In Review

A brush with biolontology at the Espace Chenot Health Wellness Spa

Getting to grips with the ultra-trendy treatment whose fans include Premier League footballers

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The goal: To feel more ‘at one’ with yourself: to sleep better, to eat well, and to get those healing juices flowing. Having said that, most people come to lose weight.

In brief: The buzzword here is biontology: a term coined by founder Henri Chenot in the early ’90s to describe the perfect synergy between body, mind and soul, achieved by the expulsion of toxins. Considered to be a leading light in the world of holistic therapies, Frenchman Chenot, now 76, was one of the first wellness practitioners to fuse western medical diagnostics with eastern treatments. The Chenot Method thus combines the principles of Chinese medicine with state-of-the-art technology as a means of enhancing the body’s natural healing powers.

The place: Located on a hilltop in the tiny village of Franciacorta, L’Albereta flies the flag for old-school Italian glamour. The ivy-clad 19th-century villa is surrounded by vineyards and offers sublime views of Lombardy’s undulating landscape, with the main terrace looking out across the splendid Lake Iseo. There’s plenty to keep guests occupied between therapies: a large outdoor pool, tennis court, indoor pool with steam room and sauna, mountain biking down the coastal road to crystal-clear shores, and even snooker in the lounge.

The majority of those booked into L’Albereta are diehard fans, and a large contingency are returning visitors. Guests speak in hushed tones and the prescribed dress code is luxe leisure wear (cashmere, of course), although many waft around in waffle robes, even at dinner time.

The lowdown

The most popular programme is the Fundamental Detox Henri Chenot seven-night stay, which begins with a full nutritional/ lifestyle assessment to determine your metabolic age, as well as a bio-energetic test that flags up any energy ‘blockages’. Your Chenot specialist then devises a bespoke therapy programme that aims to release these blockages from your meridian pathways. Got it?

Make no mistake, the Chenot Method isn’t what you’d call pampering: treatments are geared towards invigorating the system and improving circulation, so expect a certain amount of pain for your gain. For example, being slathered in detoxifying green clay (rich in microalgae and essential oils) and wrapped up in thermal gauze like a human burrito is wonderfully relaxing. However, part two of the therapy, the cleansing hydro-jet, is significantly less soothing and involves being blasted with a high- pressure hose. It’s uncomfortable rather than painful, and it sure feels like it has shifted some cellulite.

For those who want a fully immersive experience, the spa offers many ‘bolt-on’ therapies and medical tests in addition to those set out in individual Chenot programmes. These range from respiratory and cardio assessments to acupuncture, hydro-colonics and ‘immunity-enriching’ ozone therapy. Not for the faint-hearted, the latter involves having your own reoxygenated blood injected back into your system.

Anti-ageing face and body treatments are extensive, too, with innumerable drainage massages as well as Ultherapy, a non-invasive ultrasound treatment that promises to lift and tighten the skin. Also, the ‘aesthetic medicine department’ offers wrinkle- reducing hyaluronic acid fillers, glycolic acid peels and collagen- boosting micro-needling; cosmetic surgery is on the menu, too.

Lovers of Italian food (surely everyone?) will be happy to hear this isn’t the kind of spa that serves up thimble-sized portions of soup; in contrast to many luxury medi-spas, this rambling retreat offers a less hardcore approach to shedding pounds and feeling re-energised. Toxin-busting therapies – among them, high- pressure massages using suction cups and electro- stimulation rods (not as draconian as they sound), mineral-heavy mud wraps and fat-freezing ‘cryolipolysis’ treatments – are paired with a carefully calibrated diet.

Main meals comprise three calorie-counted seasonal dishes; modest in size, but beautifully presented and big on flavour, as good food is integral to the centre’s wellbeing ethos. Franciacorta is Italian wine country, which arguably makes the sobriety of a spa getaway somewhat ironic, but there’s plenty to keep you busy – or, indeed, not-as your time is very much your own at L’Albereta; programmes tailored to weight loss and detoxification come without the drudgery of extreme fasting or forensic medical tests (unless requested, of course).

Does it work?

While the objective may be to boost a sluggish lymphatic system, the healing effects are, surprisingly, more psychological: by day two, I felt not only rested but much more alert and upbeat, as if my mind had suddenly sharpened and those feel- good chemical messengers floating around my body had been given a serious shake-up. What’s more, my food cravings subsided and I soon forgot all about my fantasy Italian thin-crust with pepperoni.

The biggest lesson to be gleaned from the Chenot Method, therefore, is not what you should add to your own wellness regime but what you should try to ‘unlearn’. And, believe it or not, those bad habits are surprisingly easy to correct.

Healing Holidays offers a four-night Dominique Chenot Spa Wellness programme at L’Albereta (albereta.it/ en) from £2,185 per person (sharing a double room) including flights, transfers and full-board accommodation. British Airways fly to Milan Linate and Milan Bergamo (ba.com)

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