Charlie Bond heads for the Tuscan hills to discover why you don’t need a detox retreat to switch off …
These days, wellbeing retreats are all the rage. People are paying thousands to get away from it all and embark on a journey of self-discovery, and from yoga breaks to detox sanctuaries, it would seem that the standard seven-day all-inclusive is no longer an adequate way to suitably escape and de-stress.
But, what if I told you that, actually, there’s a place where you can go to switch off , recharge and relax, but still drink wine and eat homemade tiramisu? Enter Villa Ciclopica – a stunning luxury holiday home in the Tuscan hills.
Situated 400 metres above sea level, with spectacular views of the famous white beach of La Fenigla and surrounding beautiful scenery, getting to Villa Ciclopica requires a two-hour journey from Rome airport, and a fairly challenging drive up a steep, winding road. But when I arrive and set eyes on that view, the commute is worth it – and let’s face it – only slightly slower than navigating St John’s Road in rush hour.
I eventually peel myself away from the views and the glittering pool on the terrace, and inside discover a mix of Italian rustic chic and modern luxury. With five spacious bedrooms (most of them en suite), a beautiful sitting room, complete with oak beams and a charming fireplace, and a dining room and kitchen with an outlook over the Italian scenery below, you’d be hard-pressed to ever want to leave this idyll (save for sitting outside and soaking up the rays, with a glass of wine made from the on-site vines, of course!).
The wonderful housekeepers Maria and Stefano are there to cater for your every whim and fancy, should you so wish. While the property can be self-catering, you can also opt to have Maria prepare delicious fresh meals for you and your guests – think plates of grilled vegetables, fresh fish, pasta, tarts made with fruit from the land – oh, and the most incredible tiramisu that you’ll ever taste. I’m still upset that I didn’t have room in my suitcase to accommodate either Maria or her dessert offerings.
If you really do want to cook, but would rather give it some authenticity, you can arrange to have a cooking class right in the villa kitchen, which is great fun. And, when you’re tired from all of the slaving over a stove, a masseuse can just rock up at the front door to ease those troubles away with an hour of relaxation. Seriously, I’m not even sure if Aladdin’s genie could conjure up this many treats.
It’s hard to imagine ever wanting to tear yourself away from this slice of paradise, but should you feel the need to experience life outside of the villa, then I can recommend a visit to Petra Winery in Suvareto – about a 90-minute drive away. Far from the ideals of traditional, rustic Tuscan vineyards, award-winning Petra is something altogether more extraordinary.
Founded by Francesca Moretti and designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, this is something special – from the exterior of the building, which reflects the sun, earth and sky, to the five contemporary cellars found 25 metres underground, housing enough wine to produce 450,000 bottles a year, Petra has taken winemaking in Tuscany to another level. Oh, and the drinks themselves are pretty palatable too. For a tropical white with a mineral finish, opt for the Belvento Voignier 2017, or treat yourself to the signature red – the Petra 2014, which is a deliciously rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and has been aged for 36 months.
A little closer to home, there’s the charming town of Orbetello, just a 15-minute drive from the villa. Famed for its beaches and bay, it’s located in the centre of a lagoon, and has quaint shops, traditional eateries, and plenty of places to stop and grab a gelato, which I obviously take full advantage of, because when in (near) Rome…
When it comes to finding somewhere for dinner, you can’t go far wrong with a visit across the lagoon to Porto Ecole, where you’ll find seafood restaurant Gambero Rosso, which benefits from a waterside view and a menu filled with traditional Italian fare.
My personal favourite is the exquisite spaghetti vongole – clams and mussels in a garlic sauce – AKA heaven on a plate, and far too good to share.
If you’re exhausted by everyday life and looking for an escape, then before you pack up the lycra and head for a week of yoga, perhaps consider Villa Ciclopica instead – the only stretching you’ll have to do is reaching for your G&T from your sun lounger, and a few lengths in the pool will certainly burn off a slice or two (or four or five) of Maria’s desserts. Plus, you get all of the tranquillity and relaxation that you’ve been craving. You won’t be able to completely unplug, though – otherwise, how will you take approximately one million pictures of the view?
Tuscany Now & More (tuscanynowandmore.com, 0207 684 8884) offers seven nights at Villa Ciclopica from £7,669 per week, based on 12 people sharing on a self-catering basis. Tuscany Now & More features a range of properties across the region and Italy, and can provide private chefs, excursions and other services upon request through expert partners The Art of Leisure (www.taols.it).