Bar Luce

I have officially experienced the most "Wes Andersony" thing there is to experience. Previously I thought that I had accidentally stumbled upon that thing when I visited the Bagni Nuovi in Bormio, but it turns out there is an actual intentional Wes Anderson Mecca for the world now. That place is Bar Luce at the Fondazione Prada in Milan. A bar, or cafe as we would say in the US completely designed by Wes Anderson. After receiving no less than 15 emails, texts, facebook messages and phone calls asking me to visit this place, I made my own pilgrimage to Bar Luce.

The outside of the cafe leaves you with the same questions before arrival. It's rather inconspicuous until the door opens... then it is quite clear Bar Luce was designed by Wes Anderson. The textures, lines and colors are recognizable.

 Custom Wes Anderson wallpaper... no. I do not know if you can get this for your house.

Custom Wes Anderson wallpaper... no. I do not know if you can get this for your house.

 I borrowed this photo from amandahuynh on instagram because when we visited it was far too crowded to get a clear shot of the place.

I borrowed this photo from amandahuynh on instagram because when we visited it was far too crowded to get a clear shot of the place.

 The actual play list here at Bar Luce, just in case you need some ideas for your Wes Anderson themed party Ashely and Rebecca.

The actual play list here at Bar Luce, just in case you need some ideas for your Wes Anderson themed party Ashely and Rebecca.

 No one actually plays these... they just take pictures of them to put up on their blogs and instagram.... Just kidding

No one actually plays these... they just take pictures of them to put up on their blogs and instagram.... Just kidding

 Jars of candy and italian pastries in the case.

Jars of candy and italian pastries in the case.

The space is quite detailed, and I am certain that if I were more well versed in Wes Anderson movies and culture I would have noticed the little touches that make this place special. If you see some, let me know! I do however have enough experience to share that it truly does FEELS like walking into a scene from one of his films. The reason does not only lie in the decor, but more the people that are attracted to this place and the service staff. The decor creates the perfect backdrop that infolds everyone, but the people really make it come alive and give that feeling. Even being here I couldn't help but look at each person and imagine that they were really quirky and interesting with weird stories and that they probably talk in riddles and quips.

The wait staff wears these cute little get ups. I am not sure if this moment photographed truly shows the people here but there are chunky brown sweaters worn on hot Italian days, poodle skirts, Mary Janes, mini baby bangs, so many black rimmed glasses, and norm core jean vests.

 This guy was one of my personal favorites, second only to the couple with the tiny dog wearing denim from head to toe who thought they were better than everyone else and could cut in line because they were pretty.

This guy was one of my personal favorites, second only to the couple with the tiny dog wearing denim from head to toe who thought they were better than everyone else and could cut in line because they were pretty.

 I wonder if she is here on accident... JK she is wearing a shirt covered in little steves!

I wonder if she is here on accident... JK she is wearing a shirt covered in little steves!

What is not pictured are all of the instagram famous people who were posing EVERYWHERE. Against walls, in the sun, pretend walking/jumping, sitting in window sills pretending not to know someone was taking their picture while they looked away. So candid. IT'S ALL A LIE! They were more fun to watch than anything.

EVERYTHING says Bar Luce. The cups, the napkins, the sugar packets. So it is clear that this is for tourists, not a neighborhood hang out.

We sat down and ordered some coffee and panini. They have a small selection of panini, pastries, fruit and drinks. A perfect menu for a light breakfast, afternoon lunch or snack.

Everything was nice. The food was tasty, the coffee was good. It was enjoyable but I would say it is somewhere that really only needs to be visited once. There are far better bars in Milan for eating and drinking with friends. This is however something to see, and I would suggest it to anyone visiting Milan who has seen a Wes Anderson film. It is worth a trip, and besides the pavilion where it resides is very interesting.

Fondazione Prada is a gallery, event space and shop. There is always something to see here. I was particularly beside myself and obsessed with a building of the most intense gold I have ever seen. I mean come ON! Look at that thing. It is nearly blinding in the sun. What a perfect backdrop for an instagram photo where I pretend like I just happen to be standing there while someone takes my picture.

If you are interested in visiting Bar Luce, visit their site and check it out! It will be a fun experience that wont be regretted.

Saturnia

One of the benefits of living in Northern Italy is having a beautiful country at your fingertips. The Mountains are less than an hour drive, the sea, not much farther, the hills of Tuscany are not too far off, and high speed trains are a life line to other Italian cities. 

This weekend we took advantage of an Italian holiday on the 1st of May. Like many people in Milan, we chose to trade in city life for the rolling hills of Tuscany. Our destination was the Saturnia Spa and Golf Resort where we experienced the natural sulfur spring waters of Tuscany. 

The spa is about a 6-hour drive south from Milan including some weekend traffic and a couple of stops. There are plenty of options for a quick meal at an Auto Grill along the way. As an American I continue to be surprised when I encounter food options at 'gas stations' in Italy. They really are full service. In true Italian form, just because you are on the go doesn't mean you should miss out on a good meal!

