An insider look at what makes The Ranch programs in Italy and Malibu such a hit in the wellness world—and what to know before you go.
The start of the year always brings a renewed, cyclical emphasis on healthy living. And while we love the energy that comes with that, we also know that focusing on your wellness isn’t just a once-a-year commitment.
That’s what we love about wellness travel. It lets you take a deeper, deliberate and more meaningful approach to your wellbeing. And, ultimately, it helps you set up a sustainable practice that lasts well beyond January.
Despite a dip in 2020, wellness tourism has grown tremendously as of late—the Global Wellness Institute expects it will be at $1.3 trillion in the next two years—and hotels and resorts are meeting that head-on, with innovative programs and amenities.
“Post-pandemic, people have become more aware of the importance of wellness and that they can curate or take part in wellness programs as they travel,” says Debbi Lee, the founder of Paper & Diamond, an F1S affiliate that focuses on wellness travel. “We want to create an immersive experience that helps travelers discover what that looks like and how they can change their lives with better self-care, when they’re out on the road and back home again.”
We’ve introduced you to some of our go-to luxury wellness resorts around the world—check out 9 of them—and our advisors regularly visit popular favorites and new additions to help make planning easier for you.
Case in point: Willa Griffin, Director of F1S Canada and advisor Pierre Francin recently visited The Ranch, an intensive wellness resort that’s developed a cult-like following since it first opened in Malibu, California back in 2010. After expanding to Italy in 2022, the resort’s newest location, in New York’s Hudson Valley, debuts later this year.
Willa and Pierre did The Ranch’s 4-day program in Italy and Willa completed the 7-day program in Malibu last month as well. Read on for a closer look at their experience—and what to know if you go:
How to Make the Most of Your Program
Take advantage of the structured schedule
While some wellness resorts are the choose-your-own-adventure variety and others take a more customized approach, The Ranch is pared down, with a schedule that includes the same basic structure every day.
That’s especially true at The Ranch Malibu—they don’t bill their philosophy as “no options” for nothing—which is about 1.5 hours from LAX. The 200-acre property was a working ranch in the early 20th century and now includes 21 cottages for guests.
Schedule-wise, expect 4 hours of hiking in the morning (more on that later!), fitness classes and massages in the afternoon, with communal meals, free time and nap time built in.
“It’s one-size-fits-all,” says Willa. “What’s great about that is you’re able to focus exclusively on what’s offered, without distractions or having to use your much-needed mental and physical energy deciding what to do.”
In Italy, meanwhile, the structure—hiking, fitness classes—is totally the same, though Willa and Pierre found there was some more flexibility in the schedule than in Malibu. That’s primarily due to the program’s location, which is housed inside Palazzo Fiuggi, a renowned medical wellness resort about an hour from Rome.
Guests can visit the hotel’s jaw-dropping 60,000-square-foot wellness facility, including pools with Fiuggi’s well-known healing mineral water. “On the last day, for instance, Pierre and I wanted to do the healing pools, so we skipped the afternoon yoga class,” says Willa.
Go all in on the vegan offerings
“To prepare good quality vegan food requires a chef that is an artist. And the artistry in both locations was amazing,” says Willa. In both places, you’ll follow a 1400-calorie per day vegan and gluten-free plan. The dishes, which Willa describes as dense and satisfying include staples like lentils, chickpeas, bulgur and veggies from their own organic gardens.
No surprise here, but caffeine, alcohol and smoking are all off the table. To that end, Willa found that prepping pre-Malibu by cutting coffee for a few days helped her reap the program’s benefits right from the get-go.
And in general, our advisors found the resort’s dedication to sustainability impressive. “All of their food is grown locally. They’re trying to reduce their carbon footprint, so there’s no single-use plastics, for instance. They’re really committed—and it shows,” Willa says.
Hit the trails on incredible hikes
Having visited many wellness resorts, Pierre notes that fitness is a big focus here. That includes, of course, lots of hiking—an exceptional part of the experience.
“The hikes in Italy in the Apennine Mountains are amazing,” says Pierre. “It’s a tough workout, but you’re outdoors, taking in the always-changing views, the surrounding forests. It’s incredible.”
In Malibu, hiking is in the Santa Monica Mountains National Park, with summits to reach and spectacular water views. “While the hiking isn’t as technical as in Italy—that was more traditional mountain hiking—in Malibu, it was just as challenging.”
And in both cases, you’re hiking upwards of 4-5 hours a day. “There were flags set out along the trail and guides, so it was impossible to get lost,” says Pierre. “And everyone hikes at their own pace, so at the end of the day, everyone will walk the same amount of time, but some will do 5 miles, while others will do 8 miles.”
Deciding to Go
Across the board, both Willa and Pierre found the experience to be a great physical and mental detox—one they would recommend to clients. Whether you’re looking to jumpstart or reboot your workout routine or you’ve already got your fitness routine in place but want a new challenge, the program can be a good choice. Some more advice:
- While rewarding, it’s also very demanding, so understanding the expectations in terms of activity and lifestyle (cell phone use is at a minimum, for instance)—is helpful before you jump in. Also good to know: You’ll meet people of various ages and fitness levels who all see results.
- The shorter, 4-day program in Italy can be a great reset either at the start or end of a Europe trip, says Pierre. “After indulging, you know you have four days to focus on your health and wellness, which is a great way to leave feeling really refreshed,” he notes. For a shorter program Stateside, the new Hudson Valley location will offer 3-day and 4-day options.
- The 7-day Malibu program lets you reap the benefits for longer and enjoy the typically great California weather. “I would recommend it for someone who loves being outdoors, loves hiking and being active and wants a true physical detox,” says Willa. (There’s an 8-day program in Italy, too.)
- Talk to your advisor before you book. Many, like Willa and Pierre, experience these wellness programs firsthand, so they can recommend one that best aligns with your goals.
Want more info on The Ranch—or one of the many other wellness resorts we love and visit regularly? Reach out to your F1S advisor or email us and we can help you find—or create—the ideal program for you.