Indulging in nature’s cures

Secret of youth hidden in local grotta

Laura Robertson
September 21, 2006

‘Eureka!’ The treasure miners accidentally found in Monsummano wasn’t gold. The natural ‘gem’ discovered more than a hundred years ago on Giusti family property was much bigger and more unique. A cloud of hot steam rose from an opening in the earth that gave away Tuscany’s secret to good health—a natural thermal grotto that composer Giuseppe Verdi later called ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’Now, I don’t normally spend my Monday mornings relaxing in the lobby to the underworld, but, luckily, this week I did. A morning train towards Lucca took me to Montecatini Terme station, where I caught a lift to the Grotta Giusti—one of the region’s year-round natural spa resorts. This day-away was a birthday gift from a kind soul, one who knows that I’ve never done this kind of thing in my life. ‘You’ve got to try this natural sauna’ were my only instructions; otherwise I was a novice through and through.  Upon arrival, I was directed to don my swim suit and was given a ‘kit’ that included towel, slippers, and cosy robe; those were the basic necessities handed out to all resort guests. Then the ‘Entrance to Paradise’ lady supplied each grotto visitor with a white hooded tunic in heavy cotton, and a sweet warning to follow the signs from Paradise, along the Purgatory terrace and into the Inferno area, the grotto’s hottest natural parlour. Stalagmites (or ‘tites’, for all I know) abound and splashes of bluish minerals sporadically colour the ‘lacy’ stones that make up the grotto. ‘Whether you sweat or not, the grotto will still free you from all of your toxins,’ the lady told me.   Cool! And all it takes is 34 degrees, 100 percent humidity and 50 minutes of silent in-cave lounging. In truth, this thermal treatment is best for those with degenerative arthritis, chronic, rheumatism, bronchitis and respiratory difficul-ties, allergies and skin problems. And I’ll admit that yesterday I had none of those things. Luckily for the likes of me, the grotto is also good for the over-worked and over-stressed and known to achieve ‘the complete restoration of the body and mind.’ After all, there is nothing like sitting in the core of the earth if you want to remember the essentials of well-being. After going to hell and back again, I was encouraged to see Limbo Lake, a natural underground spring that sprouts water with bicar-bonate, sulphate, chloride, and magnesium. It reaches the earth’s surface at a temperature of 34-35 degrees and is pumped into a thera-peutic outdoor swimming pool, which I would visit later. First, I had to go to the shower rooms and get ‘hosed off’ by the water spe-cialist. The water is deliciously hot, frightfully strong and restores your blood pressure, tones your skin, rejuvenates your psyche and re-balances all of your pressure points after your stroll in the heart of the planet. Next came the swimming pool. It’s 700 square meters of warm ‘therapeutic’ water just waiting to be waded in. Wow! I know ‘wow’ is not at all a sophisticated word and should be used sparingly, especially if one is talking about such a sophisticated place, but some-times only ‘wow’ will do. Maybe it was just the day—the sweetness of the September sun, the hills of Montesummano surrounding the valley, the fact that everyone else I knew in the world was slaving away at their normal days. And there I was, my biggest problem find-ing the button to the hydro-massage jets. The Grotta Giusti provides tons of treatments for both beauty and health and deals in all sectors of well-being, from nutrition to fit-ness, dermatology, mud therapy and osteopathy. There are massage techniques from all lands, from Japan and Sweden, to California and ‘sweet proposals’ like thermal chocolate body scrubs and sweet plankton for a nourishing skin treatment. I found the sector for Orien-tal disciplines particularly attractive, like the chance for a Thai Massage, or the Shirodhara treatment (where a constant flow of hot oil is poured over the chakra located in the centre of the forehead), which cures stress and insomnia, or the Ayurvedic massage, which relaxes muscular tension and improves breathing. But all that will come another day. This year, the Grotta Giusti was worth the birthday wish. Only next time, I won’t go alone. Cer-tainly it is true that there are times when one needs space and quiet—but some things are too good not to share. My vote? Go to the ther-mal spa with a friend and plant yourselves two beach chairs away from each other. That way you can both have your space. But most likely after an hour or so, you’ll need to turn in their direction and say ‘Hey, can you believe all this? What’s the rest of the world do-ing? We’re here!’NATURAL SPA RESORTVia Grotta Giusti 1411Monsummano Terme (PT)Tel. 0572

more articles