Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie at… Villa Paradiso in Italy

A spa where ossobuco is on the menu? Our reporter is perplexed

Spa Junkie at… Villa Paradiso in Italy

September 10 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Spa Junkie is experiencing a four-day stay at Villa Paradiso, the Italian medical spa on the edge of Lake Garda.

A cardio session in the gym. There are only three running machines, which are in use. “Mamma Mia!” “Sant’Antonio!” Quaint Italian epithets accompany the cacophony of huffing and puffing. I’m reminded of the film Cocoon. I go for a run along the lake instead.


Back in with Dr Loreto, back on the drip. This will be repeated each day till I depart, in an effort to cleanse my pancreas and gall bladder. He weighs me. I have lost 1.5kg. We talk a little about the diet. “You are on a 1,000 calorie-a-day diet. From your test results, we can see your base metabolic rate is 1,400 a day; so if you continue on this diet and stick with at least an hour of cardio a day, you will continue to lose weight. I would say you should lose about 4-5kg. But take it slow – if you persevere, I imagine you will lose it in 30 days.”

But what about the menus? It’s strange to eat like this in a medical spa. The ossobuco portion I was given was so large I felt almost uncomfortable when I went to bed. He is not going there with me, though; it may be the lack of English, or of interest. All that’s important for me to know, he says as he walks me away from the desk, is that it’s well balanced with protein and carbs, no fat is used in the production process, and it’s calorie-controlled. The door shuts again.


Massage. “What’s with the cappuccinos? How come everyone is smoking and drinking coffee?” I ask Giacomo as he works away. “Well,” he says, “we believe we can’t take pasta, wine, sugar and coffee away from our guests. We would have a riot on our hands – and it would encourage guests to binge as soon as they leave. So we have developed a formula that’s as easy to follow at home as is possible.” I think I understand.


Lunch is a delicious buffet of 17 vegetables. I could have eaten three plates of it, but it’s not self-service, and we are only allowed a choice of five.


Antonella, and my time with her, are proving to be a real treat. I get an hour in her hands each day, and she decides what I need. My session comprises a massage, a facial and a mask. Today is a drainage massage with sweet almond oil and vitamin E. She tidies my eyebrows, and even performs an “anti-ageing breast massage”.


I’m prone at the lake for some tanning and reading, and it’s here, in the hammock, that I turn a corner. That “aaah” moment of any spa experience – it’s like a switch, something happens and it triggers a change.

Your hunger dissipates, your mind clears and the heretofore slightly hazy mirage of life becomes crystal clear, as your mind focuses and your emotions balance.

It feels incredibly good. It’s the junkie part of being a spa junkie – the reason you keep coming back and going through it all again.


In the gym. I have agreed to take responsibility for any injury I sustain, and am now permitted to use the gym alone out of hours.


Dinner is an interesting and very tasty spinach-coated swordfish with salad. As I eat, I observe the blossoming friendships at the singles tables. As the week has gone on, the restaurant has got louder and rowdier; friends are made in the lounge, too, as everyone sips finocchio (fennel), liquirizia (liquorice) and bacche di sambuco (elderberry) tea while they wait for appointments.

I get back to my room to find an e-mail confirming that a job I have been pitching for has come through; I will have to depart for LA tomorrow.

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.