Thu 16 Aug: Fonteverde Spa, Tuscany, Italy
So I’m at this fancy spa in Italy, failing to communicate constantly with everyone I come across, trying to chill in record time and having hilarious massage run-ins.
Yesterday I got massaged by a man named Nicola, and today I had a “vitalstone” massage which, I have to confess, was, well, really very nice.
I figured out something interesting near the beginning of the massage though that had me nearly chuckling the hot stones off my back. The sleep-mask that I had dismissed casually yesterday when offered it by Nicola (“you sleep?”), I actually took out of its plastic wrapper today when offered it by my next masseuse because I felt maybe a doze was good.
I was a bit confused as it wasn’t like any normal sleep mask. Then I realised it must be a hairnet – long hair and oils possibly not a good thing. So I discarded it again. And the masseuse (she had popped out) was a little surprised I had done so when she came back in. Odd, I thought, as my hair is very short at the moment. But let it drop.
And then, a few minutes later, it suddenly occurred to me that the hairnet must have been a pair of massage underpants. It was the only explanation as to why both she and Nicola has popped out for a few minutes after I had arrived and then knocked to come back in. So instead, she had to deal with my blue swimming trunks – but was clearly a little uncomfortable with pulling them up or down as I had apparently made such a fuss.
It was when I pondered the concept of her walking in to see me pulling underpants on my head and looking puzzled that I start to shake with laughter, nearly dislodging the stones she had gone to so much trouble to place on my back in the first place.
But am I right?
I had hoped that I would be able to grab the discarded sleep-mask / hairnet / underpants on the way out so I could figure it out in the safety of my room, but no, by the time I had got off the table at the end of it, she had cleared it away and I couldn’t see any more to grab.
So there is still a part of me that isn’t sure that they really are underpants. Especially since from my memory of them, they were a bit odd and really very flimsy. Not at all certain how they would fit on. So now I have to try to figure out a way of finding out for certain – not easy with the language barrier – because the masseuse I have booked for tomorrow for a “Ki” massage may leave screaming if she sees a grown man with a hairnet pulled strategically across his nether-regions on her massage table.
The vital stone massage was actually incredibly relaxing and pleasant. It comprises basically of some gentle massage and then the placing of hot, and then warm, stones on your back, on the back of your foot and in your hands, and then – turn over – on your stomach, the sides of your knees, your shoulders, forehead and, again, hands.
It became clear to me at one point that she was drawing a connection because the very smooth and warm stones and smooth flesh because she would run her hand across whatever part – back, hand, head etc – and then the run the stone over it, then her hand, then the stone, then her hand and finally leave the stone there.
But it was during the most real and, peculiarly, pleasurable part of the massage – when she simply held my hand for a few seconds before putting a hot stone in my palm – that it struck me what this massage lark was all about. Now I have always liked a massage (though I constantly prevent myself from enjoying one out of, well, being a man) and I liked them because I work at a computer all day and build up massive tension in my lower back and particularly in my shoulders. My shoulders are literally full of knots unless I do some serious exercise on them, and in the past a massage of them has caused me to: groan as if a wounded animal; moan in an adult fashion; cause my legs and arms to spasm; send me to sleep within 10 seconds.
But the rest of it – away from the back – has always seemed slightly pointless as it doesn’t have the same impact. And then it occurred to me that the massage was more about physical contact, human physical contact. Male massage a la Turkish bath is still about pulling joints and loosening muscles but the rest of it – and the reason why it is 90 per cent women at these things – is because it is gentle, sustained physical contact without it having to lead to sex.
And of course, being a man of the 21st century and in touch with my feminine side, I can see this. I had no desire to sleep with my masseuse – despite feeling quite well-disposed toward her because she had relaxed me so greatly. And the beauty was that it wasn’t even an issue – as it would probably be in normal life. It’s not the greatest insight in the world – it’s not as if I haven’t had girlfriends making this point in various ways over the years. Or that the lazy Sundays in bed don’t rate as the most relaxing times I’ve ever had, but it’s nice to remember things like this occasionally.
I suspect I may be relaxing.
Pounded by water
I wasn’t so sure this spa was all it was cracked up to be this morning when at 11.30am I went for “Bioaquam” which was sold seductively as many different forms of water massage. What it comprised, albeit in beautiful surroundings and with a stunning views, was pressing a button and then being pummelled by a water jet coming out of various directions depending on which bit of the bioaquam you were in and how you were sitting/standing.
I think my favourite was where you laid down on an underwater stone bed and pressed the button – and then had to see how long you could withstand having 100 gallons a minute pumped straight into your neck and feet at the same time. Felt a bit dizzy after that one.
I was wondering why one woman spent so long in one of the little cubicle-style stone bits. She eventually swam out, so I went in, hit the button… and had my testicles pummelled by what felt like an underwater Harrier Jump Jet. I had to leave after 15 seconds in case I lost my future family. She had been there for 20 minutes. Dirty cow.
Right, I’m writing this in the bar again and now I’m hungry so it’s 9pm and I’m heading off the restaurant again to see what other weird delights there are to try.
Tired and relaxed and can’t be bothered to write much more. Except to say I forget to mention that Dirty Old Man One had had dinner last night with his incredibly young companion and didn’t speak to her all night (she was texting). And Dirty Old Man Two walked out the life with his young Japanese companion this morning with her dressed like a schoolgirl.
I wonder what the staff make of all this. And I wonder why there’s never been a good confessional book by some hotel manager. I’d read it.