3 day old bread, 40 minute breathing classes, no water with meals and no booze? The Mayr Clinic in Austria has a lot to answer for. Based on a very thorough detox diet devised by the eponymous Doctor in the early 20th century, Mayr believed there was a strong link between diet, digestion and health. So he set up a clinic where people could rest and purge. Holistic as it is, extreme regimes became all the rage – you could arguably trace every single purging-based diet back to Mayr. The idea is to rest the digestive system by way of this detoxing, and the general result were positives – from stress and insomnia to my problem, burn-out, exacerbated (I believe) by my inability to switch off – Mayr medecine works, or so I’m told.
Today, Mayr detoxing had had an overhaul. It's now considered to be the glam face of detoxing, and is subsequently practiced all over the wealthier parts of Europe. The former Mrs Putin is a fan, as is Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz and half the staff at Vogue. And now it’s come to Europe, with the latest and newest adoptee being Tuscany’s Adler Thermae Hotel, two hours from Pisa. Less regimented than the former examples, the Mayr-inspired programme here somehow balances a proper detox with holiday.
Built to replicate a Tuscan villa, Adler is peppered with Italian ticks: granite arches, Cypress trees casting deep shadows and expensive-looking vanilla walls. But its real shtick are the hot thermal springs, whose healing and cleansing qualities have been scientifically proven, situated in the vicinity meaning the hotel’s two pools are naturally fed and watered by a local spring.
The Mayr-esque 'Balance detox programme' is the closest thing to the Mayr experience as it gets without detracting from a holiday. Provided meals are eaten at exact times – 7.30am, 12.30pm and 7.30pm - you drink your leg weight in water and eat what is prescribed, you can almost pretend you’re not detoxing. It's very much 70% holiday to 30% health.
The rooms, gym and multi-faceted spa are on the lower level. Everyone has a view of the Unesco Heritage site, for the most part uninterrupted. The grounds constructed to mimic the landscape; smooth, casually undulating and kempt. From my room, I can see the villa they used as Maximus’ home Gladiator. It’s Spring and the blossom has settled in. Daisies and crocuses have congregated, boulders shield the steaming thermal bath of the 1000 square metres of indoor and outdoor pool, naturally heated to 37C.
Two big wings extend either side of the main villa, housing 80-or-so rooms. The 150-odd guests amble about in their robes. Everyone everyone remains en robe until 7:30pm, when they complete an aesthetic u-turn, and dine in their Sunday best.
Though strict, Adler adopts the bearable parts of the Mayr Clinic – there are cold showers, ice buckets, breathing classes if you want – and married them with some well-above average chillaxation: Ayurvedic massages; macadamia nut scrubs; a salt water steam room; a lavender caldarium; a proper, naked Finnish sauna and vast dark caves full of steam and naked honeymooners.
I spend most mornings being iced, like a bun, in algae. Sometimes while floating in water. I have my back rubbed, my diaphragm stroked while I count to seven. I’m taught to chew and breathe. The rest of the time I’m naked in a steam room or lolling outside on a sun lounger beside wealthy Milanese men closing financial deals in their Speedoes. It’s a detox/retox for the dedicated, time poor of Italy’s elite, although come Summer, I’m told it’s full of Brits, Americans (Amanda Seyfried recently visited) and Austrians desperate to flee their own version of Mayr.
Two days in, I have my first session with my allocated Mayr doctor in which I am assessed over 10 pages of questions about body complaints and lifestyle, before being weighed and measure and wired up to assess first my nervous system and again to assess any nutrient imbalances. She guesses I work too much, never relax and sleep badly with night sweats. My body, it transpires, is less crying out, more quietly weeping.
She prescribes a diet – more potassium, more zinc, more vegetables, no cow’s milk, salmon or tuna. Eggs, sheep’s yoghurt, beef ham, smoked trout fillets, rice cakes or spelt roll, also. Bread is fine in limitation: ‘this is not about losing any weight. We just need to bolster your system with vitamins and nutrients. You need reserves’. She also suggests carrot and apple juice and more fruit. Smoking and coffee though seem fine – after all, this is Italy. The session descends therapeutically as she suggests I stop being so hard on myself, stop trying to be the best, start delegating, turn my brain off and accept where I am and who I am everyday through deep, deep breathing exercises. But enough of the health, I think, taking notes. The concept is not a million miles from mindfulness and to be honest, I can think of worse places to do it.
Less than a week in, and I feel extraordinary. The transition from social media monkey to zen took a couple of days, but now I positively sweat health. I am sleeping regularly and deeply, have more energy than I can remember to the point that I’m starting to get bored of the relaxation. At that point, I log onto Twitter and immediately remember why I came. Perhaps it’s time to go before I switch off completely.
Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 5 nights at Adler Thermae in Italy from £1,095pp or £1,480 for single occupancy. Price includes breakfast, a wellness programme and return flights. A 7 night detox programme costs from £2,095pp or £2,610 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a detox programme and return flights.
For advice, guidance and booking visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 3978891