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Why this retreat at Italy's Palazzo Fiuggi is surely the world's poshest bootcamp

The Ranch, a famed retreat from Malibu, has just opened its first European outpost at Palazzo Fiuggi in Italy (above).  Miranda Taylor tries out the new bootcamp

The Palazzo concierge looks me up and down. ‘Are you ready?’ he says. Well, yes, as ready as I’ll ever be for a week of no food, no alcohol; hiking, fitness and yoga and, phew, massages, in the Apennine mountains east of Rome, surrounding the spa town of Fiuggi.

Since the early 14th century, royalty, popes and Renaissance masters, including Michelangelo, have come to relax in this wooded valley famous for its healing waters.

The Ranch has just opened its first European outpost at the Palazzo Fiuggi, on the heels of its famous retreat in Malibu, Calif., popular with Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman.

I am here partly because of a breast cancer crisis and I feel ready to take on a challenge and improve my health. But my God, the rules are strict. All guests must sign a privacy policy and are encouraged to drastically change their diet and lifestyle for a month prior to arrival.

The Ranch, a famed retreat from Malibu, has just opened its first European outpost at Palazzo Fiuggi in Italy (above).  Miranda Taylor tries out the new bootcamp

The Ranch, a famed retreat from Malibu, has just opened its first European outpost at Palazzo Fiuggi in Italy (above). Miranda Taylor tries out the new bootcamp

The ranch is popular with the likes of Michelle Obama (above)

The ranch is popular with the likes of Michelle Obama (above)

Established in 2010, The Ranch founders Alex and Sue Glasscock noticed their friends were getting heavier and more lethargic. So they decided to create a program themselves, hired a vegan chef and developed a very structured format. Generally speaking, the Ranch’s philosophy is that a plant-based, gluten-free diet will reduce inflammation and the risk of disease.

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Our introductory speech by the charming, whippet-shaped Italian staff gives me the opportunity to observe our group of 12, aged between 20 and 60, all top-flight professionals from New York, LA and London.

Like fighters, we are weighed and given an ECG heart and blood test, have our waist and hip measurements taken, and endure an hour of fitness class followed by an organic vegan dinner.

Miranda's week-long stay includes “no food, no alcohol;  hiking, fitness and yoga and, phew, massages'.  Above, the hotel spa

Miranda’s week-long stay includes “no food, no alcohol; hiking, fitness and yoga and, phew, massages’. Above, the hotel spa

The hotel is located in the Apennine mountains east of Rome, surrounding the spa town of Fiuggi

The hotel is located in the Apennine mountains east of Rome, surrounding the spa town of Fiuggi

‘My God, the rules are strict,’ says Miranda of the Palazzo Fiuggi bootcamp (file photo)

Miranda's group is made up of top-flight professionals from New York, Los Angeles and London.  Above, the palace restaurant

Miranda’s group is made up of top-flight professionals from New York, Los Angeles and London. Above, the palace restaurant

We are then given a few key Ranch mantras to chew on: Relinquish responsibility; achieve all you can; focus on yourself; get a little dirty; enable awareness; be in the present moment. I’m starting to think Gwyneth Paltrow might show up. That night, I didn’t sleep soundly, waiting for the 5:30 a.m. wake-up call and wondering how I was going to survive on 1,400 vegan calories a day for a week.

We dutifully stretch at 6am, eat a granola type breakfast (no yogurt) and hike at 7am.

When the incline is particularly steep and rocky, voices crackle with encouragement over the walkie-talkies we all carry in our backpacks for safety. “We have this, Ranchers”, they say, and “Come on”. Our group dynamic is playing out: the tall, enthusiastic social media influencer leads the charge, the sweet banker agrees, the powerful woman on the board finally relaxes and tells me about her kids, and the CEO of the insurance chuckled her dream order for a cappuccino at the Top.

Miranda is woken each morning at the palace (above) by a 5.30am alarm clock

Miranda is woken each morning at the palace (above) by a 5.30am alarm clock

The spa town of Fiuggi.  “Since the early 14th century, royalty, popes and Renaissance masters – including Michelangelo – have come to relax in this wooded valley famous for its healing waters,” writes Miranda.

The spa town of Fiuggi. “Since the early 14th century, royalty, popes and Renaissance masters – including Michelangelo – have come to relax in this wooded valley famous for its healing waters,” writes Miranda.

Coming back from four-hour walks, I often feel dizzy from the lack of food and exertion. On the fifth day, when a bowl of quinoa and carrots brings tears to my eyes, the Ranch crew takes pity on me and brings a bowl of granola for breakfast.

Yet we have all climbed personal mountains. My cancer-related brain fog clears, courage returns, a post-pandemic insecurity about travel and socializing is dusted off. By the end of the week, one member of our group had lost 17 pounds, while most of us had lost 3-6 pounds.

More importantly, we all feel energized and grateful for such an unusual and regimented break from our professional lives.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

The Ranch Italy at Palazzo Fiuggi, four days from £4,034 pp. Use code DM203 for 20% off through May 1 (theranchmalibu.com). Returns from Gatwick to Rome Fiumicino on Wizz Air are from £35.98 (wizzair.com).

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