Oasyhotel review: Back to nature at an Italian wilderness retreat
Liz Earle embraces the call of the wild, as she shares a review of her stay at Oasyhotel, alongside her son, Kit.
One of my great pleasures is taking my girls to a spa or some kind of beauty retreat to enjoy mutual manicures, cold water plunges and some simple girl-time bonding over superfood salads and green smoothies. So it came as something of a surprise when my middle son, Kit, asked when it would be his turn. A lovely idea for some mother-son time together, but where to go with a lad more into football than foot baths?
Our summer holiday was in Umbria, right in the heart of Italy, so I said we’d head off somewhere nearby for a few days away.
Arriving at Oasyhotel
It was then I discovered the Oasyhotel ‘wilderness retreat’, set 3000ft up in the Apennine Mountains, easily reached via train from Florence. Our taxi whisked us away from the station’s city bustle and out into the calmer countryside. At Oasy’s gate, we turned steeply uphill, twisting along a seemingly never-ending, winding track up the mountainside, passing rural foresters and ruddy-faced farm workers. Most unlike the white-coated spa technicians more usually seen on arrival at a wellness centre. But then, Oasy is not your usual wellness hotel.
Eventually, after wondering if the uphill climb would ever end and, with our ears popping at the altitude, we reached base camp – a series of discrete wooden buildings dotted around a main reception area. ‘Welcome to Jurassic Park,’ said the charming manager, dressed ready for a safari – and it did truly feel as though we had stepped into another world.
Wildlife takes precedence over people, with nature trails galore and trees bursting with birdsong. An eagle flew past us overhead and we were warned we could expect to hear wolves at night. Previously a private hunting estate (hence the abundance of wildlife), the reserve is now managed by the World Wildlife Fund and dedicated to conservation. It boasts an organic farm and a wonderful recreational camp, complete with indoor swimming pool for seriously ill children, among others, all of whom benefit from Oasy’s philanthropic mission.
What to do at Oasyhotel
There’s a contemporary, slightly Scandi-vibe. No TV, let alone Netflix, and no cars (so safe for younger children to roam). Mobile phones are discouraged. Guests stay in chalet-style cabins dotted around the hillside, each with a wildflower verandah. Kit and I shared a cabin – I bagsied the double bed and he gallantly took the single sofa bed in the sitting room, separated by a sliding door. The décor is spartan but stylish: camp-style striped blankets, pale oak flooring and a simple shower room with a stainless steel basin and WC. There may not be a TV but there is good Wi-Fi, and a Nespresso machine complete with organic coffee pods and real milk from the local farm.
There are electric bicycles for exploring the many nature trails and there’s a lovely bike ride (or walk) down to the woodland lake. The morning yoga on the wooden deck here was a highlight of our stay. I also loved the outdoor massage therapy, set under canvas on a pile of comfy cushions – bliss. For activity, there’s table tennis and table football (Kit proved a demon player), ziplining, cocktail making, horse riding, star gazing and guided nature hikes to spot wolves, deer and wild boar. The more adventurous can even arrange to spend the night in one of the treehouses under the stars.
…and not forgetting the food
We spent an entertaining morning learning how to make cheese on the Oasy farm. A hands-on process separating the curds from the whey, squeezing out the fermenting milk solids before ‘curing’ it on wooden racks. The resulting fresh cheese was surprisingly tasty and handily vacuum-sealed for us to take home. Afterwards, we stopped by the bar for one of Lorenzo’s delicious, botanically based cocktails, but one of the highlights at Oasy is its restaurant Le Felci, named after the ferns that surround it.
With a local and wild-foraged menu curated by its superstar chef Barnaba Ciuti, Le Felci’s simple setting belies an array of astonishingly good food. The menu is deliciously hearty, suiting the fruity depth of the local Tuscan wines. Not your usual spa fare for sure – and much appreciated by my growing young man.
But for a lighter alternative, there’s also Casa Luigi, serving homemade pasta with fresh tomato sauce and cheeseboards laden with local formaggi. To finish the evening, guests can head to one of Oasy’s campfires on the forest fringe for a nightcap under a blanket of stars. A perfect ending to a wildly good stay.
Double rooms from £440, oasyhotel.com