 Roasted chicken, grilled veggies, mixed greens and tangerines. 

Roasted chicken, grilled veggies, mixed greens and tangerines. 

The roads to Saturnia or in Tuscany in general are not for the faint of heart. Sometimes the navigation screen was almost comical displaying all of the curving roads. It really causes this grid loving Chicagoan to scratch her head. But who cares when you are in Tuscany, right? 

We arrived to a warm and inviting resort, with friendly staff, and pristine decor. Upon arrival, there is no denying you are at sulfur hot springs. The smell is a persistent and constant reminder that I actually grew to enjoy. It has in fact become synonymous with relaxation. 

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The lobby of the Saturnia Resort and Spa. 

One of my favorite things about spas is that it is one of the few places on earth where wearing a robe 24/7 is not only accepted but encouraged. So, the first morning, I was more than happy to put on my robe and slippers and head to breakfast.

The resort offers only buffets for breakfast and lunch. For Dinner they offer a buffet as well as two restaurant options. Usually when I hear buffet, it isn't exactly enticing, but I have to say, they certainly know how to do the buffet well. Most of the options are local and that certainly makes a world of difference when it comes to produce. 

For breakfast we had options of a variety of croissants, cakes, breads, jams, honey from the comb, yogurt, cereals, fruit, bacon, eggs, salmon, cheese, cured meats, potatoes and several freshly squeezed juices. All of this delicious food again made me grateful to be wearing a big puffy white robe. 

We explored the resort while we let our breakfast settle. There are furniture vignettes throughout perfect for relaxing with family and friends, as well as card tables, a gift shops, and a bar with a live pianist. The whole space invites you to relax, play and be refreshed. 

 Corridor from the spa to the bar and sitting area. 

Corridor from the spa to the bar and sitting area. 

 Full service bar with cocktails, coffee, fresh juices and cafe snacks. Just don't ask them for vodka cranberry... they will have no idea what you are talking about. 

Full service bar with cocktails, coffee, fresh juices and cafe snacks. Just don't ask them for vodka cranberry... they will have no idea what you are talking about. 

 Library and sitting room with piano. 

Library and sitting room with piano. 

After some exploration we were ready to lay under the Tuscan sun. I was eager to see what the fuss was all about with these sulfur hot springs. The smell is intense. I won't lie to you. It's like hitting a wall of stinky eggs. If you can get past that, it is quite the experience. 

For thousands of year, people have been using hot springs for healing and wellness. Some of the benefits of natural spring waters are: 

  • The treatment of various skin conditions
  • A natural exfoliating, peeling effect and deep antiseptic cleansing action
  • A vasodilatory effect on the cardiovascular and respiratory system, reducing the arterial pressure
  • A protective, antioxidizing/antiageing and cleansing effect on the liver
  • Reduces tension in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Boosts respiration and increases pulmonary ventilation

I have to say, my skin did feel exceptionally soft to the touch, and I was certainly relaxed. Besides all of this, it is an incredibly beautiful natural phenomenon. 

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The variations in water color reflect the algae which grows on the bottom of the springs. This pool while it may look common in the photo is actually home to the hot springs. They bubble up from the bottom, and produce the lovely smell we are all familiar with. The algae breaks loose from the rocks and earth on the bottom and rises to the top. At which point, it can be used to rub on skin for extra cleansing properties. 

While this pool is the main attraction, there are several smaller hot tubs, waterfalls and some in door roman baths and Turkish saunas as well. 

Both lunch and breakfast are served with indoor and outdoor seating. No reservations are needed, and as I said before... come in your robe, ready to eat. 

 Outdoor seating available during breakfast and lunch. If you don't mind the smell, the view is quite nice. 

Outdoor seating available during breakfast and lunch. If you don't mind the smell, the view is quite nice. 

I think this picture describes lunch better than can be done in words. I will just add that there is something for everyone. Always a pasta dish at the ready, vegetarian, low carb and sugar options as well. Most of the products are from the Tuscan region so you can be sure you are eating local, and fresh. 

After lunch, we took advantage of some of the resorts other offerings. Thankfully, I was able to keep my robe on while playing a few games of ping-pong in the shaded gardens. 

Saturnia offers the rental of mountain bikes for no extra cost, simply pick one out and be on your way. We biked a bit of the Tuscan hills near by, and we were certainly in good company. Cycling is quite a popular hobby in the area. I suppose the hills, and winding roads make for the most interesting of cycling conditions. The views sure can't be beat either. 

A main draw for Saturnia is golf. They offer an 18 hole course in the hills. After a long game of golf or a cycling excursion the spa is waiting as a source of rejuvenation once again.  

The Spa is full service offering massages of all kinds, facials and beauty services. There are even options for using special products and treatments particular the this area of Tuscany. The staff will help you choose from their menu of services to create the perfect experience for your relaxation needs. 

Once you are tired, but beautiful enjoy one of the resorts several dinner options, or choose from the incredible near by Tuscan restaurants and wineries. Yelp and google will do the trick in helping you find a great place near by. Be sure to add your own reviews, as the locals appreciate your interest.

