By Chere Di Boscio
After holidays spent over-eating, drinking, and being a bit too merry, many of us want a fresh start. We’ll be trying to detox ourselves of overindulgence by juicing and dieting and joining a gym. But it’s not easy to do when you’ve got family and work routines in the way, encouraging us to take ‘just one bite’ of a colleague’s birthday cake, or skipping a workout to go for a drink instead.
Enter Ti Sana, a beautiful retreat nestled in between imposing mountains in northern Italy. Constructed from part of a former Italian nobleman’s home dating all the way back to 1711, Ti Sana translates as ‘it heals you,’ and indeed, the philosophy of the place is to help you break old habits and gently introduce new ones that can improve your health.
For example, daily exercise is encouraged through various classes on offer, including Tai Chi and yoga. Guided walks and hikes beside the river are also available, as are free bikes you can use to explore the leafy, fertile valley surrounding the retreat.
Keeping in with Italian traditions, food here is a big deal: its origins (local) quality (organic) and cooking (as little as possible). Ti Sana’s guests usually follow what’s dubbed a “Healtheatarian” diet, which involves hearty bowls of blended vegetable soup, steamed vegetables, fritatas, tofu steaks, chia seed puddings, flax seed crackers, homemade granola and almond milk and salads.
But merely eating isn’t enough: food education is key here at Ti Sana and their aim is to educate you how to eat for optimal health and wellness. Fruit and vegetable juices are served as snacks, and tea infusions are available throughout the day. What you won’t find is oil, meat, dairy or coffee. In short, it’s a detox dietary program with an emphasis on vegetarian protein. Vegans should advise that they’ll stick with the tofu; otherwise, eggs will be served almost daily either via the egg white frittata or the protein shake given once a day.(Personally, I skipped this after I began having a strange aftertaste from either the flavourings or the sweeteners used in it.)
Detoxing here doesn’t just come from sweating it out through exercise or a clean eating diet: the retreat is famous for its ‘Angel of Water’ colon cleansing machine: a discreet, easy means of cleaning out the lower intestines. I had tried this at another health retreat and did not like the way I felt afterwards at all (a bit lighter, sure, but I also had a cramp on my lower left side that wouldn’t quit all day). I passed on my opportunity to try to the machine to my curious husband, who said it was indeed a smoother experience than he expected. However, for a few days after, he experienced severe stomach pains. We were told this is a rare side effect and that most people undergo the Angel of Water with no issues, so maybe we were just both unlucky.
Most health retreats I have been to are quite communal, but Ti Sana has really made an effort to give guests an experience that’s more like a boutique hotel where you have all the amenities of being pampered, yet the personal touch of being in a retreat. Each of the 22 rooms are individually designed, combining the feeling of old world charm with contemporary Italian design. In every room there is a large marble clad bathroom, thick bathrobes and slippers to use when you head down to the spectacular spa.
Comprised of many water-based options such as herbal scented showers, glowing pools with mood-changing colours, a hammam, infrared and Swedish sauna, and of course, treatment rooms, the spa is a truly wonderful feature of the hotel, and is staffed by true professionals. Most of the treatments are aimed towards relieving you of a lifetime of toxic damage, such as the lymphatic drainage and deep tissue massages which both drain toxins. Of course, only all natural and organic products are used, including Anika and PHYTS, as well as Ti Sana’s own oil blends. Lifestyle management, clinical tests and organic cooking classes are all available from the enthusiastic young team here, who are all very eager to put you on a fast track to better health.
But there’s much to do here besides being pampered all day (as tempting as that may be!). You’re in one of the most beautiful regions of one of the world’s most beautiful countries, so a day trip to Lake Como or Bellagio is an absolute must. The history, culture and scenery is simply breathtaking–and after a week or so at Ti Sana, you’ll find yourself not only admiring the towering mountains that surround you, but quite ready to hike up them, too.