Wellness
Valley of wellness

The Romagna region of Italy has created a unique wellness ecosystem involving public and private investment to boost tourism in the area, improve public health and get its people moving. Jane Kitchen visits to find out more

By Jane Kitchen | Published in Spa Business 2018 issue 3

Health is important for everybody – because a healthy lifestyle decreases the health costs for governments, increases the productivity for companies and improves the quality of life for everybody,” says Nerio Alessandri, founder and president of gym equipment supplier Technogym.

So what if everybody worked together to promote health and wellness at a local level? Wouldn’t everyone benefit?

That’s what Alessandri thought, back in 2001, when he proposed that public and private stakeholders in Romagna, Italy – where Technogym’s headquarters are located – work together to bring wellness to the region.

Wellness Foundation
“The idea was to develop the Romagna area, creating the first district in the world that forms a benchmark for quality of life,” says Alessandri. “Using Technogym as the catalyst, we mobilised all stakeholders in Romagna – companies, public administrators, tourism operators, schools, universities and the public health system – to work together to improve public health, boost the economy and raise the quality of the environment in order to attract more and better qualified people who were in search of a wellness experience.”

To do this, he set up the Wellness Foundation, a non-profit that unites the region in all things wellness. Governments, hospitals, universities, schools and businesses all work together to create a ‘wellness ecosystem’ called the Wellness Valley. The foundation’s aims are twofold: to improve the quality of life for those in the region, and to promote wellness tourism as a way for those from outside Romagna to discover the region.

Best practices
More than 40 best practices have been developed since the Valley’s formation, from the launch of bio-organic food companies and tourism operators selling wellness holiday packages to the area, to an initiative that teaches schoolchildren and their teachers about physical fitness.
Even the local libraries have been outfitted with wellness balls to keep locals moving while they read. Education has been a key component of the scheme and getting children into the habit of exercise from a young age has been important in establishing routines.

After 16 years, the results are starting to show. More than 17,000 schoolchildren and 500 teachers have taken part in Gioca Wellness, a programme that teaches physical fitness in a fun way, and the population in the area has increased its physical activity by 10 per cent. “That means people in Cesena are 10 per cent more active than the average Italian, thanks to the education and the culture [of the Wellness Valley],” says Alessandri.

The Wellness Valley has been presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as an example of an ecosystem dedicated to health and welfare.

In 2009, Italian provinces were ranked according to GDW (Gross Domestic Wellbeing) and the province of Forlì-Cesena in Romagna was ranked highest in the country. Two other provinces in the region, Ravenna and Rimini – also scored highly. In addition, Emilia Romagna has also been rated 9.7 out of 10 points for health by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Regional Well-Being ranking – putting it in the top 7 per cent across all OECD regions internationally.

Technogym Village
The Technogym Village serves as the entrance gateway and the beating heart of the Wellness Valley, and is where this year’s Global Wellness Summit will take place, from 6-8 October. Designed by the architect Antonio Citterio – who will speak at the summit – the Technogym Village was built according to the principles of bio-architecture, meaning it reflects structures that are found in nature.

The village combines Technogym equipment production plants, offices, product research & development and the T-Wellness Center – a dedicated facility for the development and promotion of wellness in the educational and medical-scientific research fields. Its conference facilities include wellness balls rather than chairs, to keep delegates moving even while seated and an on-site restaurant serves healthy, organic food.

It’s one of the reasons the location was chosen for the GWS, which has a focus on the ‘business of wellness’ this year. Here, delegates will be able to see not only the headquarters of a major international wellness brand, but also an entire region that has focused on improving the quality of wellbeing for its residents.

“Italy has a lot to teach us about wellness,” says Susie Ellis, GWS chair. “We admire the longevity here and we see the lifestyle is about joy and happiness.”

Global Expansion
Soon, the lifestyle that has been cultivated throughout the Wellness Valley will be exported to other countries. After receiving requests from all over the world to create similar projects, Alessandri has created a consultancy, Wellness Partners, which aims to develop these wellness ecosystems in different regions internationally. “Our aim is to masterplan and create other wellness valleys around the world,” he says.

Wellness Partners has been in the works for two years, with the first year-and-a-half focusing on creating a scalable model and assembling international experts in major cities like New York, London and Singapore. And while the consultancy already has a few projects in the pipeline, Alessandri is remaining tight-lipped about where they are. But in the future, it looks like the Wellness Valley model may be coming to a region near you.

