Relais San Maurizio
Text Carlo Mazzoni
It is raining cats and dogs in Milan, you are coming out in Asti – the hills get rough, the tires climb and have fun in the Langhe. Castles, watchtowers – the Middle Ages remain fashionable. A monastery whose walls tell stories of monks since the first millennium, today it is the Relais San Maurizio. A red cat is not castrated, small in size. He looks at us with arrogance, until we approach and the cat realizes it can be a pastime taking a ride with us. The slopes are steep, the park is on a jagged and bustling plateau – the cat shows us a trunk of oak – the sign says to lie down on the wood to feel the grain of the centuries along the vertebrae of our back. Another sign indicates the way of the monks – oaks, olive trees and cypresses, the path is tightened among pruned bushes. Perfumes are mixed in the days, before the seasons. The garden is protected in a greenhouse for medicinal herbs – you expect to see a hidden snake.
The rain accompanies us inside rooms and lighted fireplaces, outside the haze, inside a chessboard – the frescoed walls, some vaulted, here the cat refuses to enter, he remains in the open air, a snobbish cat. We go down the stairs, in the cellar you cannot count the bottles as well as the grain of the oak in the garden. The best customers leave them there to age, where humidity is controlled by bricks. We go down into the caves of the monastery – here the monks lived – today you can find saltwater tanks. The thermal power takes strength from the minerals that melt and mix – the first tank has a density already higher than that of the Dead Sea: you dive and the body stays afloat, the brittle skin around the nails burns a little. The second tank is filled with magnesium, disinfectant – you try to place a few drops on the shaved face. You struggle to keep your legs upright, the water brings you afloat strongly. The sauna is carved into the rock, filled with branches of rosemary that burn in scent.
At night, some voices of a starred restaurant’s menu seem to be out of tune for a search for sophistication that becomes rhetoric here – in a place that was a monastery, where you expect the small, spartan room you find, where you wake up feeling the vigor of the roots, the taste of the earth, the roughness of the stone – and far away, the absurdities remain remote in the city.