World-class Finnish athletes break new ground as advisors for one of Italy’s leading luxury hotel & spa resorts.

Photos: Sami Vaskola

For a small country Finland has a good number of world-class athletes who have ventured out into the world of business, bringing their expertise and attention to detail they have gained at the pinnacle of their sport competitions.

FinnishNews has been following the work of Sami Vaskola, the former aerobic world champion and long-distance runner, who has set up a successful advisory business for corporations who recognise the need to promote and support sustainable, expert-led fitness and wellness programmes.

He has been joined by champion ultra-runner Noora Honkala, holder of several national records for ultra-running championships, the youngest woman to have completed the legendary 250km Spartathlon and now ranked World #1 at the 6 hour distance.

Together they have been invited by the luxury resort and spa, Aquapetra in the thermal spring town of Telese Terme in Campania, to help develop a top class fitness training set up for guests.

Sami Vaskola presented the project, “Over the last 30 years, the owners, Patrizia Cante and architect Domenico Tartarone have transformed an abandoned stone hamlet into a unique luxury resort, with a beautiful new spa complex and Michelin starred restaurant.

The resort is surrounded by pristine forest and olive groves and beyond the evident beauty, the first things you sense are total peace and the purity of the air. Aquapetra feels very much a refuge, a place to unwind. A major new gym complex is just one of several projects we have begun to study with the ownership of Aquapetra. The structure is already prepared.”

Noora Honkala, “For runners more used to polluted urban environments, Aquapetra is training heaven – more than 8km of stone bordered tracks weave their way through the forests and around the limestone sink holes of Aquapetra’s Monte Pugliano. Some of the sinkholes are circa 100 metres in depth. When I first ran these tracks, I immediately thought of the world famous 2.4km bamboo road in Kyoto, Japan – to discover this gem in little known Telese Terme was completely unexpected but now forms part of our daily routine whenever we visit.”

Beyond the Aquapetra estate, but within easy reach, are the regional mountain parks of Matese and Taburno. The opportunities for outdoor activities here are endless – trekking, canoing, zip-lining down gorges, paragliding and even skiing despite this being in the balmy south of Italy. The hotel is taking big strides in involving local expert providers and making these activities easily available for guests. These are important projects for both Aquapetra and the surrounding Sannio countryside.

Noora Honkala, “Aquapetra has 42 rooms and suites that are spread between the resort’s cobbled streets, piazze and olive groves. It all feels very private and very exclusive, a perfect luxury getaway but it is also a superb location also for events and conferences. There is something for everyone at the resort. The staff are great, always ready to help and smiling. The approach is very relaxed and natural and you feel as if you are a guest of their home. ”

Sami Vaskola, “The food. We all love Italian cuisine and at Aquapetra, the restaurant is simply fantastic. The extra virgin olive oil and jams are home made and the hotel is committed to use the best organic and local produce available. I understand that work is about to commence on some 2,000 sqm of greenhouse and orchards within the grounds of the estate…the goal for Aquapetra is to become ever more self sustaining, a philosophy that Noora and I both share and believe in.”

Aquapetra’s Spa has 3 swimming pools, internal and external, 2 saunas and a marble steam room. A new high tech anti-aging centre will shortly open to the public. Whether a guest is seeking expert pampering by Aquapetra’s therapists, the ancient history, art and architecture of the region’s towns, outdoor activities or wine tours (70 wineries within 30km), there is plenty of choice for all tastes.

Sami Vaskola, when asked about the best time to go there, replied, “I think this depends very much on the kind of experience one is looking for. The hotel is open year round and this being the south of Italy, the weather is great for a large part of this. Whilst snow is not common, when it arrives, the olive groves, pools and palm trees achieve a different kind of beauty, the silence ever more pronounced. The hottest months are June to September but temperatures can reach 25C by March. 

Important for everyone training seriously in the heat to take sufficient liquids and compensate for the loss of essential salts. To be able to provide guests of Aquapetra with the level of guidance on fitness and nutrition that is reserved normally for elite athletes is something that really excites both Noora and I. We have spent many years adapting,  perfecting our approach. We are also studying a number of other exciting initiatives together with the Aquapetra team – from ultra running camps to core retreats. Watch this space!”

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