Detached detoxing at Ti Sana in Italy
‘They’re big on colonics here – they even have regulars who love it so much they pop in during their lunch break for a quick flushing out’
Louisa Carter finds Ti Sana’s science-based detox effective if a little emotionally cold
Exhausted, stressed and loathe to give up coffee and wine – this is the negative state I’m in when I land at Milan. I’m wondering whether to sneak in a quick cappuccino while I still have the chance – I resist. On the hour-long drive to Ti Sana, certain I’m about to be starved for four days, I stuff my face with cereal bars – big mistake. No sooner do I arrive than I’m offered lunch – a generous vegan spread using produce from the hotel’s organic garden and lovingly cooked (or not in the case of the ‘raw food’ dishes) by expert chef Valeria. The 16th century buildings have been beautifully restored, but the Philippe Starck Ghost chairs and starched white linens in the dining room seem austere; the fact I’m the only diner probably doesn’t help. From then on I eat in my room or courtyard, going to the dining room only for breakfast.
I’m signed up for the ‘Healtheatarian’ programme. My timetable lists daily presentations – I feel like I’m back in my old job at the BBC. Owner Erica’s relaxed approach makes it more bearable and she explains the concept behind Ti Sana: science-based diagnostics show up the root cause of illness or potential illness, they then educate people so they can change their lifestyle to heal, or more importantly, prevent disease.
So far, so reasonable, although it does mean buying into the alkaline diet as a way of life, something that I find can quickly become obsessive (avoiding tap water to drink alkaline Kangen water, for example). Having said this, Erica is okay with a little organic meat or fish, and her incredibly sprightly father embraces the lifestyle but also indulges in good red wine and chocolate. I should be doing lian gong (a bit like Tai Chi crossed with Pilates) instead I head to my room – a quiet, well-designed space with a comfy bed and vast marble bathroom (mine was one of the biggest rooms and they vary hugely in size, so be sure to check which room you’ll get).
Next up my diagnostic tests. I like to think I’m reasonably good at science but these blow my mind and I can’t grasp the basics, despite the patience of the charming Mario. After being wired up to electrodes then bound by various leather straps (yes, bizarre) I get the good news: I’m a shade underweight and have the right amount of fat so no need to lose any kilos. Then the bad news: low muscle ratio, low bone density and a few sites of inflammation mean a lot more exercise and swapping my morning coffee for a big, healthy breakfast. Mario translates this into an easy-to-understand exercise and diet programme and I spend my days eating well, drinking fresh juices, exercising, lying down in my room or the lovely spa, and getting increasingly irritable, bloated and blighted by headaches as the detox kicks in.
Although the staff are warm and helpful, and Erica gives me her mobile number (making me promise to call if I experience any problems), I feel alone and lost. I’m well aware that emotional issues can come up when we abandon our comfort zones, and this is no exception. There are no fellow detoxers to offer support and I wander around feeling like a bit of a weirdo. This isn’t helped by the small group of smartly dressed business people there for a conference, especially when their ciggie smoke wafts in my direction and they get wine at dinner and espressos at breakfast.
Stunning morning walks with Mario along the wide and glassy Adda river lift my mood. A deep and professional massage in the spa eases my headache. Now it’s the bloating that’s beginning to get me down. Cue the Angel of Water: a self-administered colonic hydrotherapy machine that looks like a cross between a giant fish tank and a reclining toilet. The difference between this and regular colonics is about 40 litres of water. Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s self-administered – someone still needs to be there to get you started the first time. The first time turns out to be my only time.
They’re big on colonics here and often prescribe daily sessions for guests; they even have regulars who love it so much they pop in during their lunch break for a quick flushing out. But it’s just not for me and I feel horribly empty and tender for a couple of days. I can imagine if constipation or ‘feeling fat’ around your middle is an issue then you might feel great afterwards, but I can’t get the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ out of my head.
On my last morning I wake naturally at 5.55am. It’s raining heavily and I open the windows wide to listen. Anxiety has vanished, I’m clear headed and brimming with ideas. I’m glad I’ve been living so cleanly and getting more exercise than usual and I’ve lost a few pounds (even though mine wasn’t a weight-loss programme). I’m not even tempted by the cappuccinos at Milan airport.
I keep off wine and coffee for a few days, gradually reintroducing them. After a few weeks I slip back into my coffee habit, but I’m drinking noticeably less wine than I used to; I just don’t fancy it. I’m also eating a lot more raw vegetables and salads alongside my regular diet. Now I just need to work on the exercise.
I’d recommend Ti Sana for anyone wanting to lose weight quickly without being starved, or to kickstart a healthy lifestyle in a luxurious setting with a lovely spa, as well as fans of colonics. Bring a friend or partner to keep you company as there’s not much in the way of emotional support. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone feeling vulnerable either physically or emotionally. If it’s your first detox then be aware that emotional issues may surface and you’ll need to be able to handle them on your own.
© Queen of Retreats