Bootcamp all’Italiana? Why Palazzo Fiuggi is the most stylish place for a winter detox | House & Garden

The bootcamp – a concept of hell and damnation in the minds of some; of restorative, life-enhancing necessity in the minds of others. Certainly, the idea of a wellness holiday, be it yoga, fitness, detox or medi-spa, is growing more fashionable by the day. So it seems like a logical step that Californian wellness gurus Sue and Alex Glasscock should bring their Ranch Malibu programme to Europe – Italy to be precise, an hour’s drive from Rome.

If the concept is the same – a limited calorie intake of 1,400 per day, intense hiking and fitness schedules, blood tests and ECGs, and pampering post-activity massages – the locations are very different. Malibu is, by all accounts, rustic and disconnected. Italy is smart and luxurious, principally because it is run in collaboration with the glistening, newly refurbished Palazzo Fiuggi, a grand spa hotel in the small town of the same name, known for the curative powers of its natural spring water.

A flight cancellation (woe the wretchedness of travel in 2022) necessitates arriving a day early – time enough to preload on calories and indulge in some Italian home cooking. Somehow the idea of a week of restricted eating in Italy feels sacrilegious.

We dine at delightful La Locanda in Fiuggi’s hilltop old town on a table next to a dozen glowing Americans – Ranch guests, it transpires, who have finished their programme and have jumped ship for a last evening of wine and pasta before leaving the next day. At The Ranch, we are a group of 24 – maximum capacity bar one – with an age range of 26 to 80. It is an unexpected mix of couples, mothers and sons (especially unexpected), single women, friends and even some newlyweds. (I’m aghast this might be their honeymoon but, they tell me, it is a post-wedding detox.) Four of us are Brits, the rest American – many of them Ranch Malibu devotees who are combining this with a longer stay in Europe.

Seated around a large dining table in an area of Palazzo Fiuggi dedicated to Ranch guests, we introduce ourselves and, awkwardly for reserved northern Europeans not used to this type of thing, we are asked to say what we are grateful for. This is repeated at the end of the week, when we squirm a little less; by now, we are all buddies, have Googled each other and have exchanged email addresses.

And we have shared experiences: the daily 5.30am wake-up call; the journeys in a cavalcade of minibuses to the start and end of each walk; the four-hour mountain hikes (undertaken to be done over time not distance, with everyone walking as far as they can in two hours before turning round and returning to the starting point) through woods of beech and oak; the afternoon exercise classes (optional, so not everyone attends); and the food. The latter is the overarching favourite topic of conversation that binds us together and drives The Ranch programme from start to finish.

Plant-based – a less contentious way of saying vegan – is the premise of all Ranch meals, which prove surprisingly satisfying, particularly at the start of the week before the hunger grows. A courgette and banana muffin or a bowl of granola does the job at breakfast, salad or soup with perhaps a little cornbread is lunch, while grains and more vegetables are assembled for a two-course dinner. No pudding, no alcohol, no caffeine, no chocolate.

No one in our group is especially overweight but weight loss or, to put it another way, a gut cleanse, does seem to be the main (often unspoken) objective. By day three, the purge sets in, helped on its way by bountiful amounts of Fiuggi water, a known diuretic, which we are wisely advised not to drink at bedtime. Hunger inevitably follows. We are weighed and measured (chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves) when we arrive and leave, and our statistics are discreetly emailed to us, along with our medical results after a brief consultation with one of the presiding doctors.

This content was originally published here.

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