Despite a reputation for decadence, Italy has a centuries-old wellness culture, thanks to the hiking traditions of the Dolomites and the profusion of hot springs in Tuscany.
The poster child for this shift is Palazzo Fiuggi, an hour south of Rome. The property’s namesake town is locally renowned for its thermal baths and mineral-rich drinking water; since the Middle Ages, it has been a magnet for health seekers — including, according to legend, Michelangelo. The palazzo itself is a more recent development, originally built in 1910. It opened in its current iteration in 2021 after a renovation added all the trappings of a wellness wonderland: the 64,500-square-foot spa has both thalassotherapy and Turkish baths, as well as whirlpools, saunas, three swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor), and yoga and Pilates studios.
Palazzo Fiuggi has an array of spa programs, but what caught my eye was a seven-day intensive in partnership with the Ranch, the famed Malibu, California, health center known for its hard-core approach. Though most guests arrive for some Tuscan R&R, my week included four-hour hikes — not to mention calorie restrictions — that pushed me to my physical limits, in a good way. And the work was tempered by spectacular views of the Apennine Mountains, as well as delightful curiosities like crossing an ancient Roman bridge and running into a truffle hunter on the job.
While meals were light, they nevertheless included Ranch-ified versions of Italian classics, including vegan parmigiana and brodo (bone broth). We had regular restorative massages and yoga classes, as well as consultations with the on-site medical team to monitor progress. For any decadence, we had to rely on the guest rooms — think restored frescoed ceilings, Murano glass chandeliers, and marble bathrooms.
But many people favorite way to unwind was to lounge in a fluffy robe by the spa’s Roman-style thermal baths, swigging cups of Fiuggi’s famous salty-sweet mineral water. It was a reminder that even during a rigorously active schedule, the pleasures of Italy were never far away.