By John O’Ceallaigh
For me, Italy is shorthand for indulgence. When I go there on holiday I’m signing up for gelato for breakfast and a conveyor belt of beach club Aperol Spritzes from noon, so I’m not sure what it says about the way the country’s going – or how its visitors’ travel expectations are changing – that the classic Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte has quietly been converted by its new owners and will reopen as Palazzo Fiuggi Wellness Medical Retreat on 1 May.
Set about 700 metres above sea level in the ‘villes d’eaux’ of Fiuggi an hour or so from Rome, the property is anchored in an area already known for its supposedly healing mineral waters (the retreat’s promotional materials make claims about those waters supposedly “restoring the kidneys and balancing the immune system” but it seems so spurious to me to claim one type of water is significantly better at that than another so let’s take that with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt). Whatever its special attributes may be, the water of Fiuggi will be incorporated into every programme offered at the property.
Treatments will focus on enhancing guests health, wellbeing and longevity, combining holistic traditions with somewhat oxymoronic-sounding “advanced traditional” Western medicine. Perhaps a better illustration of what awaits comes through the five key programmes, all customisable, that will be offered to guests who can commit at least a week to a Palazzo Fiuggi MOT. They are:
Complete Life Rewind
An all-over programme that will determine imbalances and incorporate nutrition, fitness and lifestyle elements to “mitigate the effects of ageing on a physical, emotional and aesthetic level, giving you the tools you need to live life better and longer.
A self-explanatory programme that will seek to induce new healthy-eating habits.
“A journey of awareness and self-discovery” inspired by Asian practices that will take a gentle approach to physical movement and exercise.
A rigorous detox, supported by hydrotherapy treatments and a special diet, that will aim to reduce toxins from the body.
Intended to bolster the immune system, this option incorporates natural therapies, detox treatments, nutritional consultations and exercise to give body and mind a full go-over.
Starting from three days, shorter-term fitness programmes will be available too, as well as a multitude of one-off treatments, tests, consultations and spa treatments, ranging from Ayurvedic sessions to conventional massages and more ambitious beautification and aesthetic interventions. The medical facility will be immense at approximately 6,000 square metres, and will include top-of-the-range MRI technology, infrared brain-scan tools, sleep monitors, retinal scanning and more. Additionally there’ll be Thalasso pools, the expected hammam and tip-top gym fitted out with equipment from Italian brand Technogym and all the yoga and Pilates facilities you’d expect.
Significantly less predictable is that the property has partnered with three-starred Heinz Beck to develop the culinary concept. The German chef, best known for overseeing the unrestrained La Pergola at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf-Astoria isn’t typically known for his restraint. (I’m a fan of his signature, creamy, cheesy, clearly calorific Fagotelli Carbonara.)
That seems to be off the menu here. Instead, the chef has collaborated with Professor David Della Morte, Palazzo Fiuggi’s Medical and Scientific Director as well as a specialist in senescence-related diseases and genetics, to design culinary offerings that will be more appropriate for the setting. Positioning it as something of a USP, the team says dishes will use food nutrients that will “activate cellular pathways linked with anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant processes, showcasing food as medicine that aids the body when cooked and served the right way”. While the menus haven’t yet been released, it’s unlikely breakfast gelato and bottomless Aperol Spritz will feature.
Including full board, all treatments and consultations, the three-day Get Fit programme at Palazzo Fiugi costs €4,500; seven-day programmes (also fully inclusive) cost from €9,450.