The Ranch Italy Is Not Your Average Wellness Retreat
It pushes your body and mind to the extreme.
“Health is a luxury,” reverberated in my head as I plowed up yet another gargantuan mountain at 7:30am. I figured the hiking guides would go easy on us given that it was the last four-hour morning climb of our four-day detox at The Ranch Italy, but my legs and lungs were telling me otherwise.
Every morning, I pushed my body physically to the point where my mind begged me to quit. However, the soul-igniting sermon of-sorts from night one’s welcome dinner kept propelling me forward.
I had to remind myself to look up and take in the golden-tipped trees and emerald-mossed rocks. It was fall in the Apennine mountains of Fiuggi — a charming province 45 minutes outside of Rome, known for its potent, purifying healing waters.
If you hadn’t already surmised, The Ranch Italy is not your typical wellness retreat. It’s a rigorous results-driven, fitness-forward detox program that’s tailored for you to shred physically, while simultaneously shedding what’s mentally and emotionally holding you back. As a former party girl turned spiritual health expert, I was drinking The Ranch Kool-Aid from day one.
Unlike the majority of vacationers heading to Italia, I wasn’t in search of fine wine and gluten glory days, but was looking to return lighter — primarily energetically with pounds being a perk. Burn out was looming and the fine-tuned routine laid out for me was incredibly compelling. The celebrity clout also enticed me to see what the buzz was all about.
If you aren’t familiar, The Ranch is based in Malibu – and is beloved by the likes of Angela Bassett, Jessica Alba, and Elle MacPherson – but recently expanded to Italy’s Palazzo Fiuggi in 2021 (and has a Hudson Valley location opening in spring 2024). This renowned medical wellness property is set atop a cliff that boasts nearly every kind of wellness modality and spa experience imaginable: an infrared sauna, hot and cold plunges, two pools, a salt therapy room, the best colonic I’ve ever had and one of two healing water taps in town. “(The water) heals kidney stones and cleanses your urinary tract,” said nearly every staff member as I turned on the tap for my cup of the day. I can confirm that this magical elixir does indeed get things moving…
Read on for a comprehensive rundown on my four-day journey at this exclusive luxury wellness hotspot, as well as the benefits that followed me back home.
Before I even hopped on the plane, The Ranch proved to be incredibly thorough. They sent a 10-page pre-arrival program four weeks out, covering suggested exercises and foods to gradually eliminate, notably booze, sugar, and caffeine. I’m not a huge drinker or sugar addict, but the coffee was a kicker. It’s one of my only vices so I didn’t oblige to the detox until the day I arrived. Even then I may or may not have plotted a black market morning coffee delivery — which I’m proud to say I didn’t succumb to in the end.
They also provided an extensive packing list: two pairs of hiking shoes, a camel back, a windbreaker and plenty of moisture-wicking workout clothes. See below for what I personally stashed that was supportive:
- Adidas hiking shoes - for your daily hike
- Vitamin A One Piece - for the spa and pools
- Cadence Travel Containers - to store all of your supplements
- Three Ships Biodegradable Eye Masks - for the early morning wake-up calls
- Losano Activewear - for your full days of fitness
- For Others Sweatpants - for lounging
- Cleobella Dress - for the occasional outing in town
The program was filled with primarily female mid-twenty to sixty-somethings from around the globe. Despite how different we may have seemed surface-level, synchronicities naturally unearthed as the week went on. Small talk evolved into soul talk. I discovered that despite our different trip intentions (celebrating an anniversary, grieving a loved one, or a healthy girls’ trip), the red thread of seeking greater connection was consistent. Everyone was in search of more time and space to reconnect with themselves and the world around them.
Every morning at 6 a.m. we would receive a crack-of-dawn wake-up-call so we didn’t have to rely on our phone alarms. This little luxury felt like I was taking my power back from technology in a big way. It’s hard these days to not live your life through a lens.
We then eased into a morning stretch class at 6:30 a.m., swiftly ate breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and were chauffeured up into the mountains for our daily hike at 7:30 a.m. I was continuously shocked at how strenuous the hiking portion of the program was. As a relatively fit thirty-something who does either yoga or pilates daily, I was huffing and puffing nearly every step of the way. Although each hike was structured to be completed in time rather than distance, the steep inclines and steady pace of the group was not for the faint of heart — literally, we had to take an EKG test upon arrival that was paired with a blood and urine test.
After our 10-mile daily hike, we had a strength-based fitness class, a restorative yoga class that I often dozed off in and a deep tissue massage that I definitely slumbered in as well. In retrospect, my only scheduling wish is more time spent in Palazzo’s Fiuggi’s striking chandelier-adorned gym and perhaps an optional wellness workshop — like a sound healing or breathwork session. A couple of soul-care centric experiences would’ve been nice to round out the intense body and mind aspects of the program.
The majority of retreat attendees (no more than 25 per program), failed to make it to every single scheduled class. The intention of this packed agenda was to provide the opportunity to push your body to its limits — and then some.
As the obedient health junkie that I am, I went to every class throughout my day. I reached a physical state of exhaustion that I’m unsure I have ever reached before. I was so physically drained, that my mind surrendered to peace with ease — no meditation or fancy ritual necessary. This felt like another rare luxury for a city-dweller, or anyone given today’s hyper-stimulating world.
The carefully calibrated 1,400-calorie meals, which featured all-vegan fare with an Italian flair, also helped heightened my state of awareness. It was refreshing to acutely feel when my body was hungry (a privilege), rather than snacking insatiably throughout the day. Although I later learned that despite snacking being slightly faux pas at The Ranch, the majority of program veterans slyly brought small snacks that they housed in their hotel rooms.
I was impressed with the overall experimentation and execution of the plant-forward menu. Some of my favorite dishes included: grain-free, gluten-free focaccia with vegetable minestrone, cauliflower pizza, and eggplant parmigiana stacks with macadamia ricotta. All were heralded by Executive Chef Meredith Haaz based at The Ranch Malibu.
To my surprise, I experienced zero caffeine withdrawal side effects. Perhaps it was thanks to nature’s natural serotonin boost or the fact that we were on a tight schedule and I didn’t have time to notice. Regardless, for once, it felt like my coffee craving was a want versus a need.
Towards the tail-end of my stay, I met with the medical team at Palazzo Fiuggi who suggested I integrate a couple supplements for longevity into my routine. I walked away with no big insights, which in the end, I was grateful for.
The Impact & Takeaways
I left The Ranch Italy seven inches leaner and with a palpable shift in my inner landscape. I felt like the things that I stressed about prior, I could confidently conquer with more ease. When you push through a challenging experience, like a 10-mile daily hike up a mountain, that drive can transcend to other aspects of your life. When I arrived back at home in New York City, I awoke at 5:30/6 a.m. rather than snoozing several times until 7 a.m.. I found myself in my apartment gym that I haven’t frequented in months.
A couple months later, I can vouch that there is still this residual power at play — a discernable grit and drive. One retreat attendee mentioned from her past experience that, “The impact lasts about six months.” She also stated that she never thought she would return, but there she was, alongside her husband, in Italy for round two. There is an intoxicating energy of fulfillment that comes with completing The Ranch program. When it fades, it leaves you wanting more.
I thought this would be a one-and-done journey for me as well and yet I’ve found myself pursuing The Ranch Hudson program (slated to open Spring 2025) as I’m planning my wedding next fall. Perhaps The Ranch’s cult-like following is catalyzed by something more meaningful than celebrity endorsements and luxurious locales.
After all, true health is a luxury.
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