A luxury spa detox may sound like a counterintuitive proposition, but it’s one that has been masterfully achieved in the rustic village of Arlate on the outskirts of Milan. Set in a lovingly restored 18th Century farmhouse that had been abandoned since WWII, Ti Sana (translation: ‘it heals you’) is the baby of the D’Angelo family and opened two years ago as a luxury wellness retreat. True, this is not the kind of place for floating around in a fluffy bathrobe, but if you’re serious about investing in your wellbeing, Ti Sana offers the kind of 4-star luxury that eases the process.
Newly introduced is the ‘Healtheatarian’ Active Life Programme, which promises myriad benefits including more energy, better digestion, a leaner figure and a boost to the immune system. Think of it as a total reboot for your body. The concept is based around getting all your systems – from cardiovascular to digestive – into balance with exercise, nutrition and rest. That means minimal food, maximum sleep, activities specific to the time of day and advice on practical ways to keep up the positive changes when you get home. Guests are encouraged to stay for ten days with most coming from the UK as well as Russia and the Emirates, so expect an eclectic but discerning clientele.
There are three fitness sessions per day with the cool, calm and super-knowledgeable Mario. The first involves either aerobic or muscle-building exercise before breakfast. Rebounding – essentially bouncing on a trampoline – is more exhausting than you expect but a great way to wake up the body, while the hypertrophic sessions follow a sequence of moves including tricep dips and lunges to work on building muscle tone. The morning is spent making the most of the pretty Italian countryside with a long power walk beside the River Adda, climbing the 280 steep steps of a nearby church or cycling through the Da Vinci eco museum to keep you energised and feeding your cells fresh oxygen. Yoga or Qi Gong classes are held before dinner to calm the body and mind and reduce your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels with some gentle stretching as you wind down for the day.
Diet is meticulously planned too. The vegetarian menu focuses on ‘clinical nutrition’ and varies seasonally with many ingredients grown on site – you can even help pick fruit such as apples and cherries if you’re there at the right time. Food is cooked to preserve the mineral content, so nothing is fried but raw, steamed or broiled in soya milk instead. Carbs and fruit make up meals in the earlier part of the day to keep up your energy while protein and vegetable dishes are the focus for dinner when the body needs less stimulation from sugars.
A typical day’s menu might be juice such as strawberry, tomato and apple, with banana and blueberry bread for breakfast; a salad with aduki bean dip and walnut and courgette dressing (oil is frowned upon) for lunch; and a supper of broccoli, celery and leek soup followed by warm tofu and steamed greens. The soups are deliciously filling and if the rest of the food looks a tad bland, make friends with the chilli powder and seaweed flakes on the condiment tray. There are two tasty fresh juices whizzed up during the day too – apple, lemon and cucumber was a winner for me; celery and prune, not so much.
Crucially, everything is designed to get the body into an ‘alkaline’ condition which helps ward off illness and helps you function better. That means, for example, no meat (it’s the most acidic thing you can eat) and lots of alkaline-rich vegetables such as like courgette, broccoli and spinach. There’s also pH-balanced Kangen water, herbal tea and clear broth on tap to help keep you hydrated, alkaline and feeling full. You can eat in your room or the library, but the soporific atmosphere in the restaurant induces the kind of ‘mindful’ eating that helps you savour every mouthful and break the habit of overeating at warp speed. The chef is full of helpful tips and you’ll find a cookery session on your itinerary to help you get to grips with the philosophy.
The rest of the day is a tailored plan to encourage your detox – think wellbeing treatments such as toning body massage, a mud wrap, relaxing in the thermal spa and sessions in the infrared sauna, where you eliminate heavy metals through sweat. Guests are also booked in for a daily session of Angel of the Waters, which is a gentle colonic administered via a machine that looks like an aqua bike, rather than a therapist, so is completely private. There are talks too talks by visiting health experts to help you digest (excuse the pun) the wealth of information you need to take in.
Not long after you arrive, there are a series of tests done using an electric current and designed to give a breakdown of your body composition, including how much water is in the cells (to see how inflamed they are), your total body water content (which needs to be high to shift toxins and fat), how your cells respond to stress and your muscle to fat ratio. It’s painless although the same might not be said for the results (I seemed to be deficient in about every crucial mineral know to man) which are printed out in mind-boggling graph form but helpfully explained by Mario, who can help you customise your own diet and fitness plan for the future.
If it sounds intensive, it is. Ti Sana’s Healtheatarian programme is a plan for a life rather than a fast fix so requires a good deal of stamina too. It’s also not for the weak-willed – you’re asked not to bring any food or drinks with you and to cut meat, alcohol and caffeine out of your diet for a at least two weeks in advance (the less toxic you are, the less severe your detox symptoms will be). And this is where the luxury element comes into its own. Resting up at the end of the day in a sleek and elegant suite, complete with Italian marble bathroom, a king-size bed you can sink into and only the sound of birds and church bells nearby, is sheer bliss. Add to that a trip into beautiful Bergamo, and you’ll (hopefully) feel that being deprived of a glass of wine or chocolate brownie is worth it.
My final word goes to the journey. Milan has four airports – fly to Bergamo if you can for three reasons that take the sting out of the fact you’re probably on Ryanair. First, it’s the closest to Ti Sana at around 30 minutes drive so a complimentary car will collect you. Second, as it’s such a small airport you can land and be in aforementioned car in 15 minutes flat. And third, the view coming in is nothing short of spectacular. Bag yourself a window seat and take in the Pyrenees from snow-dusted peaks to lush green mountainsides, winding valleys peppered with villages and finally Lake Como. Just the inspiration you need en route to a cleaner, leaner you.
Need To Know…
A 10-day all inclusive Healtheatarian package costs €3,710; other packages are available. See tisanadetoxretreat.com or call +39 039 9920979 for more information. British Airways flies to Milan with prices starting at £116 return. See ba.com for more information and to book.