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Tee time in Tuscany

The Ryder Cup hits Italy next year. Rookie golfer Orla Thomas gets in the swing — on the fairway and in the spa.

Further south, the Terme di Saturnia resort offers a very different Tuscan experience. Situated in the less-visited Maremma region, the 100-year-old hotel grew up around an ancient thermal spring.

Sought out for its therapeutic properties since Roman times, it’s still popular with weekenders from the capital. They congregate around the sulphurous pools wearing fluffy white bath robes — a uniform of relaxation that stays on from morning espresso until the sociable aperitivo hour.

Arriving for an early morning bathe, I find the pools a milky blue, with steam coming off the water. As the sun rises they clear, and peering down it seems as though I’m floating in the caldera of a volcano. From the depths emerge streams of bubbles and the odd blob of algae, adding to the elemental experience.

Around me, people are supported in the water by chic, grey versions of the “noodles” usually used for children’s swimming lessons. Few bother doing laps; instead the temperature encourages stillness and surrender — it’s as though all the tension has been leached out of my body.

“Ten minutes in the pools really improves your game,” says Procolo Sabatino, the resort’s golf course manager, who is also my teacher for the day. “The more relaxed you are, the better you play.” My swing isn’t the only beneficiary — the mineral-rich waters are also used to irrigate the 173-acre course, helping to earn its GEO-certified status and sustain local wildlife.

A flock of gulls observe my efforts on the green, but after failing to score anything remotely close to an eagle I’m ready for another break. The wisteria-clad Trattoria La Stellata happily obliges, serving stuffed courgette flowers and cured meats at a tucked-away spot between the 6th and 16th holes.

My coveted hole in one arrives not on the course, but in the resort’s enormous, 53-room spa. Designed with golfers in mind, the signature treatment involves a slathering with Saturnia’s anti-oxidising mud, followed by a full-body massage. After 80 minutes I return to the warmth of the pools feeling like a baby — albeit a 42-year-old baby who has recently taken up golf.

Orla Thomas was a guest of Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, which has B&B doubles from £245 and one-hour golf lessons for two from £43pp (, and the private travel consultant and Italian specialists Merrion Charles (merrion Two nights’ B&B at Terme di Saturnia, including flights, a golf lesson and Hole in One treatment, from £1,309pp (

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