Palazzo Fiuggi by Michaela Cordes | 3rd December, 2021 | Travel
Less than an hour’s drive from Rome, sitting above the rolling hills of Lazio – Palazzo Fiuggi shines a bright new light onto the wellness world. An exciting destination that mixes high-tech cuisine and medical science. GG stopped by and gave the innovative address a try.
Traveling here is already soothing for the soul. Pine trees and the rolling hills of the Lazio region in central Italy pass by my car window. Only minutes later we reach the spa town of Fiuggi. It’s been famous since the Middle Ages, when Pope Boniface VIII and Michelangelo came here in the hope of finding relief for their gallstones with the healing waters of the same name. After going uphill, the crunching gravel of the driveway beneath us, we have arrived. “Benvenuti a Palazzo Fiuggi!” my elegant driver sings in the unmistakably melodious voice only an Italian can pull off. It took us less than an hour to come here from Rome airport. Now bellboys are whisking my luggage up to my room on the fourth floor.
“Part of our groundbreaking concept: Food is our medicine.” HEINZ BECK
I’m asked to take a rapid Covid test before I am allowed to enter the resort. After the negative result has been cleared, Roberta leads me through the impressive new health temple that has one ambitious aim: to become THE most luxurious and modern medical health and wellness destination in Europe. Built in 1913 as a hotel, the stunning palazzo used to be the first European hotel with a pool. Today, it offers three! Plus 102 luxuriously furnished rooms and suites (ranging in size from 32 to 135 square meters), a massive spa (6,000 square meters) and probably the world’s most impressive gym spread out over 400 square meters in the former ballroom. Since it’s already late in the evening, I quickly change my clothes in my gorgeous room with a bathroom completely furnished in Italian marble. My first dinner awaits on the ground floor in the spectacular Four Continents dining room, where the other guests are already enjoying their meals under magnificent Murano glass chandeliers.
Classical music wafts over to my table from a self-playing grand piano while two waiters fill my glass with the healing waters of Fiuggi and serve me a composition of zucchini noodles in a fine vegetable broth. The man behind this creation is the famous cuisine god Heinz Beck, who originally moved from Germany 27 years ago to take over the restaurant La Pergola. German-born Beck didn’t speak a word of Italian at the time; today he is the only chef in Rome to have been decorated with three Michelin stars. But what hardly anyone knows: Heinz Beck has also been investigating the influence of food on our health for more than two decades. “People didn’t take me seriously at first,” Beck tells me several days later over tea in the Tisaneria, the tea bar of the residences, “but once we were able to prove the impact of food on our insulin level in our bodies, the medical profession finally invited me to the table.” In the meantime, the Italians have awarded him an honorary doctorate for his research.
The Deep Detox program at Palazzo Fiuggi, which I will be trying over the next few days, features a whole line of recipes that Beck has carefully developed together with Professor David Della Morte Canosci, who holds a professorship each in internal medicine (in Rome) and neurology (in Miami). Each meal here is individually tailored to the patient’s needs and serves as medicine. Heinz Beck has developed the unique high-tech process for this concept that involves filtering out the nutrients from the organically grown ingredients so that what’s left in each meal benefits his patient’s organism. “In the end it’s all about reducing inflammation to a minimum – because only healthy cells will enable us to live longer, and more importantly, healthier lives.”
Fortunately, the food line also tastes divine. Enjoying one of Beck’s dishes turn into an unforgettable sensory experience. The first spoonful of “Il Pomodoro,” a haute couture soup containing various types of tomato, makes my taste buds explode, and I can’t help but wonder if I have ever tasted tomato this intensely. But it’s not just the quality of the food that makes a difference here; the exact timing of the meals play a crucial role too. Breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9 a.m., lunch from 12 to 2 p.m. and dinner from 7 to 9:30 p.m. “In a country like Italy, we simply can’t force our guests to have finished their dinner by 7 p.m.,” Beck says with a smile. He has added two snack times – from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 4 to 5 p.m., when guests are allowed pieces of fresh papaya or a smoothie, for example.
“This is particularly important when it comes to the weight-loss program, because patients would otherwise suffer unnecessarily. To successfully burn fat, five small meals are better anyway.”
The next morning, just before 7 a.m., a nurse draws my blood. The first step in setting up my individual program, which is followed by a thorough examination in which I’m rotated 360 degrees on a plate for a 3-D scan, my heart and circulation are checked and the ratio of water, bone and muscle mass is calculated. Then it’s time for my first consultation with Professor Della Morte Canosci, who explains that most of the patients at Palazzo Fiuggi come to him with typical lifestyle diseases such as stress, high blood pressure and obesity. Many of his patients are struggling with unwanted weight gain during the Covid lockdown periods. “The fact of the matter is, in order to live a long and healthy life, there are three things you need to follow: daily exercise, a balanced nutrition and a good nights sleep.” After my personal consultation I am introduced to some amazingly modern treatments that I haven’t experienced anywhere else before. The 30-minute Spa Wave is used to treat patients suffering from chronic sleep disorders. I put on a pair of headphones and half sit, half lie on a kind of waterbed. After the therapist has dimmed the light in the room, I begin to hear very strong but still pleasant bass tones that vibrate through my entire body. Ten minutes later, I am fast asleep. I don’t wake up until the therapist reenters the room and explains: “This procedure was developed in the U.S. as a therapy for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Like meditation, it shuts down your mental activity and helps you achieve deep relaxation.”
Afterwards I get to enjoy a new beauty treatment: I am sitting in a large plastic sofa chair, when small cups suddenly shoot out of the sides against my thighs. I hear a loud clacking. From the sound of it, you might think this treatment is unpleasant, but I hardly notice anything. “The ‘Cellis’ machine has much the same effect as cupping,” my therapist explains. It boosts the blood circulation in the thighs and buttocks to create a firmer body contour. The next morning the sun is shining brightly – as almost every day during my stay – and I decide to take a trip into the historic old town of Fiuggi, which can be seen very picturesquely from almost every corner of the palazzo. Afterwards, I pay a visit to the public thermal baths. Elderly Italians still go on pilgrimages here to drink from the healing waters. Back at the palazzo, I notice that the movie “Gladiator” is playing in the in-house cinema. But I’m so exhausted from my Liquid Day – today I had to consume liquids only – that I snuggle up into my cozy bed already just after 10 p.m. and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
Before breakfast the next morning, I have a date with Maria, the yoga instructor, who helps me understand how sound bathing – the hot new trend – works. She pours some water into a large brass bowl and then traces the rim with a wooden stick until it starts making a pleasant sound. I watch as the water makes small waves. “As the water, the bowl makes your cells vibrate,” Maria explains. I lie down on my back, and she moves different sized vibrating bowls all over my body. She also shows me a few wake-up exercises that are useful for waking up the body in the morning.
Later in the afternoon, I take a dip in one of the three pools, enjoying the September sunshine, which is still wonderfully warming. Especially after my last cryotherapy session, in which I was immersed in dry ice at minus 110 degrees for three minutes, of which the last 15 seconds seemed like an eternity. The procedure is supposed to prevent inflammation and flush toxins out of my body. After one week here I feel fantastic! I am happily relaxed, two kilos lighter and full of energy.