When certain characters in a P. G. Wodehouse novel are dispatched to get in shape in some punitive establishment with a retired army colonel at its helm, they know they will suffer but they accept the sacrifice. L'Albereta offers shedding without too much sacrifice, and weight loss is where Chenot's vision of colors comes in. Your color type is determined in a first visit, when your ailments, weaknesses, and energy levels are diagnosed (mine is white fading to gray—white for lungs, gray for intestines, the color indicative of where illness tends to manifest itself). A personalized plan is then prescribed: it involves a light diet and plenty of hydrotherapy—soaking in essential-oil baths for 20 minutes, a total-body mud pack for another 20 minutes, then a hydrojet rinse. In the popular three-day plan, many people easily lose five or six pounds.
"What is harmony?" Chenot asked me one afternoon. He came to stand by the edge of the terrace. "You see this garden?" he said, indicating the lush grounds below. "These trees are happy in this land because there is the North Pole on one end and the desert on the other. These two polarities create contrasts. Contrasts are the root of all growth and evolution. Boredom sets in when a human being no longer feels that he or she is evolving."
What Chenot proposes may be as old as the trees he describes, but his skill lies perhaps in his methods of leading patients to a greater awareness of their capabilities and limits. After just three days on the Chenot diet, I felt remarkably rejuvenated and was reminded of the old proverb You are what you eat.
L'Albereta, a 57-room Relais & Châteaux hotel, is in the town of Erbusco, 12 miles from Brescia and 37 miles from Milan. THREE NIGHTS, INCLUDING SPA TREATMENTS AND MEALS, FROM $3,110, DOUBLE. 11 VIA VITTORIO EMANUELE, ERBUSCO; 800/735-2478 OR 39-030/776-0550; www.albereta.it
GINI ALHADEFF is a contributing editor for Travel + Leisure.