EDUCATION

The University of Bologna has relocated a large portion of its degree courses and masters courses focused on quality-of-life subjects to its Romagna-based campuses. This includes subjects including food sciences, architecture, psychology, biotechnology, cultural heritage and tourism economics.

The Wellness Multicampus University is a project to develop studies with a wellness focus and includes 57 programmes in movement, health, biotechnologies, tourism, economy, the arts, and nutrition.

A new graduate degree programme on Wellness Culture: Health, Sport and Tourism began in October 2017.

 


PHYSICAL FITNESS

Each spring Technogym trainers help 18,000 residents enjoy free physical activity classes as part of the ‘Muoviti che fa bene’ – ‘Movement that’s good for you’ – campaign.

Rimini has a Walk Smart initiative to encourage residents to discover the town and seaside on foot.

The Play Wellness initiative gets 10,000 children, presenting physical fitness in a fun way. More than 500 teachers have been trained in the programme, which is free for both for institutes and families.

The Piedibus programme is designed to encourage primary school children to walk to school and gets 1,000 children on their feet.

 



The Wellness Valley boasts
96 Cycling routes

53 Wellness hotels

15 Parks and nature reserves

12 Thermal resorts

31 Kilometres of coastline

Tourism

Tourism is promoted with a wellness focus, through spa programmes, biking holidays and local food culture.

Romagna is promoted and marketed under the Wellness Valley brand as a destination specialising in holidays that combine movement, outdoor routes, food and wine excellence, culture, art and landscape

Since July 2014, the Wellness Valley Tourist Promotion Association has actively promoted hotels, beaches, events and tourist routes selected by the Wellness Foundation. Wellness holiday packages are sold through the website www.visitwellnessvalley.it

 


GoneWithTheWind/shutterstock

Romagna has been promoted as wellness destination since 2014
PUBLIC HEALTH

Emilia Romagna was the first region in Italy to authorise the medical prescription of physical exercise as therapy, in 2014.

A Health Round Table created by the Region of Emilia Romagna and the Wellness Foundation aims to enable fitness and wellness operators to administer physical exercise for therapeutic purposes.

An initiative between local doctors and the Wellness Foundation has led to an agreement where doctors will promote exercise as medicine, with physical activity prescribed as the principal drug in the fight against chronic disease.

FOOD & GASTRONOMY

An organic produce supply chain has been set up in Romagna as part of the Wellness Valley, creating considerable added value for the products.

Casa Artusi is a centre of Italian gastronomic culture includes 2,800sq m (30,140sq ft) of space with a library, restaurant, cookery school, wine cellar, bookshop, museum and events location Foodwell, a four-day food festival dedicated to healthy food for those who are in motion, takes place each year in Rimini offering food tastings, cooking classes and recipe contests.

 


Alessandri says people in Cesena are 10 per cent more active than the rest of Italy thanks to the Wellness Valley
Jane Kitchen with GWS chair Susie Ellis (right) checking out this year’s location
The Technogym HQ will host the Global Wellness Summit in October
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2018 issue 3

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Spa Business - Valley of wellness

Wellness

Valley of wellness


The Romagna region of Italy has created a unique wellness ecosystem involving public and private investment to boost tourism in the area, improve public health and get its people moving. Jane Kitchen visits to find out more

Jane Kitchen, Spa Business
Numerous initiatives across the region have been created to help children and adults to keep active
Alessandri says people in Cesena are 10 per cent more active than the rest of Italy thanks to the Wellness Valley
Jane Kitchen with GWS chair Susie Ellis (right) checking out this year’s location
The Technogym HQ will host the Global Wellness Summit in October

Health is important for everybody – because a healthy lifestyle decreases the health costs for governments, increases the productivity for companies and improves the quality of life for everybody,” says Nerio Alessandri, founder and president of gym equipment supplier Technogym.

So what if everybody worked together to promote health and wellness at a local level? Wouldn’t everyone benefit?

That’s what Alessandri thought, back in 2001, when he proposed that public and private stakeholders in Romagna, Italy – where Technogym’s headquarters are located – work together to bring wellness to the region.

Wellness Foundation
“The idea was to develop the Romagna area, creating the first district in the world that forms a benchmark for quality of life,” says Alessandri. “Using Technogym as the catalyst, we mobilised all stakeholders in Romagna – companies, public administrators, tourism operators, schools, universities and the public health system – to work together to improve public health, boost the economy and raise the quality of the environment in order to attract more and better qualified people who were in search of a wellness experience.”

