There is one simple reason why I spend so much precious time in Tuscany. The same goes for my family and my best friends, Jacky and Steve. In fact, we started the Tuscan Getaways together for exactly this reason: each time our feet are planted on this terra nova, we feel alive. We are shimmering with vitality. Our eyes sparkle. We ask ourselves if our skin is actually smoother and our hair glossier? Our smiles are definitely broader. We have witnessed our guests over the last nine years blossom in only a few days. “What are you guys smoking on that Tuscan hillside?” you might be asking yourself.

The flattery we all receive can have us strutting around like proud peacocks, but my friend of over 40 years, Jacky Brown, decided to investigate the science behind this Tuscan lifestyle and went back to study at one of most innovative nutrition institutions in London, England. After 3 intense years, she recently graduated and is now a qualified nutritionist with a passion for making sense of all the insane ‘how to live a healthy lifestyle’ information and blaring ‘noise’ that bombards us daily.

We have just completed the first Mind and Body Week at Villa Reniella, which gave us an incredible opportunity to meet 18 women from different parts of the world, each with various symptoms and nutritional needs. What did we discover? The overwhelming No 1 symptom appears to be anxiety, driven by various issues causing insomnia, stress, gut and digestive problems.

The source of the anxieties varied from career and work-related difficulties, to caring for children, ageing family members and other dependents. Why we are experiencing this epidemic in the 21st century takes some detective work, but we do know that anxiety is not caused by one particular thing, but a collection of small events leading to increased stress.

Taking all this into consideration for the Mind and Body Week, we gave each guest a nutritional plan which included diet and lifestyle changes for our guests to take home and implement. These lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments that reduce stress and anxiety include: breathing practices, yoga, mediations, mindfulness, improving sleep patterns, reducing caffeine, eating unprocessed foods and balancing blood sugar. There was one particular change that we asked everyone to do their best to put in place when they got home. One of the lessons we have all learnt from life in Italy, is the celebration of community. Meeting a friend for a drink after work, a delicious long phone chat, joining a group in your home town, walking with a friend, making an effort to ask a new friend or colleague to actually get together after a spinning or yoga class. It is quite simple and does not cost a cent – just increase actual human contact a little more every week. It will, I promise, ease the anxiety and result in better sleep. How true is the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

If I have to describe our retreats in a nutshell, the easiest way to explain them is… it is like a girls’ night out, but for a week. We discover the same sense of joy after sharing in the camaraderie of each other over a glass, or two, of wine.

This newly found vitality is a testament to the power of good food, wonderful company, exercise and most of all fun!! This is what we have learned from life in Italy and should emulate at home.

A presto

Debbie Travis and Jacky Brown