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Spa'Deus, Tuscany, Italy

Fitness, Italian Style

"Camminate in circolo, biegate le gambe, ondulate les braccia," directs Ada. Some of the group understand not a word of Italian. Never mind. They follow the water aerobics routines just as easily as their Italian pool mates. Ada's enthusiasm is contagious. Everyone giggles through her choreographed movements and emerges from the pool energized. Aquaerobics is a favored workout at this Tuscan spa. Moments later a few of the group go back into the pool to use the special manual underwater equipment–stairmaster, treadmill, cross-country skis, slide and abdominal bars– that Christina Newburgh, the spa's founder, designed for circuit training in the piscina. The equipment is said to be exclusive to Spa'Deus.

Spa'Deus, Tuscany, Italy (Credit: Vivian Fancher)

But so are many of the other features of this centro benessere. Kirk, a Californian, directs the American-style fitness program and teaches box aerobics, a new rage, in a room outfitted with punching bags. He also interviews every guest, most of whom come here to lose weight and to get in shape, and sets up individual exercise schedules. Classes range from easy–stretching and sit and be fit–to moderate– yoga and abdominal and body toning–to challenging–step aerobics and weight training.

If you want to have a more European-type experience, the spa offers every known beauty treatment, some with interesting variations. Defatigante, a salt and honey rub followed by a short session in the steam room, is like a Hawaiian lomi-lomi massage. Of the 20-plus therapies, Indian ayurveda is perhaps the one that is least familiar in health spas. Two therapists massage the entire body with oil. It's about as relaxed as you'll ever get. Just don't fall asleep and miss the one and one-half hours of bliss. And perhaps it's best not to have them put the oil on your hair since it's hard to remove.

What would a trip to Tuscany be without excursions into the cypress-covered hillsides? Two daily trips are part of the program. In the morning guests are escorted to the woods for a passeggiata or walk. Later in the day they visit ancient towns, such as Montechiello, dating back to 1230, or lunch at an old farmhouse, Casa Rosa, on land belonging to the Marchiese Origo. A delightful after dinner activity is to fare una passeggiata to the charming center of Chianciano, about a mile away, to join the locals strolling in the square.

Chef Enrica Barni, who has been at the spa since it opened eight years ago, has devised a lot of ways to serve pasta (this is Italy, after all) with low-calorie sauces. She seems to serve salmon often, too, but each time with a new twist. Both diet and maintenance menus are available.

Spa'Deus accommodates about 60 guests at one time, although 40 is usually the norm. The clientele is international. The spa is located about one and one-half hours from Rome or Florence by train or car. Attractive and well-fitting exercise clothes are provided.

Spa'Deus, Via Le Piane 35, 53042 Chianciano Terme, Italy. Tel. 011-39-578/63232, fax 011-39-578-64329. www.spadeus.it

Fall 1994