Eight time zones later, I arrived to Rome bright-eyed and buzzing with excitement. The land of strong espresso, historic buildings and grande romanza awaited me.
Everything in Italy can only be viewed through rose-tinted designer sunglasses. Listening to the cacophony of collective rolling r’s (or, erre) and warm greetings provides the equivalent of a fine, aged auditory merlot.
Rolling through the Italian countryside to Canale Morales, I watched plush green fields accented by trees stretch ahead. We arrived at Terme di Stagliano (the thermal springs and hotel of Canale Morales) one hour later and after checking into my small room, I began to explore the grounds.
The springs were set deep into the countryside, so far in fact that there was nowhere else to go. I explored the beautiful grounds punctuated by endless evergreen shrubbery, trees, bamboo, bushes and of course, the occasional fountain.
Curious, I sampled the chlorinated pools and warm springs alike.
I’m not sure if it was the spring water, the bright sunshine or the whisper of Italian accents in the background, but all my tension and worry quickly melted away.
After relocating a glittering blue pool set against steep green hills, I settled into the sunshine once again. Meditating with deep inhalations, the calm settled deeper until the sharp shriek of an exasperated and guttural moan robbed the silence.
To my delight, a competitive chorus of mooooooos resounded over the hills. This certainly was the Italian countryside.
If I am going to share this beautiful setting, why not with black, brown and white cows from a neighboring farm?
Given the language barrier (their English was better than my Italian) I had a hard time being sure I had uncovered all of the spa features. Thus, the sauna eluded me until the next morning.
Before entering the grotto, or sweating cave, you must have your blood pressure checked by a medical professional and receive a prescribed length of time. My heart health proved strong with a pressure of only 100, but as this could make me prone to fainting (‘tis true), 10 minutes was my allowed maximum.
The cave is set only 25 feet underground, but once inside, you feel as if you’re tickling the bowels of the earth. The temperature was hot but manageable, with heat similar to a bikram yoga class accompanied by heavy, wet air rising off steaming hot springs.
Dim lights offered a guide to a small bridge over bubbling springs, with the main entrance offering a 20 foot trough of hot water and a ledge to sit upon.
The closer I get to the earth, be it dirt or tree, the happier I become.
While I didn’t fully learn this hard-wired facet of my psyche until later in life, this fact has remained constant since.
Something as natural as a cave with hot springs and clay mud elicits the same response as a child entering a rainbow-colored inflatable bouncy castle.
My ten minutes passed gleefully, and I wanted to stay longer. But an Italian buffet breakfast awaited me, as did my sixteen fellow colleagues (of which I am the only American resident).
Time for a piping hot macchiato, melon shaved paper-thin and thinly sliced prosciutto.
On to the next thermal spring of Lazio. Arrividerla!