The ultimate relaxation retreat
(Images courtesy of George Ross)
Why go: If you’re feeling the need to get away and recharge your batteries but simply dread the thought of the time it takes to organise a holiday or to find a travel buddy – this retreat is for you. It’s the brain child of ex-pat Debbie Travis (recently voted Most Famous Brit You’ve Never Heard Of by the BBC) who moved to Canada in her twenties, raised a family and became a household name for her television shows, books and product lines (think Jamie Oliver, but around home design). As a much sought after public speaker, Debbie inspires women of all ages to envision and follow their dreams – and now she’s created weekly retreats at her newly renovated villa and farm in the heart of Tuscany.
This seven-day all inclusive stay is not just a delightful mix of pure relaxation, detox for the mind and creator of new friendships, but is also a powerful experience built on the philosophy that to survive and thrive in today’s hyper-paced world we must invest in ourselves.
I booked the Tuscan Getaway for the usual reasons – I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life and badly needed some ‘me’ time away from my hectic career in media production and marketing. I needed to clear my head and rethink my own journey, but I wanted more than just a typical spa.
I was picked up in Rome with the 16 other female guests, many of whom had travelled from Canada and the US and after the two-hour journey north to Tuscany, there was a collective gasp when we arrived at Debbie’s home – the sheer beauty of the view and Villa Reniella simply took our breath away.
Days begin with optional yoga on a platform perched over a magnificent Tuscan valley followed by an organic breakfast sourced from nearby farms. Daily activities vary from hiking, biking, truffle hunts, cooking classes, guided trips to local towns and vineyards, plus massages and all-important private time with resident life-coach Lucy. A true highlight is the daily forum held at cocktail hour on the comfy couches around a giant fire pit. This is what women do best – chatting and sharing stories and aspirations. The entire experience was invigorating yet emotional at times, but I came away truly refreshed, refocused and full of ideas for my own future. And, I also made some fabulous new friends.
When: The retreats are held from April to October. Each week is adapted to the particular time of year. So, if you visit in October you may spend a morning helping with the olive harvest or springtime can mean long bike rides on the latest E-bikes. Summer months are hot, so the Italian siesta is spent around the pool or having a massage in the most glorious wild-flower surrounded “shed” I’ve ever seen.
You really must: Experience the back roads of Tuscany away from the main tourist areas. There are countless medieval villages and vineyards to explore, and walks through some of Europe’s most spectacular landscapes. The property has all the luxury of a 5 star boutique hotel, yet the warmth of a private home – Debbie and her team are so welcoming. Transport, meals and, yes, alcohol are included – so you have nothing to worry about except whether your massage should be deep tissue or Thai!
The look: The property lies south of Siena on the edge of a UNESCO Heritage Site and is comprised of three buildings separated by courtyards. The main Villa, the Finelli (barn) and the Procellia (old pigsties) have been stylishly converted into 12 gorgeous suites. Decorated with Designer Guild linens, organic mattresses and fitted with modern Italian bathrooms, stone floors and state of the art lighting, each suite opens up onto its own private garden with views of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves.
Dining: Lunches and dinners are enjoyed al fresco at long Tuscan tables or in traditional restaurants in the area. The Tuscan diet is simple yet delicious (all the vegetables come from the onsite organic ‘orto’ or vegetable garden), and Francesco, the in-house chef, becomes an important part of the week. The kitchen door is always open to anyone who wants to help out and learn the art of Tuscan cuisine creation. Weekly cooking classes and even a limoncello making class round out the fun foody experiences.
Bring home: Apart from a ‘new you’ there are plenty of shopping opportunities, starting with a superb organic, extra virgin olive oil produced from the 800 olive trees at the property as well as oil, soaps and massage oil from Debbie’s lavender fields. The local town, Pienza, known as the jewel of Tuscany, is famous for its pecorino cheese, and there are fabulous clothing and jewellery shops in the neighbouring towns of Montepulciano and Cortona.
Book now: Rome, Pisa, Perugia or Florence are between one and two hours away (Perugia is nearest and Ryan Air flies direct). If you fly into Rome you will be picked up and dropped off free of charge. Debbie Travis’ Tuscan Getaway includes luxury accommodation, all ground transport (to/from Rome and locally), meals, alcohol, treatments, life-coaching, and yoga plus a variety of excursions from £3,500 for 7 days per person.
Contact: Follow Debbie Travis on Twitter and Instagram @Debbie_Travis / tuscangetaway.com