What No One Tells You About Tuscany

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Here's What No One Tells You About Tuscany

  Many Americans go to Tuscany for the wine. One of the region’s top retreats, for the spa and the organic gardens and the Chianti.
  On my very first afternoon at Borgo Santo Pietro, a fantasy of a grand Tuscan estate just outside the town of Chiusdino, I managed to get happily lost in the gardens on the way to the spa.It wasn’t difficult the artfully landscaped grounds have so many secret corners and intriguing plantings that I couldn’t help being distracted at every turn. Stepping out of the manor onto a stone terrace, I was surrounded by birdsong and the sound of trickling fountains.I passed through an opening in a hedge and entered a formal garden with a vine covered cottage at one end. Inside, Laura Hewitt, Borgo’s florist, was arranging apple blossoms, eucalyptus, and white oleander on a table.“This is the best office in the world,”she said.
  Burned out from juggling work deadlines and the logistics of raising three young children, I had come to Borgo Santo Pietro to rejuvenate. The resort’s spa is small but exceptional, with a focus on revitalizing stressed and aging skin. It even has its own line of natural beauty products, called Seed to Skin, that uses ingredients grown in the  gardens and around the property.
  The intimate, 20 room estate is a half hour’s drive from Siena, embedded in a landscape of forests, fields, and ancient monasteries. Seven centuries ago, Borgo Santo Pietro wasthe site of an inn where Christian pilgrims would stop on their way to pay homage to Saint Galgano, who is buried nearby. Claus Thottrup, a luxury real estate developer based in London, and his wife, Jeanette, purchased the land in 2001 and spent more than seven yearstransforming it from a ruin into a hotel that consists of a stone manor house surrounded by ornately manicured gardens, farmland, and guest bungalows.
  The spa is a large stone cottage with arched glass doors and a terra cotta roof hidden in an expansive cherry and apple orchard. When I arrived, two fireplaces were lit on opposite sides of the main waiting room. I was greeted by Laura Dellacasa Bellingegni, a young massage therapist who radiated serenity. She brought me into one of the two treatment spaces, and for the next hour gave me a firm but relaxing massage using warm natural oil from a melted Seed to Skin candle.It was one of the best and most intuitive massages I’ve ever had. For the Ritual by Seed to Skin facial, Bellingegni stroked pressure points on my face and scalp.I fell into a half sleep as she misted me with aromatic potions and gently rubbed creams onto my skin, including a charcoal and volcanic clay mask called Black  Magic. Whatever kind of magic it was, it worked. I drifted back to my suite with tingling skin and endless gratitude, knowing that there was a big, fluffy bed waiting for me.
  Jeanette Thottrup, a former fashion designer, decided to create the line when she couldn’t find the kinds of organic cleansers and moisturizers she dreamed about.“I wanted to make a product  that worked well and communicated clearly what it was made of,”she said.“Even now, most consumers think skin care is either highly scientific or completely natural. Why not combine the best of both worlds?”
  After doing months ofresearch on herbal medicine,Thottrup hired Anna Buonocore, a cosmeticsspecialist, to create an on site laboratory and develop formulas with scientifically tested organic ingredients.“Occasionally nature needs a bit of help,”Buonocore said. She usesthe estate’s organic sheep’s milk and raw honey forseveral  creams,sourcing more potent ingredients,such as algae and hibiscus flower extract, from elsewhere.
  The gardens and farm also supply the resort’s two restaurants. Trattoria Sull’Albero serves traditional Italian dishes, such as grilled Florentine steak or pappardelle with duck ragù, in an intimate dining room built around a massive oak tree. At Meo Modo, Borgo’s fine dining restaurant, delicate bites Jerusalem artichokes carved in the shape of leaves, buttery ravioli stuffed with slow cooked rabbit are served on beds of moss and vessels carved from stone.
   The evening after my massage, I ate at the trattoria, indulging in a generous glass of Tuscan red and a plate of sheep’s milk cheeses made on the resort’s farm.I started a conversation with Patton Blackwell, an artist from South Carolina who was spending her days painting in the hotel’s gardens as Borgo’s artist in residence for April. The next morning,I visited her studio,a glassand wood bungalow situated between the spa and the farm.I looked at Blackwell’s abstract works glowing greens and golds that captured the colors of the gardens and the Tuscan sunset. Thottrup had told me that she thought of herself not just as a hotelier, but as someone creating a beautiful space for people to “pause on their path and take the time to decide in which direction to go.” Armed with several lotions and two nights of the best sleep I had had in years,I decided to head  home and create my own little garden there, in whatever form that might take.

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