

On a couple of occasions, we did frequent the spa side of the hotel. On a couple of nights during our stay, the spa hosted late night pool parties at the thermal pool until midnight. You did have to buy a ticket if you wanted food but on a Tuesday night, at around 10.30pm, we headed over just for a swim. By the time we arrived, there were still a few groups of people floating around but we had plenty of space to swim under the night sky. There were colourful lights surrounding the pool, which was much warmer than the hotel’s outdoor pool (apparently it was over 30°C). There were jacuzzis at one end, complete with what I assume were hydromassage chairs. With less people around we actually managed to get a turn in these. This was a good pool.

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The next day, we tested out the hotel’s famous grotto. This turned out to be a very pretty underground cave where you could sit for 50 minutes and have a sauna-esque experience. By which I mean it was really hot and you sit in silence whilst wearing white tunics. Since we had booked a 7 night stay, we got to use the grotto at no extra cost. It was nice (although sitting for that long with no music, book or phone was depressingly weird) but I was very aware of how loud every movement I made was in the quietness of the cave – my stomach unhelpfully chose this moment in time to start rumbling.

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Finally, on our last full day, which was also my birthday, I booked a spa treatment – the anti stress massage (€80 minus a 20% discount for the first treatment booked by hotel guests). It was the first massage I’ve had that wasn’t a) Thai and a bit painful, b) centred around my calves and feet, or c) a homeopathic head massage (long story). I was excited but had no idea which of the many options to go for but this one was recommended to me by the woman I walked to at the spa. I have quite an achey back but wanted something more relaxing than a therapeutic massage (it was my birthday after all). The anti stress massage was a full body massage and provided a good balance – I think. Considering my lack of massage experience I might not be the best person to judge but it was certainly relaxing and the masseur put extra pressure on my back so I got everything I asked for. I even got a cup of herbal tea at the end, which I drank way to fast and burnt my tongue on – as a Brit, you would think I would be better at drinking tea!

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Our last evening was spent playing cars by the hotel’s bar. There was a seating area outside, where each night there was a guy playing a keyboard, but I preferred sitting in the room between the bar and the reception, which felt like an old drawing room. I returned to my room to find a surprise bottle of prosecco and a bottle of perfume left by the hotel for my birthday. It was a very nice touch. I do love my prosecco.

All in all, I was pretty sad when the day came to leave. Helpfully it was the first day we hadn’t seen the sun during our stay but I was still not happy about having to leave the pool and my sunlounger.

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