Bad sleeper, Frankie Rozwadowska, flies to Verona in search of the perfect slumber

Sleep well. Two words that, in my experience, do not belong together. At all. Saying I’m a bad sleeper is an understatement. I am awful – bordering on the lines of insomnia. It takes me hours to get to sleep, and if there’s any noise or even a crack of light, I can forget it. This means I am constantly tired and lacking in energy, I can’t concentrate and I have to carry earplugs and an eye-mask with me wherever I go. Sexy. From herbal remedies, sleep sprays and meditative music, to valium and one (or two…) large glasses of red wine – I’ve tried everything. Needless to say, I was tired of being tired. So when I was invited to try the new Sleep Programme at the Lefay Resort & Spa on Lake Garda, Italy, I (quite literally) jumped out of bed at the chance. A programme promising to tackle energy imbalances and promote sleep? It sounded too good to be true…


So a little bit about Lefay itself. After a short flight from London to Verona and a 1hour 20minute drive (along windy, rural roads with a rather handsome Italian driver – great start) you will enter the Alto Garda Natural Park, home of the Lefay Resort & Spa. Nestled amongst the snow-capped peaks of Mount Baldo and set on 27 acres of gentle hills, woodlands and olive trees with breath-taking views across Lake Garda – it’s no wonder why the Leali family chose this spot for Lefay. Aiming to “create places of our dreams”, they have incorporated luxury, space, nature and silence to bring about a concept of overall wellness. Built using bio-compatible materials (eco-sustainability is a huge part of the resort, from renewable energy to bio-architecture) it was inspired by local lemon houses typical of the area and uses natural fabrics and materials throughout. It has also been awarded the prestigious titles of Best Luxury Wellness Spa and Best Luxury Destination Spa for Italy at the 2013 World Luxury Spa Awards. So very hip and healthy.

There are 90 suites in the resort, each offering the most amazing view of Lake Garda. The beds are enormous (perfect for me, I can’t sleep if I can’t move around), there’s a living area and a dressing room, a Jacuzzi bath and there are speakers in the shower so you can dance whilst you douche. Amazing. This feeling of space continues throughout the resort, with its high-ceilings and natural light and brightness flooding in through large windows and glass surfaces There’s a state-of-the-art gym with views out across the infinity pool to the lake, two restaurants offering up seasonal, fresh and delicious Mediterranean fare, and a chic bar area where you can kick back with a cocktail and watch the lake glitter beneath you. In short, it has everything you could possibly want. And that’s without mentioning the spa…

Unlike most resorts that shove the spa out the back or in the basement, Lefay’s 3,000sqm spa is right in the heart of the hotel – forming the core and centre of the resort. There are five types of sauna, numerous treatment areas, an indoor pool (where you can swim through doors to swim under the stars), an Energy and Therapeutic Garden, meditation areas, and an indoor salt water lake (more on that later). Basing its treatments and courses on the ancient principles of Classical Chinese Medicine, Lefay incorporates modern Western techniques to help restore energy and help guests achieve balance of the body and the mind. It’s according to these principles and beliefs that the Sleep Retreat was developed. As with the other programmes carried out at Lefay, their highly regarded Scientific Committee work together to ensure you are getting the highest level of expertise and really see and feel the results

Sleep Lefay

The Sleep Programme is the latest addition to Lefay’s list and works over 5 days to realign your body and mind by stimulating energy lines. According to Classical Chinese Medicine, insomnia and sleep problems are due to an imbalance of energy – from physical ones (such as hormonal changes and digestive disorders) to mental ones (including stress and intellectual hyperactivity). The aim here is to rectify these imbalances and restore your Qi (energy) so you can sleep soundly and let your entire being rest and be rejuvenated.  Upon arrival you will have a consultation with Dr Maurizio Corradin who, with a reassuring arm around your shoulder and warm smile, will ask you about all aspects of your life – from diet and exercise to relationships and work. Within minutes he had me completely sussed and had detected some kidney problems (through pressing points along my back) that were definitely not helping with my insomnia issues. I was then given my own specially brewed herbal tea to help flush out those toxins (using an ancient form of phytotherapy and an array of over 40 medicinal plants with diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties) and I was ready to fight my dream-stopping demons.

Your days will fly by in a whizz of massages, acupuncture, reflexology, hydro-aromatherapy sessions and rebalancing physical activities. You’ll meet with a personal trainer and have a nutritional consultation – ensuring your body is reset from the inside out. You’ll get to try moxibustion (a Chinese therapeutic technique where heat is applied to areas of the skin near acupuncture points to clear energy pathways) and float in an indoor salt lake. Yes, really. I could live in it if I could – a salt-water pool as warm as your bath where you can lie sprawled out in any shape you fancy and you stay afloat. Great fun. The mineral salt content is incredibly draining and detoxifying as well as utterly relaxing. Just lie back, sprawl out and gaze up at the giant moon-lamp above you. It’s like being in your own personal fairy-tale. I’m also now addicted to Qi Gong – a physical practice that teaches you how to balance your body, breathing, mind and ‘shen’ (the spiritual part of you that binds everything together). This means you can really become aware of who you are and you can bring your body back to life by delivering energy to every single cell.

pool view

The person leaving Lefay was definitely not the same person who arrived. I didn’t look like a puffy-eyed maniac for a start. I felt invigorated and alive yet peaceful and content, and from my head to my toe I felt the effects. But, most importantly, I could sleep. I could finally kiss goodbye to the endless sheep I’d been counting and the practices and principles I learnt were so easy to incorporate into my daily life. The only problem is now I need to go back and try the other programmes… Lefay is, in all senses of the word, the dream destination. Sogni d’oro.

The Deets 

British Airways (ba.com, 0844 493 0787) flies twice a day from London

Gatwick to Verona, return fares start from £101.31 including taxes.

The five day sleep programme at Lefay Resort & Spa (www.lefayresorts.com) costs £1,544 (Euros 1,800).  The price includes all treatments, meals and use of Lefay’s pools and saunas.

Image by Sophie Delaporte, for vogue Italia, May 2005