Destination Guides Travel & Leisure

Detox and Relax in Rome and the Nearby Mountains

From a five-star detox to a chic city break, Rome and the surrounding areas offer rejuvenating escapes and a warm Italian welcome as Steven Short, editor of Christie’s International Real Estate magazine, discovers

In the past 48 hours, I’ve been covered in salt and scrubbed from head to toe, bathed in what looked and felt like a giant oil spill, been caked in mud, wrapped in clingfilm and left to bake for 20 minutes, and hosed down with ferocious jets of freezing cold water. And I feel better than I have for a long time.

I’ve also had various physical and medical tests, done a hard Pilates class, a traditional hatha yoga session, had Tibetan singing bowls chime over my chakras, and been rewarded with incredible food by acclaimed chef Heinz Beck, whose La Pergola restaurant in Rome has been awarded three Michelin stars.

Spacious Royal Suite Bedroom with burgundy accents
Offering comfort and luxury, the Royal Suite at Palazzo Fiuggi includes a living room, bedroom, and walk-in wardrobe. Featuring silks, Murano crystal chandeliers, and Italian marble, there’s also a terrace with panoramic views. Credit: Tyson Sadlo

I’m an hour’s drive from Rome at Palazzo Fiuggi, a wellness medical retreat that is now fully open following COVID-19 delays. The grand palace—a hotel for much of its life—has recently been refurbished to the tune of €30 million ($32.5m), and is now home to a state-of-the-art spa and wellness facility spanning 6,000 square feet (557 sq m). There are also 102 rooms and suites to choose from, among them the Presidential, the Imperial, and the Royal (pictured above)—where Italian kings and queens would stay, and which, like all of the rooms here, has a clean, contemporary aesthetic but also showcases some precious antiques from the 1930s.

The treatments I’ve had are part of the five à la carte holistic well-being programs that are at the heart of the reborn Palazzo and designed to help kickstart “a longer life better lived.” Program options include Optimal Weight, Deep Detox (which I’m sampling), and Complete Life Rewind.

A large room with comfortable blue velvet seating and opulent ceiling
Informal Italian hospitality is evident in abundance here at Palazzo Fiuggi. Founder Lorenzo Giannuzzi has drawn on his 30 years of expertize in hospitality to ensure that guests enjoy great service. Credit: Tyson Sadlo

Each bespoke program can be booked for seven or 14 days and combines exercise, treatments, and therapies with tailored nutrition by global superstar chef Beck, who spent two years creating a menu of 1,600 dishes that make the most of local, seasonal, biodynamic produce, and ensure that guests never eat the same thing twice.

Highlights of my meals include citrus salad with beetroot ice cream and blueberries, variations of artichokes such as topinambour with pine nuts and mixed seeds, and an outstanding spaghetti with lemon pesto. Every dish is Instagram-ready and belies the fact that my daily calorie intake while here is under 2,000.

Palazzo Fiuggi's heated outdoor swimming pool with views of the hills behind
Palazzo Fiuggi oldest swimming pool (one of two) dates back to 1936. Today, the indoor pool connects via a tunnel to the outdoor heated pool from which guests can see the ancient city of Fiuggi. Credit: Tyson Sadlo

The Palazzo, 2,297 feet (700 m) above sea level (“oxygen-rich air comes for free,” as one doctor puts it) is surrounded by 20 acres (8 ha) of beautiful parkland to enjoy in between treatments. There are also two swimming pools to lounge around, or the cute town to explore.

My visit ends with a chat with my designated doctor, who shares the results of my bioelectrical impedance analysis. Among other things this tells you your body’s biological age. I am, apparently, actually 13 years younger, physically, than it says on my passport.

Next Stop: Boutique Hotel J.K.Place

Elegant black and white lounge foyer of J.K. Place Hotel in Rome
The style of architect Michele Bönan can be seen throughout J.K. Place, including the bespoke furnishings created by hand, canopy beds in rosewood, panelled walls, and luxury marble bathrooms. Credit: Christos Drazos

Thus rejuvenated I head to Rome for the last night of my Italian jaunt, to J.K. Place, a boutique hotel moments away from the Spanish Steps. Named after a father, founded by a son, and with fancy bathroom lotions by a daughter, J.K. Place is a family affair. The son, Ori Kafri, co-founder of J.K.Place together with Eduardo Safdie, opened J.K. Place Roma (named in honor of his dad Jonathan Kafri) in 2013, after converting a 17th-century villa next to Palazzo Borghese into a chic hotel. Kafri, Safdie, and their team hope that J.K. Place “will feel like a home away from home, somewhere relaxed where they always feel welcome.”

There is a pleasant informalness to the hotel, with its “welcome” in the living room, with daytime coffee or afternoon/evening glass of prosecco (“we don’t like the word check-in”) and friendly, “we know what you want before you have to ask” staff. J.K. Café is equally unstuffy and serves a menu that changes daily. I eat here a couple of times: excellent fresh salads, buffalo mozzarella DOP from Campagna with tomatoes and fresh basil, and excellent house-made pastas.

The cafe at J.K. Place is dressed in rich teal tones and features brown leather seats
Make sure you pay a visit to the J.K. Cafe, which pays homage to Tom Ford’s movie A Single Man (2009) You can opt for afternoon tea, a personalized Aperitivo, or a signature cocktail, including the J.K. Sour. Credit: Christos Drazos

The hotel is a great base from which to explore Rome, but, feeling relaxed from my detox, I also find myself in no hurry to rush out—public areas feel more like the grand rooms of a family home than a hotel and were designed for lounging around in. There’s also a well-stocked library, should the weather not tempt you outside.

Personalization is big here: ahead of your visit, one of the team will give you a call to find out what kind of accommodation you’d like—there are 11 different styles—and to plan any particular Rome experiences you might fancy, such as a behind-the-scenes tour of Maison Fendi or an expert’s view of the Vatican.

On the Market 

Beautifully Restored: Elegant 1930s Villa 

Yellow elegant detached villa in Rome surrounded by trees
This charming villa offers plenty of relaxation and entertainment opportunities—there’s a cinema room, covered swimming pool with jacuzzi, and a sauna. There are also four bedrooms and six full bathrooms.

Located in the centre of Rome, just a short walk from Parco dei Daini, this 1930s villa is fully restored featuring decorated doors, floors inlaid with marble and parquet, and glass walls. Set across three levels, the villa is surrounded by a 16,000-square-foot (1,500 sq m) park with tall trees, two sequoias from the Roman era, and a gazebo. There’s covered parking for six cars, which can be accessed via two driveways.

Views of elegant buildings from a penthouse apartment in Rome
This large penthouse apartment has 15 bedrooms and eight full bathrooms, and consists of 7,534 square feet (700 sq m) of interior space. The property includes two allocated parking spaces.

This two-level penthouse is located in the historic Palazzo Muti Bussi building, which was designed in 1585 by architect Giacomo della Porta, part of the Italian Baroque movement. Just a few steps from Piazza Venezia and the Campidoglio, the building is adorned with sculptures and artifacts from ancient Rome, and has a 24-hour concierge service for residents. The penthouse has four lounges, three of which feature fireplaces, and direct access to a terrace. There are two further terraces, of which one enjoys panoramic views across the rooftops of Rome.