Hike in the Soca Valley in the Julian Alps
For the past few days, we’ve been driving through Northern Italy, where the scenery looks something like Under the Tuscan Sun meets The Sound of Music.  Which is to say, it’s incredible.  We’ve crossed over a number of high mountain passes that have landed us in valleys full of fields of hay, where the smell of warm sunshine on freshly cut grass is almost intoxicating.  Apparently, farmers in the area have a tradition of taking cat-naps in the piles of fragrant hay, which often contain the wild herbs and lavender that grow alongside the tall grasses. 

The naps sounded like a pretty good idea to us, so when we read about an opportunity to follow in the farmers’ footsteps without actually trespassing in their fields, we signed right up.  The experience is called a hay bath, and it’s more or less exactly what it sounds like.  We showed up at a local spa, where a technician directed us into separate rooms, each of which contained what looked like a bathtub with a mattress suspended over it.  When it was my turn, the technician covered the mattress with warm, wet hay and instructed me to lie down on it.  Err, ok.  After I did as I was told, she covered everything but my face with more of the same,  then wrapped me in blankets, then plastic and then pushed a button that lowered the mattress directly into the bathtub, which, as it turned out, was filled with hot water.  (A couple of strategically placed pillows ensured that my head never went under, a fact for which I was quite grateful.)  Then she left to attend to Derek.
The whole thing was pretty cozy, and the heat from the water released the smell of the hay, which was delightful.  Just as I was starting to think that I’d rather be out of the tub than in (it was hot in there!), the technician reappeared, pushed a button that lifted the mattress up and out of the water, freed me from the hay, and again wrapped me in blankets, where I remained, coccooned, for a happy and very warm 45 minutes.  When it was all over, I felt ridiculously relaxed, although I didn’t notice any of the medicinal effects that a hay bath is supposed to deliver.  Still, though, I think those farmers are on to something.  Perhaps hay baths are headed to a spa near you…