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Where could be more chic than the Aman Venice (www.aman.com/resorts/aman-venice) the venue for George Clooney’s wedding night? This is truly a grand and splendid late-Renaissance Palazzo set midway along the Grand Canal. And it’s surely here in Venice, of all places, that it is most rewarding to have a spa treatment. Escape the heady mix of visual stimulation, the imbalance of water travel, the frenzied tourists and the tight passageways with dead ends. All this can be left aside as soon as you enter the graceful pace and spacious expanse of the Aman Venice.
Tucked away down a narrow passageway from the street is a discreet gateway. From the front there’s an impressive jetty along with the rarity for the Grand Canal of a garden. There are only 24 guest rooms. Go up the main staircase with leaded windows and frescoes, and you reach the piano nobile which houses the ball room. Here the silk wall coverings are by the top Italian textile houses Bevilacqua, Fortuny and Rubelli. Up on the second floor, while keeping its original ceilings, there’s a modern Italian styled chic room with big mirrors making it light with long white silk drapes. Everything that happens in Aman Venice is done with immaculate and graceful ease. The spa is no exception with special attention to detail paid in the massage table heated to the perfect temperature. This intimate, tranquil setting on the third level has three rooms and uses chemical-free products with plant essences and extracts.
Typically Italian is the ‘fango treatment’, taken from a combination of pure bentonite clays and fossil waters that have thermal salt. They have historically helped treat many ailments by stimulating the circulation and detoxicating the body. Mud wraps, thermal baths, osmosis wraps, signature foot treatments and body exfoliation are amongst an impressive menu that offers differing lengths of time in which to be pampered.
The hotel is going to host a series of four night retreats across this November and December and then again in March next year with the renown holistic beauty and health pioneer, Susan Ciminelli. In her ‘Healing Art of Beauty’ she will share with guests her beauty and nutrition secrets to achieve and maintain beautiful skin. Those in the know even talk of the ‘Ciminelli Glow’!
I had a day trip on a private boat with Lagunalonga (http://www.lagunalonga.com/). Francesco the charismatic de Niro lookalike skipper was dedicated to giving me the day I wanted. This personalised and intimate service was a great way to get a sense of the whole lagoon. And I was treated to small, light offerings outstandingly cooked on board by chef Flavio using local ingredients. There was definitely a magic to his menu of schie on soft polenta, followed by seafood spaghetti, fillet of sea bream and vegetables and finishing with panna cotta with wild berries.
Francesco took me to the north lagoon. To Murano with her glass factories that are still thriving from centuries of family-owned concerns and with a church bedecked in lovely chandeliers made from the local factories. To Burano, the lace island, with her quaint array of vivid coloured houses that were danced upon by the fierce sun and shimmering water. And onto Torcello, set among lovely pastures, and as ancient as anywhere on the lagoon with an arrestingly innocent and sacred feel to its small Basilica.
Equally pure a sensation to the architectural beauty of Venice is the natural beauty of The Dolomites.
The setting is mountain peaks, pine forests and streams above rich green pastures and chalets. Here at the Rosa Alpina hotel (www.rosaalpina.it) in San Cassiano is an extended stretch of pine buildings. The setting is pure Heidi country. And it’s steeped in tradition with Lederhosen waiters and checkered shirt waitresses. It even has its own recognised Ladin language. The rooms have a neutral Alpine look and a simple and homely feel. The hotel’s St. Hubertus Restaurant offers locally grown produce. Its confidently set menu is served with considerable theatricality. Each course is brought by a parade of waiters with synchronised service. Less of a performance is the taciturn breakfast whose buffet island reflects a modern diet with all the seeds, nuts and jams you could imagine.
And there’s a classy spa that is easy to reach on the floor beneath the concierge. Guests can effortlessly and indulgently slip down in one’s white gown and slippers to this oasis of tranquility. Like all that Rosa Alpina does there’s a strong insistence on purity and health. Murad creams and lotions renew the skin and firm the face and tone the body. There are dermo-peeling and anti-cellulite treatments. There are after-sun repair offerings and detoxication programmes for both the face and the body. These stimulate and create flow across the body. Amongst their specialities are “Beautiful Eyes Treatment”, “Joy For Feet”, “Detox Salt Peeling”. After my day’s hiking, I particularly liked the full use of lemon balm that was applied in the topically named “Alpine Herbs Muscle Relief”. Depending on the season, be it après-ski or post hiking and biking, there’s always the hot stone massage to ease away those aches and pains so energetically earned. It’s the perfect way and perfect location in which to unwind.
FACT FILE | Classic Collection Holidays ( 0800 294 9323; classic-collection.co.uk) offers 3/7 nights at Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, Alta Badia, South Tyrol from £1153/£1885 per person. Price based on 2 adults sharing a deluxe room on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck (other departure and arrival airports available) and private transfers. Travel in the UK was courtesy of Gatwick and Heathrow Express, inter airport transfers starting from £25 one way.