An ultra-serene spa experience designed to elevate the mind, body, and soul on the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea.
PUGLIA, Italy — Ethereal. A friend asked me to describe the spa experience at Borgo Egnazia in one word. It was so ethereal, in fact, I’m not sure it ever actually happened.
When I checked into the award-winning, family-owned, 184-room resort in Puglia very late the first evening, candles lit the hallway to the front desk, where beautiful men and women welcomed me with smiles and low voices. The dimly lit walkways let me know that peace and quiet were on tap for the evening. I was taken to my villa, a three-bedroom paradise with a private swimming pool, living room, kitchen, dining area, and terrace that overlooked the serene countryside. I imagined Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in this same spot the morning after they were married here.
This was my first trip to Italy. I had been in Cesena for the Global Wellness Summit at the Technogym world headquarters, and the summit organizers had suggested I try two spa experiences to tag on a little a little wellness, Italian-style, so I spent a few days before the summit at Lefay Resort & Spa in Lake Garda in northern Italy (read about my trip on Fathom) and made my way afterwards down the heel to Borgo. Apart from a facial in Paris, this would be my first foray into the international world of wellness, and I was curious how it would compare to my extensive homeland experiences. And two spa visits are better than one.
The next day, waiting for me at the Vair Spa was a woman in bare feet, with a flowy dress and long brown hair, who led me on a tour of the dark, cavernous hallways of this magical den. After changing into my bathing suit, my first stop was a Roman bath experience, where I was led from one water activity to another — a cold plunge, followed by a warm bath, a dry sauna, a washing ritual on a stone bed, and finally an ice massage — which left me feeling clean, relaxed, and in awe of how beautiful the ritual was. Almost like poetry, someone hand-delivering me to each experience, saying few words and just letting the sensations unfold. Dreamy.
Next came a session with Luca Fortuna, the visiting internationally-acclaimed aromatherapist, whose insights and expertise in botanical perfumery brought out pretty strong emotions within. He started with eight fragrances — essential oils of a mysterious variety. As he pulled each out of a box, he asked me to describe them in a few words — the first thing that came to my mind — and what I thought of them. For some, I had no words, and for others I had strong reactions. For instance, I said that one smelled like tree bark. After smelling all eight, he used my words as a prism into what might be happening in my life at the moment. He suggested tree bark could be a metaphor for a shield that I use to protect myself, and that those who break through will be the ones who beat the hardest. So, whoa. It went on from there, and the tears started flowing. In all my years of spa conquests, in countless treatments both traditional and cutting-edge, I had never experienced anything like this.
Lastly, with much difficulty in narrowing down my choices for a spa treatment, I decided on a two-hour Vair Story about love called Amaur. There are three “Stories” to choose from, along with body treatments, massages, facials, and more. But the description of it was so compelling and unusual that it drew me in.
Every spa director in North America should read this treatment menu for inspiration. This particular massage was conceptualized for a creative woman and, per the website’s description, “a complete graceful abandonment, ideal for winding down, falling in love with yourself and being open to life.” The candlelit room was again dreamy. My barefoot therapist gliding through the room in her gown…dreamy.
And the strangest thing happened during the treatment: My therapist ended the massage with her hands on my back. I didn’t know she had taken her hands off me until I heard her move something on the counter. She had left her energy with me on the table, her hands still on my back, I could feel them there, even though she was across the room.
In between services, I lounged in peace among candles, lemons, and signs that read, “Enjoy the Silence.”
Indeed. The Italians know a thing or two about wellness.
All photos courtesy of Borgo Egnazia.