Palazzo Fiuggi in Lazio, Italy is a world class resort with a winning combination of fine dining, medical retreat, top class spa and luxurious accommodation.
The spa town of Anticoli di Campagna, one hour south of Rome in the province of Lazio, was famed locally for the waters from its spring – Fiuggi – for centuries. No one knew what the properties of these waters were, but at a time when, if you were unwell, your options were a herb concoction from an old woman or having your leg re-set by the local barber, spring waters seemed miraculous.
At the end of the 13th century, Pope Boniface VIII, suffering from gallstones and having exhausted his prayers, said its mineral waters could ‘break stones’, and its reputation was made. The beautiful location must have helped – accessible from major towns but 700m above sea level, with cooling breezes in the summer. Visitors started to arrive, including Michelangelo, in the 16th century, though we don’t know what his ailment was, nor whether he was cured.
This was never mass tourism, however, and it wasn’t until 1910 that the town decided to rename itself after its spring; Anticoli becoming Fiuggi. By then there were dozens of hotels, and the grandest of all – the Palazzo Fonte della Fonte Fiuggi – opened in 1913, designed in Art Nouveau style by architects Garibaldi Burba and Giovanni Battista. Its location on top of a hill in the lower part of the town with mature chestnut trees dotted around the peaceful grounds made it the place to be seen.
Acquired three years ago by the owners of the Forte Village in Sardinia, and renamed simply Palazzo Fiuggi after a renovation which must have cost many tens of millions (they aren’t telling), the resort offers wellness and medical retreats of between four days for an introduction up to one month. There are hundreds of treatments or combinations of treatments and a state-of-the-art spa which includes all the pampering you could hope for, but with the added benefit of medical doctors who will ensure that a full battery of tests are undertaken on arrival so you can be diagnosed and advised on everything from diet and nutrition to fitness, longevity and anti-ageing.
First impressions are of a very professional operation which, the moment you arrive, whisks away your bags while you undergo an antigen test and then are guided through your programme. This takes place in an elegant library overlooking the front slope of the hotel. In your room you’ll find comfortable white tracksuits and slippers, which you shuffle around in for most of your stay. There are 102 rooms and suites with room sizes from 32 to 135 sqm, with views overlooking the 8-hectare private park or the “old town” of Fiuggi. The rooms are comfortable and hard to leave, especially if you have an appointment to be weighed or assessed in the fitness centre by a personal trainer.
The new spa takes in the entire lower ground floor while a tunnel then leads to further treatments rooms including the Roman spa where there are male and female steam and sauna rooms as well as cold plunge pools, a Kniepp bath where you walk through first hot and then cold water to help heal injuries, and lots of relaxation areas. There’s also a fountain where you can sample the famous waters. I say sample, because we were warned to not exceed a couple of small cups each day, and preferably to not drink it just before bed, since it might cause us to go to the toilet during the night. I don’t think this warning was especially aimed at the middle-aged men, but, ever cautious, I restricted myself to an early morning sip.
A clean break
For me, highlights of the spa were the indoor pool which leads though a swim doorway and then out into a heated outdoor panoramic pool with views across the valley to the old medieval hilltop town (a further, separate Olympic-sized pool and solarium was being finished ready for this summer). In total this adds up to an expansive, 6,000 sqm wellness and medical facility. It is divided into three areas: the wellness and spa, the medical spa, and the beauty spa. They are modern in design with white marble and wood.
There are 21 multifunctional treatment rooms, eight beauty cabins, a private spa suite, six medical rooms plus an MRI scanner, a dedicated yoga studio, Pilates studio, hairdresser, manicure and pedicure salon area, and two thalasso pools incorporating healing Fiuggi waters and a cold pool. The 400 sqm gym in the Palazzo’s former ballroom has Technogym equipment and private trainers for those who need instruction.
This isn’t the sort of wellness spa and medical resort where you come for a swim and a massage. It’s possible to have a massage, but the resort is keen to entice you to try its more innovative, (and expensive) machinery. There is a jacuzzi bath which both massages you and lights the water in dozens of different alternating shades for 20 minutes. This was absolutely lovely. You are then covered in natural mud by a very professional therapist, wrapped in cellophane and then lowered onto a water bed for a further 20 minutes. This was bearable.
Finally, a different therapist (I think) washes off this mud with what was described as a ‘Scottish shower’. This meant standing against a wall and having the mud removed by a water cannon directed at you from the other side of the room while you cling to a rail. It was sort of half massage, half punishment, although I enjoyed her miming her instructions that I should protect certain areas of my body before she directed the cannon at those regions. To finish, the water temperature is turned down to just above cold to leave a bracing impression, and you realise why it is called a ‘Scottish shower’ as opposed to a Roman one.
There were other treatments that were half fun and half painful, but your exact experience will depend on what you choose or what are chosen for you by the various treatment programmes, with four dietary options: Complete Life Rewind, Optimal Weight, Deep Detox and Immuno Boost choices. This becomes clear when you dine in the beautiful Four Continents dining room with its high ceiling, Murano glass chandeliers and frescoes depicting each of the four continents (Australia doesn’t get a look in).
