04 JUN 2012: You won’t be gambling when you visit Bellagio. It’s a sure bet though you will find culture, fascinating history and culinary delights. This is not the over the top Las Vegas resort but the picturesque town located on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy.
No garish neon-infused strip of casinos and hotels. Bellagio instead invites pedestrians to navigate its narrow and winding cobblestone streets filled with eclectic boutiques, centuries old churches and tempting gelaterias. Take a breath and enjoy the spectacular view of Lake Como.
Bellagio is also home to the preeminent property in the area – the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.
It is grand in many ways by hosting the world’s royalty, business tycoons and celebrities since 1872. But simple folk like me are equally welcome and every guest experiences service which is indeed grand and very personalized.
THE COMFORTS OF HOME
The Villa Serbelloni’s Spa, like the hotel, is open from early April to late November. Despite the hotel’s luxury and the glamorous guests it attracts, the hotel’s spa is actually understated – and this I might add is a good thing. Spas can go overboard with an excess of décor and luxury and in the process create an atmosphere of pretentiousness and unease – especially for the novice spa-goer. I want to be in a comfort zone not an afraid to touch or I’ll break it zone.
Therefore I was pleasantly surprised and felt comfortable wearing my designer-free threads down to the spa and being welcomed just as warmly as if I was George Clooney – Lake Como’s favourite resident celebrity.
The inspiration behind Villa Serbelloni’s Spa falls to Dusia Bucher who along with her husband Gianfranco own the hotel. She first opened a fitness facility in the early 1990’s and then continued throughout the decade adding many beauty treatments and wellness programmes.
The fitness centre incorporates two gyms, sauna, Turkish bath, squash court and massage rooms. There are also two indoor pools (one especially for kids) as well as an outdoor pool with stunning views of Lake Como and the Alps.
The spa has five treatment rooms plus an aesthetics room for facials and other beauty treatments. They have one couple’s suite. A new relaxation lounge and remodelled reception area was planned to open up in late May.
A STEAMY TREATMENT
In many spas, the signature treatment is no more than a marketing gimmick – think caviar facials to chocolate covered aromatherapy treatments. The scientific and proven therapeutic benefits are questionable at best.
While perusing their spa menu before my visit, I came across the “La Culla di Olos” treatment (€180). It’s not only one treatment but a delightful and therapeutic combination of different treatments.
I was led into the specially designed treatment room by Gabriela, a well-trained therapist originally from Sicily. She spoke little English but if she had the right touch and training one doesn’t need to necessarily communicate verbally.
“La Culla” means cradle. For the next ninety minutes my mind and body were on a journey of soft music, colour therapy, cleansing scrub, aromatherapy and steam.
I have seen my share of massage tables over the course of 25 years visiting spas around the world and this specially designed steam treatment table is one of the best I have the pleasure of resting my whale-like body on. The exquisitely designed wood massage table is water resistant and the table itself can be raised or lowered depending if it is needed for massage or other aspects of the treatment.
The day before I had twisted my back while taking photos – who knew photography could be so punishing on the back? The La Culla treatment was the answer to my back spasm prayers.
I like things steamy – okay we won’t go there! But I love hammams and steam baths so was pleased when I ventured onto the table and laid my aching back and body on the specially designed table.
Gabriela by that point had asked me about my colour therapy choices – the points of light that emitted from the ceiling – easy on the eyes type light. I said go for the multiple colours (you can just order up one colour if you want).
There was also deciding which aromatherapy oil would be used. All I said is you will need lots of oil on this hair infested body. I chose the more relaxing oil – I didn’t want to be energized. I wanted to be soothed back into a non-stress and womb-like environment.
Steam immediately began to rise from below the table and gently surround my body making it feel warm, moisturized and softened. Melodic and relaxing Italian music (though mixed in with popular North American ballads) played in the background as Gabriela began utilizing her aesthetic talents with my “signs of aging and stress” face. Cast away those blackheads and crow’s feet I want to say to her.
The treatment continues with a gentle exfoliation and body scrub – no sadistic dead cell scraping – nice and easy. And rather than make a mess on the floor as she rinses off the scrub mixture, the water and mixture just drops into a tub under the table. No mess, no fuss and don’t have to move.
The relaxation continues with a deeply relaxing aromatherapy body massage. My body is feeling her warm touch while entrenched in my warm cocoon. I doze off assured her skilled hands will mend my body back to health. I awaken from my slumbering state to mangle a thank you and appreciation in Italian to her. Gabriela shyly smiles back knowing full well she was able to rock my body back to a cradle of well-being.
The spa has many innovative beauty and wellness programs ranging from a half-day, one day, weekend and full week. They even have “Muschio Gentleman” – a three-day program incorporating specific fitness, facials, products and treatments for men.
Treat yourself to some Bellagio bliss at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni’s spa and try their “La Culla” treatment. Letting off some steam never felt so good.
For further info: www.villaserbelloni.com