For a pampering, Italian-style getaway, embrace la dolce vita in northern California with a stay at the 112-room Villagio Inn & Spa.
But arrange to arrive at the Vintage Estate in Yountvlle in the evening — as I did — and order the “Tuscan Carpet Picnic.” It’s an Italian-style fireside Napa Valley wine country repast served in the privacy of your room, setting the pace for the sojourn
As you arrive at the 6-year-old resort, your first steps are through a courtyard in which there is a sanctuary, fountains, and a flowing watercourse. By morning, a clear view of lush, vine-striated hills will stand out in the distance from this group of Italian cluster-style buildings. The aroma of lavender and sweet Meyer lemons (the succulent golden-yellow fruit that surrounds the inn like an edible blanket) seems stronger at night.
I’m tired and hungry, and good thing: up the steps is my luxurious, candlelit room basking in the glow of a roaring fire from a low Tuscan tabletop hearth. An Italian aria is playing and an elegant feast has been prepared. It includes a salad of fresh asparagus, prosciutto and arugula, gourmet pasta salad, exotic local cheeses with figs and dried fruits, and a variety of Napa Valley wines — yes, I open them all, from pinot to port — and dreamy Italian desserts. This sure feels like Tuscany to me.
I’m already looking forward to the buffet breakfast of smoked salmon, bread pudding, and limitless local champagne.
Local bounty is also on the Villagio’s spa menu — crushed grapes, grapeseed oils, and flower essences for treatments like Aqua Therapy and Herbal Body Masque, administered in any one of the 10 state-of-the-art treatment rooms.
Your strolls will place you among the olive trees or by the sybaritic private outdoor pool. Then there are the wine tours. The town of Yountville, where the first grapevines in Napa were planted, dates back to the 1800s. I sipped champagne at Domaine Chandon, “oohed” at Godfather Oscars, tried Sophia sparkling wine-in-a-can at the austere Niebaum—Coppola Winery (as in Francis Ford), and learned about food and wine at Copia.
Later, I helped undo some serious gourmand damage on the treadmill at the Yountville Fitness Center. On an energetic run-walk, I looked up to see rainbow-colored hot air balloons floating by. There’s also golf and lots of hilly biking. Historic buildings, like the one that houses the Napa Valley Museum, compete with the scenery’s attention. If I had my wallet, I would’ve stopped at Vintage 1870, located in the 130-year-old former Groezinger Winery, which now houses 36 upscale fashion, art, wine, and gourmet food shops. For dining, I stopped at the Wine Garden restaurant (707-945-1002), which features American cuisine, and Bistro Jeanty (707-944-0103) for traditional French bistro cuisine.
Celebrated local artist Don Hatfield (whose modern-impressionist paintings are seen all over the country, inspired me to take oil-painting classes. His wife runs a gift shop at Vintage 1870. Maybe before I leave I’ll go spend some money there — and take home a bushel of Meyer lemons to kick off the