Overall, Saturnia is a fascinating place. Wonderful service, gorgeous views, top notch relaxation and delectable food. There are few places where it is possible to be so in touch with nature while surrounded by the accommodations of a critically acclaimed resort. I will say, while it is completely family friendly, and offers a few fun activities to do, Saturnia is best suited for those who love to golf, and caters to an older more mature crowd.  

 The golden hour in Saturnia. 

The golden hour in Saturnia. 

For more information on this beautiful Tuscan gem and natural sulfur hot springs visit Saturnia

Bormio

Have you ever seen Grand Budapest Hotel? If so, the Bagni Nuovi Hotel in Bormio Italy may look familiar. Visiting is like stepped into the mind of Wes Anderson. I am sharing this gem in the Italian Alps because it isn't fair that only European vacationers are experiencing the majesty that is Bormio. See for yourself...

Nestled in the alps above Bormio are two hotels and hot spring spas. The Bagni Vecchi (old baths) and the Bagni Nuovi (new baths). Each with their own charm and amenities, but neither disappoint. 

During the day the light filled corridors of the Bagni Nuovi lead to endless combinations of spa and relaxation treatments. Experience cold, lukewarm, and steamy water exercises created to improve circulation throughout the body.

Of all the spa treatments, my personal favorite at the Bagni Nuovi was developed by a priest in the 18th century. It's an oval shaped cobblestone path, water up to the calfs. When entering the water on the right side, it is warm and inviting. Gentle. Almost body temperature. As you follow the path around half of the oval cobblestones below your feet provide a gentle massage to the soles. Half way around the oval path there are a couple of steps. Emerge from the water, but a few paces later re-enter on the other side of the oval path. This path appears the same on the outside, but is filled with fridge water. A complete shock to the mind and circulatory system to boot. The trek around this side of the oval is anything but comforting. At the end of the path, emerge from the cold waters, re-enter the inviting calming water. It takes a moment for the warmth to penetrate this time. This alternating warm and cold paths happen five times.

Walking this oval path did things in my body and soul I was not anticipating. It is the most accurate metaphor for life I have yet to experience. It took all of my will power not to rush through or skip the cold difficult parts of the experience.

I wanted to remain on the warm comfortable side of the oval the entire time. The side that made me feel good. While I was walking the warm path, I began to dread returning to the freezing path. The experience is an exercise in mindfulness.

Accept where you are in. Stay present in the moment. Do not consider the hardships of the future. They will come. You will get through them. Do not allow the possible future cold shocking waters to steal the peace and warmth of the gentle enjoyable waters. More importantly remember, the cold waters are the reason for which this practice is good for your body and circulation. You need it. If we remained only in the warm pool up to our calfs it would do nothing for the rest of the body. 

That treatment is only one of the many designed to make an impression, mind, body and soul. 

In the evening, enjoy the in-house restaurant. It is a sight to behold. The staff is incredible and the food even more so. Drink wine from local vineyards, eat cheeses, meats and honey from the area. Load your plates with greens, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If it is available, try the blue cheese and asparagus ravioli, pizzocheriveal and pork steeped in the same local wine. Even the bottles of Lavissima hold water from the very mountains in which you will be surrounded. Be sure to try the pizzocheri, it is what the area is most famous for. Good, rich mountain food! 

The Bagni Vecchi just up the mountain is the older of the two properties. Consider that the Bagni Nuovi is 400 years old... and called new. The Bagni Vecchi are from roman times, some even speculate that the original bath is from the 5th century... B.C. It is likely younger than that, but come on.

We stayed in an attic room at the Bagni vecchi, which is comical when you think about the two tallest people in Italy staying in the only room with extremely slanted ceilings. A few bumps on the head later I am up at night trying to remember if it is safe to sleep when you think you may have a concussion. I was fine.  

Both hotels offer massages and facials while playing lots of Celine Dion and Savage Garden, but the Bagni Vecchi is the only one that is home to my current favorite place on earth...

This pool.

Everywhere you go in Bormio smells amazing. The spas, the restaurants, the rooms.. outside. I mean the air in the alps smells like a snow dusted heaven. 

FInally, Braulio. The best topic for last. My love affair with Braulio began on the first trip to Italy last year. It is the best amaro I've had thus far. Just the right amount of bitter mountain taste. Bormio is the birthplace of my beloved Braulio. Although there are less and less people interested in scouring the mountain side for wild bitters because they are too busy on Facebook, Braulio manages. 

The Bagni Vecchi shows the true meaning of hospitality by sharing a gold cart filled with local liquor, bitters and canned fruits for you to make a personalized night cap gratis in their after dinner room. 

 

For me, after a January filled with 20 hour work days of non stop event production and travel, this place was my sanity. I hope to be back soon, and to be bringing you with.  

Day passes are available to both of the spas if you are traveling on a budget. The town of Bormio is a quaint ski village and has many housing options. Not to mention it is adorable. Have I done enough to convince you to visit yet?