Before we left Philadelphia, heading west to Harrisburg to Felicita Resort, with its 810 acres of water lilies and weeping willows, dogwood and daffodils, I thought briefly about watering my houseplants.
Built by Villanova Law School grad Richard Angino and his wife Alice, Felicita — “great happiness” in Italian — is a regional remedy for city life. In 1972, Angino bought 52 acres of land in the Blue Mountains, 11 miles from downtown Harrisburg. He thought he’d live on four acres and sell the rest. But despite having no horticultural training, Angino began stocking up on plants — by the trailer load. A lifetime love of gardening turned into lodges, an inn, a spa and fitness center, a par-72 golf course, and, unexpectedly, a steakhouse. (A resort community will sprout on the grounds soon, too, with 600-plus condominium units, a town commons, and retail shops.)
When we arrived, the bulldozers had the weekend off, so we strolled in the solitude of the eight-acre Italian Garden. (Tours of the Japanese, Monet Water and Alpine gardens are guided by resort staff.) We didn’t go far, though, because I’d scheduled a spa treatment. We climbed back up the hillside, and I headed for a walnut-oatmeal-pumpkin-almond scrub in a Vichy shower. Back on our room’s balcony, I could see a few hundred of the Anginos’ well-tended acres, and I marveled at their devotion to the land. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had to be pulled away from the playoff game
on the tube so we could head for dinner at Felicita’s steakhouse, a short drive down yet another hill.
All around us at the Tavern Steakhouse, which overlooks Felicita’s “golf in a garden” course, were a herd of life-size cows, painted or tiled in hues that stand out in the dim light of the dining room. Their presence made it a little difficult to order steak, so we opted first for a pound of New Zealand blue mussels, and crab and mushroom bisque, followed by an herb-crusted rack of lamb with a burgundy and lavender reduction, and mahimahi with lemon saffron couscous.
The next day, when we got home, I watered my plants.
Felicita Resort, 2201 Fishing Creek Valley Road, Harrisburg, 888-321-3713; felicitaresort.com. Rooms from $300 per couple, including breakfast and dinner.
The Tavern Steakhouse, 717-599-5350.