Hotel Of The Week: L'Albereta, Italy
So you're striving for a fit and fresh new you... That doesn't mean you can't indulge just a little. At L'Albereta, in Italy's Franciacorta, they know all about wellbeing - and luxury
One of northern Italy's little-known gems, the Franciacorta area's lush, undulating landscape, studded with castles and abbeys, is the ideal backdrop for L'Albereta. A rambling 19th-century villa, covered in Virginia creeper, the hotel seems to rise organically out of the vine-covered hills on which it stands.
Home to a world-class restaurant and equally impressive spa, L'Albereta's approach to a luxurious break covers all bases. Yet despite the grandeur of the setting, the atmosphere is homely - probably because both the hotel and the vineyards that surround it are owned and run by a family. Papa Moretti tends the Bella Vista grapes while his daughter Carla runs the hotel. (Guests can take wine-tasting tours.)
At the helm of the restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, stands the legendary Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi. The L'Albereta's spa, meanwhile, is the province of Dr Henri Chenot, who is also a leader in his field.
Detox, diet, hydrotherapy, massage and beauty treatments are the principal ingredients of the spa's menu, but the set packages - and Chenot likes his guests to choose one and stick to it - coverweight, stress, anti-ageing and overall health.
The spa's unique selling point is the bio-energetic testing; guests are wired to a computer via their "energy points", and the results, claims Chenot, reveal the toxins in their bodies.
L'Albereta stands just above the small town of Erbusco, 5km west of Lake Iseo and 60km east of Milan.
The comfort factor
Expect no-details-spared luxury translated into Mediterranean-ethnic style. There are Sardinian lampshades, warm rugs on wooden floors, refreshing frescoes of vineyards and a soothing array of contemporary art. All 57 rooms are individually decorated and all 17 suites have four-poster beds. The ultra-swish Honey Room even has a retractable glass roof.
Outdoors, the landscaped garden is overlooked by an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna complex, with teak sunbeds on a terrace providing a pleasant place to relax.
Jacuzzi baths, super-fluffy towels and pleasantly musky products from Italian fashion house Etro make for a super-deluxe soak. Those in the Lake Tower have showers which double as Turkish baths.
The food and drink
Marchesi's dishes look like Avant Garde artworks yet retain their Mediterranean flavours. Highlights include the sculptural amuse gueules and saffron risotto topped with a generous flake of gold leaf.
However, clients following the spa packages are recommended to stick to one of the diet menus proposed by Mr Chenot - think low-fat and salt-free with a tisane instead of a pudding.
There are foodies, Milanese businessmen and bankers, Italian footballers and their molls, plus young couples treating themselves to a child-free weekend.
Go online and visit stradadelfranciacorta.it for some useful wine-tasting itineraries in English. For a freshwater-fish lunch, head to the shores of nearby Lake Iseo. The national park of Capo di Ponte is home to a group of 8,000-year-old rock paintings.
There are lifts but no other facilities for visitors with disabilities.
From €230 (£160) per night for a double room. Breakfast is an extra €27. A Spa Weekend four-night package is €1,818 per person with full board, including diet menu and spa programme. The three-night Honey Room package costs €1,190 per person, including b&b, massage, a light lunch and a day trip to Venice with a private boat tour of the lagoon. All rates are based on two sharing. A three-course dinner at Gualtiero Marchesi costs €100 a head with a bottle of house wine.
L'Albereta, Via Vittorio Emanuele 11, 25030 Erbusco (Brescia) Italy (00 39 030 77 60 550; www.albereta.it).
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* The Park Hotel Kenmare (00 353 64 412 00; www.parkkenmare.com) combines old-fashioned Irish hospitality with the cutting edge Samas spa.
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