May/June 2007  




Most people know Emilia-Romagna, if they know it at all, for its splendid prosciutto ham and Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, and for balsamic vinegar, the highly prized condiment from Modena. What may surprise them is that balsamic vinegar and the wines of the region are moving from dinner tables into spas.

Wine, it turns out, is as good for your skin as it is for your heart. This scientific discovery has spawned a growing trend in spa treatments called vinotherapy, based on the therapeutic properties of grapes. The seeds, especially, are rich in flavonoid and polyphenol, antioxidants that clean, hydrate, nourish, and delay skin aging, leaving it smoother and more elastic.

Modena, one of the nine provinces of Emilia-Romagna, is at the heart of the region that cuts a swath across northern Italy from the Adriatic Sea almost to the Mediterranean. Among the gentle rolling hills twelve miles southwest of its capital city of Modena lies Terme Salvarola, a resort and spa, with a vineyard of Lambrusco Grasparossa grapes at its back door. It was an opportunity not lost on the hotel.

“The first wine massages in Italy were here in 2002,” said spa director, Gabriella Gibertini. “We used the Grasparossa vineyards behind the hotel for our vinotirapia. It‘s the fullest bodied of the three main Lambrusco varieties. The treatments were very popular and created a lot of publicity.”

Vinotherapy actually originated several years earlier in Bordeaux, where the anti-aging properties of grapes were discovered, and the first wine spa, Les Sources de Caudalie, was launched.


“Terme Salvarola’s present spa program is a sophisticated mix of traditional treatments, among them shiatsu, lymphatic drain massage, thermal aromatherapy, body modeling, anti-stress, and hydromassage in individual medicinal herb-infused baths.”


(A Caudalie wine spa is now open at Relais San Maurizio in the Piedmont.)

Unlike most other wine spas, Terme Salvarola began as a health center, using the mineral-rich thermal waters of the Salvarola Springs to treat a variety of medical conditions. In fact, the curative spa waters are believed to date back to Roman times. The ambulatory medical facility is completely separate from the hotel and the spa buildings, all three in a pleasant landscaped garden.

The elaborate spa facility has twelve therapy rooms, nine therapists, three well-equipped cardio fitness gyms with special sessions of aqua gym, sauna, steam baths, yoga and dance, and three thermal pools—one hot, one cold, one for leg massage—high in sulphur and magnesium to benefit motor and cardiovascular systems.

Terme Salvarola’s present spa program is a sophisticated mix of traditional treatments, among them shiatsu, lymphatic drain massage, thermal aromatherapy, body modeling, anti-stress, and hydromassage in individual medicinal herb-infused baths. But the most interesting are the wine therapies and treatments. These include:
-face masks made from grape vine oil extracts;
wine-6-massages with Grasparossa Lambrusco grape must (the freshly pressed juice of grapes) and grapeseed oils
-hydromassages with grape extracts, biological oils, and purifying grape seeds added to the mineral-rich thermal water.
-baths in wooden wine barrels of thermal water with Lambrusco grape extracts
-body and face packs utilizing grape oils
-wine yeast compresses with honey, grapeseed oil and thermal water.

Based at the home of true balsamic vinegar, which is produced from Modena’s Trebbiano grapes and aged up to 25 years under strict supervision, Terme Salvarola can uniquely offer a Balsamic Vinegar Therapy. Its therapeutic properties come from its acetic acid and high content of vitamins from the A, B, and C groups, which purify and restore balance to combination, oily, and acne-prone skin.

The vinegar is combined with clarified butter, cereal, and/or honey, depending on the goal of the treatment. A peeling treatment for silky skin uses balsamic vinegar and a balanced mix of pumpkin seeds and chickpea flour. A body massage utilizes balsamic vinegar and clarified butter made from the milk of local cows to nourish and elasticize the skin. And a facial mask of balsamic vinegar and honey from the hills of Modena promotes skin suppleness and deep hydration.

wine-3As a devotee of true balsamic vinegar aged 25 years with a pedigreed “tradizionale” label, I opted to sample the dark sweet-sour syrup drizzled over almond cookies in an inner body experience, and for my outer body spa treatment chose the Lambrusco massage instead.

Here’s how it went.

1. Slathered all over with a mixture of fermented wine, grapeseed oil and honey, then cocooned in plastic wrap, I lie on a warm table and, improbably, the mixture starts to bubble under me. After ten minutes or so, the therapist unwraps me.
2. I take a shower. No, I haven’t turned red from the wine or grapes.
3. A bath in a wooden wine barrel filled with hot thermal water, concentrated grape must, and essence of oil follows.
4. Back to the table for a Swedish-style massage using grape must and grapeseed oil.
5. Another shower. I still haven’t turned red, but I am dotted with pieces of grape skin.
6. A final massage with cream of grapeseed oil.

wine-4After all this vinotherapy, my skin was soft and silken, and I had a serious appreciation for the therapeutic powers of grapes.

Terme Salvarola spa treatment details are posted in Italian on All start with a medical visit. Single spa treatments range from €40 to €130. A “Beauty Day,” with a variety of treatment choices, is €71 to €191. The “Vino Day Al Lambrusco,” for instance, includes five wine therapies, €191.

Weekends, plus two-, three- and four-day packages of various wine therapy treatments run from €259 to €656 in high season, and €239 to €612 in low season, including room, breakfast, and another meal.

If you need a break from vinoterapia, the area offers a number of diversions. In the nearby town of Sassuolo the 17th century Ducal Palace of the d’Este family, lords of Modena from 1288 for over 500 years, is a Baroque masterpiece with notable frescoes. And the ancient town of Modena, with its gorgeous arcades, cathedral, museums, shops, and grand piazza, is just 12 miles away.

The hotel has 45 rooms and 3 suites, with double room rates from €52 in low season and €65 in high season, per person double occupancy, including breakfast and another meal.

At press time the Euro was $1.33.

Hotel Terme Salvarola

41049 Sassuolo (Modena)

Tel: 0536-/871788
Fax: 0536-872160




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