Saturday, July 9, 2011

May 7 Salsomaggiore Terme Spa Experience

After finding street parking, it was just a five minute walk to this ornate building, which resembles a theater. We all carried or had on bathing suits under our clothes. The Spa was constructed in 1924, over naturally salty thermal waters. I stopped to read this information:

I found more facts in a brochure: "USP Salsomaggiore Terme is famous throughout Europe for its natural salty thermal waters, rich in iodine, bromine, sulphur and calcium. Here, water is the master. It comes direct from artisan wells up to 1,200 m deep at a temperature of 16°C and with a salt density three times higher than that of the Dead Sea."

We approached the check-in counter, where our reservations were confirmed and we paid our fee of 36 Euro.

We were each given a folded white terry robe and a locker key. An attendant led us up a grand staircase. I had not imagined the spa would be this elegant. The walls were filled with huge paintings and stained glass windows. Sparking crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

On the next floor, we were directed by an attendant dressed in a white uniform and cap, to a pristine white, clean, large dressing room. Men and women to the same area, although I didn't see exactly where our two guys went. We were given clean slippers as we entered. (Spogliatoio translates to dressing room.)

There were separate baskets for soiled foot booties, towels and robes along one wall. Along another wall were small cabana type changing rooms with doors.

In the center, were several rows of enclosures, each included a tiny bench and crisp white privacy curtains. Just outside the changing room, I saw a long table with mirrors and electric outlets. Women can bring their own hair dryers and makeup for use after the spa experience.

We each privately changed our street clothes for bathing suits and covered with the white robes. We locked our possessions in individual long cupboards. Not knowing what exactly was in store for us, I left my camera too.

Carrying only our keys with us and dressed in our white robes and slippers, we exited this area to the corridor where the attendant lead us back down the staircase and toward an elevator.

Just to the left of the elevator was a large bathroom, with a sink, radiator and private toilet area. The tiled room was very warm, very humid and sparkling clean and the fixtures looked to be from the early 1900s. We each made a stop bathroom stop here.

I had butterflies in my stomach as all six of us squeezed into the elevator and rode down. I'm not sure how many levels we descended. I felt fear overtaking me. I told Rosa, "Don't worry if I get too scared to do this. Just carry-on without me." Rosa smiled sweetly and said, "Don't worry Zia." Big strong Mattia looked about as enthusiastic as I did. But, there was no way he was going to chicken out.

We cautiously stepped from the elevator into a warm humid atmosphere. Another attendant greeted us and we entered into large solarium like area. Behind a waist high wooden counter, three uniformed attendants were ready to take our locker keys for safe-keeping. We were all given hair covers (loose shower caps) and towels. The towels were not terry like our robes, but heavier, dense cotton. These towels felt more like a blanket, which is what they turned out to be.

To the right of the counter were 3 or 4 large pitchers of water and fresh juices: orange, grapefruit and tea. There were also bowls of pretzels, potato chips and peanuts. Clean glasses, small dishes and paper napkins were set to the side of these snacks. Across the room were cushioned wicker chairs and tables, arranged in groupings of four, for a total of perhaps 20 chairs. Each table contained a small stack of magazines.

We were directed to enter another room, though two large swinging doors to the left of the counter. This was new experience for each of us and we entered duckling style, one after another, cautiously stepping on the wet tile, our feet in the oversized flat slippers, which did not slip! This area was warm, humid and noisy. It sounded as if we were on the back side of a waterfall. What a nice surprise awaited us!

In a loud voice, Rosa told me the area with wall hooks was where we were to leave our booties, robes and towels. Wearing our bathing suits and shower caps, we stepped down into a gently lighted room, containing a big shallow pool of bubbling, swirling warm water. There was no odor of sulfur, as I had expected. We stepped down again into the pool, which had a uniform depth of about five feet.

Here are some pictures copied from the Terme Salsomaggiore website (Terme di salsomaggiore)showing each room we experienced:

Mari d'Oriente (Eastern Seas) (Name of the area we were experiencing)

Room 1 (Sea of Harmony) for 35-40 minutes of hydro-massage.

There are four stations in this pool. The whirling waters or waterfalls could be manually turned on by touching underwater rubberized buttons. The waterfall station was heavenly. Tepid water fell right onto the shoulder area for a wonderful massage. We were all surprised how tense we had been. Everyone found their favorite niche and just relaxed in place to de-stress. The water was noisy but we were mostly silent because it felt so soothing and relaxing. We exchanged station locations every 10 minutes.

Room 2 (Sea of Energy)-- We frolicked like children, in constant movement though this maze room for 30 minutes! The combination of cold and water waters caused a lot of happy shouts. The room required walking or floating through all the stations. My feet were pleasantly surprised by bubbling cold water while at the same time, a warm whirlpool of water hit at the waist level. Not seen in the picture is a walk-in part of the maze, which consisted of cold then warm showers. We were all smiles.

Room 3 Sea of Music (20 minutes) -- We each found a spot and just floated quietly in this paradise. Wonderful music could be heard coming from under the water. The pool was a perfect warm temperature. The outer walls lightly dripped cold rain onto us. We spent more than 20 minutes here and left only because another group arrived.
Room for Relaxing (20 minutes) -- This room was pleasantly a shade dimmer than the other rooms. Before entering, we all went to our hooks to retrieve the special towel-blankets we had been issued. Unfortunately, at this point I was too relaxed and jet-lag was threatening to overcoming me. I was worried I would fall into a deep sleep. I put on my white robe and exited to the large solarium, where I read and snacked on peanuts and pretzels.

Since our reservation was for three hours, Rosa and the others repeated all the rooms at least one more time. Meanwhile, I fought to stay awake with reading magazines.

The first thing I noticed when our group joined me in the solarium was everyone had a ruddy complexion with relaxed faces. After they had their 30 minutes of snacks and juice, we all headed back to the dressing room and changed into our street clothes. Several of the girls had hair dryers.

In that special Italian style of bella figura, everyone looked ready to go "out" after changing back to their street clothes. Italians do not generally wear sweats or gym clothes in public and changing rooms are provided at gyms. Service people and shop girls may also wear uniforms at their place of employment. Changing rooms are provided at the work place.

We were all starving and ready to find pizza but we declined. Marina had planned dinner for us and we were expected to be on time for the 8 pm dinner. Mattia, Rosa and I walked to the car, while the others walked on foot to find pizza.

As we drove out of town, I saw a number of hotels. I can see why it would be a prudent idea to just stay overnight. We were so totally relaxed. Home was nearby and Mattia is a careful driver. I felt myself dosing off in the car, but fought to stay awake.

Marina had a wonderful dinner waiting for us, which we devoured.

After dinner, Rosa and I collapsed on the couch to watch "Italy's Got Talent." Our faces were ruddy and I still could taste salt. Mattia said his good nights and retired to their apartment, which adjoins that of Primo and Marina.

Italy's Got Talent, in the Italian way, broadcasts a combination of truly awful performances, along with silly amateur acts and some other, very talented participants. As Rosa and I struggled to stay awake, Marina suddenly jumped up from the couch. I could see her rummaging through a trunk.

That trunk contains old family movies and I was hoping she would find what she was looking for. Back she came with a VHS tape. She took control of the TV and began fast forwarding, stopping, fast forwarding. I was disappointed to not see more than a few seconds of this and that. I was definitely fading away.

At last, she decided this was not the right tape and at the same moment, Rosa and I decided the day had ended for us. Marina promised she would have the correct tape ready for Sunday night!

I fell asleep instantly in my comfortable bed and had a peaceful wonderful rest.