Palatial it may be, but behind all the glitz and gloss at Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot is a serious spa emporium dedicated to detox. Contributing beauty director Alessandra Steinherr checks-in for week of rest and revitalisation.
Upon arriving at Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot you’d be forgiven for thinking you had turned up at a glossy five-star hotel as opposed to a highly revered medical spa. Actually, it’s both.
Nestled in the pretty Alpine village of Merano, in Italy’s South Tyrol region, the hotel is a lesson in old-school Italian splendour with its gilded lobby, crystal chandeliers and impeccably dressed staff. Its charm extends well beyond the walls of this former palace, with breathtaking vistas across the foothills and majestic snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites. But don’t let the grand optics of the location fool you into believing this is all style over substance – it most certainly isn’t. Palace Merano is home to one of the world’s leading destination wellness centres, established by Dr Henri Chenot over two decades ago.
Chenot, a French biologist (who still has an office on the premises), has spent the past 50 years honing his famous Chenot Method. It is based on his extensive studies of biontology (the “science of living”) – looking at how the body changes over time and using that information to promote optimal health. The method combines traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western science in a bid to eliminate toxins and restore equilibrium between body, mind and soul. The health-enhancing programmes on offer at the centre involve a combination of high-tech diagnostics, innovative treatments and tailored workouts – all expertly administered by well-trained, highly knowledgeable staff (the therapists in the spa are some of the best I’ve come across).
After a particularly stressful few months, I’d let my healthy-eating and exercise slide. I needed to press pause and regroup. Palace Merano sounded like just the place to do it, so I booked myself onto the six-day Detox Programme, the centre’s most popular course. It’s essentially a thorough deep-cleanse of the body (an “organic detoxification”) and is recommended for those with stress problems and related disorders, as well as those with excess weight issues.
I’m assigned a doctor (fully qualified, of course) who I meet for an initial consultation. After a thorough medical check-up and weigh-in, my plan for the week is set out: hydro-aromatherapy sessions for lymphatic circulation, mineral-rich mud-wraps to detox, hydrojet massage to reinvigorate, daily therapeutic drainage massages, bespoke fitness training, outdoor guided group walks and on-site nutritional coaching. You can, should you wish, book add-ons, such as the more advanced body treatments and facials, and IV drips – the doctor will suggest whether these are required.
While the weekly itineraries are tailor-made to the individual’s needs, the Chenot Method remains at the heart and soul of the programmes. The Detox Programme optimises digestive function to aid elimination. Morning weigh-ins are encouraged and I soon come to view the numbers purely as data rather than attach an emotional response to them. So much so, I now step on my bathroom scales once a week, just to keep things in check.
For the first couple of days I am incredibly tired – in fact, I sleep for 24 hours. Then, slowly, the fatigue and lethargy lifts – I feel lighter and more relaxed. I even find myself relishing my workout sessions, though with such a well-appointed gym they aren’t too much of a hardship. All the latest cardio equipment is at guests’ disposal, plus TRX Suspension Training and Vacu Power Training, the latter of which combines vacuum therapy with cardio to target- sculpt notoriously stubborn areas such as the abdomen and hips. Everything takes place under the watchful eyes of the personal trainers.
The highlight for me, however, is the pool area – a vast indoor pool, connecting to an uber-chic outdoor area surrounded by a lush tropical garden. Perfect for both serious swimming and soaking up rays in the sunshine, while sipping a tisane.
For those looking for something more intensive, the fully outfitted medical aesthetics floor offers the latest in cutting-edge treatments, with an extensive menu of injectables (Botox, fillers and plasma lift), laser treatments (Vbeam, Fraxel Dual laser and high-intensity focused ultrasound) and body shapers (shock waves, body contouring and TriLipo).
Meals are in line with what you’d expect from a detox cuisine: no alcohol, no dairy, no refined carbohydrates, no sugar, no meat. The hardest for me is the dearth of coffee, but I must admit that although the barley-based substitute contained no caffeine, it is tasty.
Though calorifically calibrated, the menu is varied and delicious. On a typical day, breakfast is a small bowl of mixed fruit; lunch a big salad followed by a plant-based warm dish, such as quinoa, rice or amaranth pasta with vegetables; and dinner, a warm soup followed by another plant-based meal, all washed down with herbal tea. I rarely feel hungry. Fish is served twice a week but there is no other animal protein. There is also a 30-hour fast in the programme, which is suggested but by no means obligatory.
The service throughout is impeccable – even when hungry guests request food for the umpteenth time, restaurant staff are kind but firm, and always professional. A no, but always delivered with a smile. The menu may be pared back, but the dining room is anything but. Tables are impeccably set with starched white linens and the polished silverware wouldn’t seem out of place in a Michelin-rated restaurant. Indeed, while daytime dressing is classical spa attire (fluffy robe and slippers), the evening dress code is decidedly glam. I have to nip into Merano – all cobbled streets and chic boutiques – to buy a couple of dresses and a pair of heels, as I had only packed leggings and sweatshirts.
After dinner, most guests retire to bed early – after all, they’re here to relax and detox. The rooms are old-school elegance with super comfortable beds and bathroom goodies from Chenot’s own range. They don’t feel clinical in the slightest, although, of course, the minibars contain nothing but water.
A week here is a truly restorative and transformative experience, the ideal respite from the stresses and overindulgences of everyday life. Dr Chenot’s Method is also highly effective. Not only do I emerge half a stone lighter, I feel recharged, revived and ready to face whatever life chooses to throw at me.
Palace Merano Espace Henri Chenot offers the six-day Detox Programme for €3,600 (approx. £3,107). Other programmes start from €2,800 (approx. £2,416). This includes all meals, consultations and treatments. Accommodation for one week in single occupancy is from €1,800 per person.