February 07 2010
Is the best spa the one that isn’t really there? If so, I have discovered a memorable example in an unexpected place. This spa is entirely innocent of wind chime music and faux-Zen decor. And none of the chilly minimalism that leaves me, well, cold. So it was a delight to discover the “no-spa” spa, one of the few proofs of that most questionable of rules, namely that less is more.
We are in Portofino, strolling along a narrow terrace through the precipitous gardens of the venerable Hotel Splendido. The views are of bays bobbing with yachts – proper three- and four-masters. At the end of the path an ancient watchtower guards the point; beyond, the Ligurian coast wriggles out into a sea-haze towards the Cinque Terre. Beneath a pergola wreathed in vines are set two massage tables, one for each of us. Nothing else. Here Katia and her colleague will undo the knots tied by the Ferrari lifestyle (helmsman’s shoulder is another affliction efficiently disposed of).
As we lie there looking outward, the cliff falls away to the sea far below, leaving a view of Signor Berlusconi’s rented villa on a promontory in the middle distance. Rivas full of Nereids cavort in the bay. As the mind surrenders to pure alpha rhythm, my last thought is that la dolce vita is right here, right now. As the Ligurians say, “Non c’è niente come niente” – there is nothing quite like nothing at all.
Massaggiare nel Giardino from €149. Double rooms from €1,061.50 half board in low season, €1,259.50 in high season.