The food is thoughtful and delicious, designed by chef Heinz Beck alongside Professor David Della Morte Canosci, a specialist in senescence-related diseases and expert in genetics. The four programmes each have a different coloured menu and each meal has at least three courses, individually plated and brought to the table.
What’s astonishing is that the resort promises that guests staying one or two weeks or even longer will not be served the same menu twice. It means there are more than 1,400 different items, with the collective calorific total for each added up so guests know how many calories they are eating and can also trust they are getting all the nutrients they need. It’s like dining in a top class restaurant, yet at the end of each meal you are healthier than when you sat down, although, of course, part of that is the absence of alcohol (which is not available in the resort) and caffeine (which you can ask for).
Part of the stay involves a battery of tests, so you will come away with more information about your body than you can hope to understand, though a doctor talks you through the results and makes recommendations about lifestyle choices.
My own stay was far too brief, though I did feel better for two days of Fiuggi wellness luxury. My craving for Negronis had lessened to the extent that I resisted alcohol at Rome airport and on the flight back to London, and for the next few days. Having a clean break at a wellness resort may be just what us weak-willed types need to reset our dials.
Five luxury health breaks
Six Senses Vana, Uttarakhand, India
Six Senses has taken over the Vana resort close to Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, and north of Dehradun on the approach to the Himalayas.
Open since 2014, the name of the resort means ‘forest’, and it is surrounded by organic kitchen and herb gardens in a sal-tree reserve within India’s Mussoorie region.
By this autumn the resort will have the Six Senses five-star luxury service installed, while continuing to offer traditional practices, including Ayurveda, yoga and Tibetan medicine. From mantras to meditation to massages, the aim is to ‘nudge’ you along a path to vitality. For those who need a lot of nudging, the Ayurvedic Panchakarma retreats welcome guests for up to a month for complete detoxification.
The organic gardens are being extended so that cuisine can be grown on-site, not flown in, while the bar will serve healthy drinks and tonics.
Also coming soon is a lifestyle concept store for sustainable fashion and spa products, a Cinema Paradiso, courts for various ball games, and more experiences that tap into the retreat’s location to encourage movement, mindfulness and reconnection with nature.
The Oberoi, Marrakech, Morocco
Set in over 11 hectares of landscaped gardens, citrus orchards, and olive groves with views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, The Oberoi has 84 rooms, suites, and villas; 76 of which have private pools and private gardens.
New this year is a wellness programme called Saha (health in Arabic) focused on four key cornerstones: Soul and Spirit, Active Body, Holistic Treatments and A Better Plate. Personalised wellness plans and packages range from dynamic fitness activities with a dedicated trainer to inner peace through yoga, meditation, mindfulness activities or getting a good night’s rest with the hotel’s sleep therapy programme.
Guests can choose from a three- to seven-night programme which includes a stay in a deluxe villa with a private pool, along with treatments, therapies and activities from the four key cornerstones.
Dusit Thani Hua Hin, Thailand
Last year Dusit Hotels and Resorts introduced a new group-wide wellness concept, Devarana Wellness, and this year, the Dusit Thani Hua Hin resort, one of its best-known properties, has rebranded its Devarana Spa to Devarana Wellness. As a significant refurbishment of the entire property, including all guest rooms and suites, and the large central pool, it now offers a three-pronged deceleration methodology based on the three key principles of Pause, Focus and Growth. It offers a complimentary programme of mindful and physical activities, such as meditation, forest bathing, Muay Thai martial arts, Kaoshikii dance, full moon yoga on the beach, and Family Day Retreats.
The spa offers more than 30 treatments including body exfoliation, facials, and various healing massages using bespoke oils and handcrafted ingredients. There are also personalised programmes to help guests ‘recover’ physical and mental well-being while inspiring ongoing resilience and optimal performance, especially in consideration of office syndrome and the stresses of day-to-day life.
Chenot Palace Weggis, Switzerland
Chenot Palace Weggis in Lucerne has three wellbeing programmes based on the Chenot Method – Advanced Detox, Recover and Energise, or Prevention and Ageing Well. On check-in you will receive a medical screening and a state-of-the-art diagnostic to determine which of the programmes is right for you, tailored to your exact needs.
Every wellness programme consists of preventative and regenerative treatments and is complemented by the Chenot Diet to ensure optimum results are reached during a mininimum of seven night stay. The Chenot spa spans 5,000 sqm and is a full-service integrated medical retreat with a metabolic and sports laboratory, an in-house blood analysis laboratory, a whole body cryochamber at -110˚C, antigravity technologies, an altitude chamber, a 21m indoor swimming pool and four dedicated sleep rooms specially made with technology to create a natural sleeping environment and optimise rest.
Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy
Borgo Egnazi is offering the chance to make local Apulian pottery in its ceramic workshop, a practice that can be both meditative and therapeutic. Not only do the repetitive motions of moulding, spinning, and shaping soothe the psyche, but it’s difficult to check your email while up to your elbows in modelling clay.
The town of Grottaglie has been producing ceramics since the 17th century. You’ll have the chance to visit local ceramicists in their house-museum to view archaeological finds dating back to Roman times and also learn how to hand paint the traditional Apulian “splash” design. It’s not all handcrafts, though, the Borgo Egnazia’s Vair Spa is also available during your stay.