To do this, he set up the Wellness Foundation, a non-profit that unites the region in all things wellness. Governments, hospitals, universities, schools and businesses all work together to create a ‘wellness ecosystem’ called the Wellness Valley. The foundation’s aims are twofold: to improve the quality of life for those in the region, and to promote wellness tourism as a way for those from outside Romagna to discover the region.

Best practices
More than 40 best practices have been developed since the Valley’s formation, from the launch of bio-organic food companies and tourism operators selling wellness holiday packages to the area, to an initiative that teaches schoolchildren and their teachers about physical fitness.
Even the local libraries have been outfitted with wellness balls to keep locals moving while they read. Education has been a key component of the scheme and getting children into the habit of exercise from a young age has been important in establishing routines.

After 16 years, the results are starting to show. More than 17,000 schoolchildren and 500 teachers have taken part in Gioca Wellness, a programme that teaches physical fitness in a fun way, and the population in the area has increased its physical activity by 10 per cent. “That means people in Cesena are 10 per cent more active than the average Italian, thanks to the education and the culture [of the Wellness Valley],” says Alessandri.

The Wellness Valley has been presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as an example of an ecosystem dedicated to health and welfare.

In 2009, Italian provinces were ranked according to GDW (Gross Domestic Wellbeing) and the province of Forlì-Cesena in Romagna was ranked highest in the country. Two other provinces in the region, Ravenna and Rimini – also scored highly. In addition, Emilia Romagna has also been rated 9.7 out of 10 points for health by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Regional Well-Being ranking – putting it in the top 7 per cent across all OECD regions internationally.

Technogym Village
The Technogym Village serves as the entrance gateway and the beating heart of the Wellness Valley, and is where this year’s Global Wellness Summit will take place, from 6-8 October. Designed by the architect Antonio Citterio – who will speak at the summit – the Technogym Village was built according to the principles of bio-architecture, meaning it reflects structures that are found in nature.

The village combines Technogym equipment production plants, offices, product research & development and the T-Wellness Center – a dedicated facility for the development and promotion of wellness in the educational and medical-scientific research fields. Its conference facilities include wellness balls rather than chairs, to keep delegates moving even while seated and an on-site restaurant serves healthy, organic food.

It’s one of the reasons the location was chosen for the GWS, which has a focus on the ‘business of wellness’ this year. Here, delegates will be able to see not only the headquarters of a major international wellness brand, but also an entire region that has focused on improving the quality of wellbeing for its residents.

“Italy has a lot to teach us about wellness,” says Susie Ellis, GWS chair. “We admire the longevity here and we see the lifestyle is about joy and happiness.”

Global Expansion
Soon, the lifestyle that has been cultivated throughout the Wellness Valley will be exported to other countries. After receiving requests from all over the world to create similar projects, Alessandri has created a consultancy, Wellness Partners, which aims to develop these wellness ecosystems in different regions internationally. “Our aim is to masterplan and create other wellness valleys around the world,” he says.

Wellness Partners has been in the works for two years, with the first year-and-a-half focusing on creating a scalable model and assembling international experts in major cities like New York, London and Singapore. And while the consultancy already has a few projects in the pipeline, Alessandri is remaining tight-lipped about where they are. But in the future, it looks like the Wellness Valley model may be coming to a region near you.

EDUCATION

The University of Bologna has relocated a large portion of its degree courses and masters courses focused on quality-of-life subjects to its Romagna-based campuses. This includes subjects including food sciences, architecture, psychology, biotechnology, cultural heritage and tourism economics.

The Wellness Multicampus University is a project to develop studies with a wellness focus and includes 57 programmes in movement, health, biotechnologies, tourism, economy, the arts, and nutrition.

A new graduate degree programme on Wellness Culture: Health, Sport and Tourism began in October 2017.

 


PHYSICAL FITNESS

Each spring Technogym trainers help 18,000 residents enjoy free physical activity classes as part of the ‘Muoviti che fa bene’ – ‘Movement that’s good for you’ – campaign.

Rimini has a Walk Smart initiative to encourage residents to discover the town and seaside on foot.

The Play Wellness initiative gets 10,000 children, presenting physical fitness in a fun way. More than 500 teachers have been trained in the programme, which is free for both for institutes and families.

The Piedibus programme is designed to encourage primary school children to walk to school and gets 1,000 children on their feet.

 



The Wellness Valley boasts
96 Cycling routes

53 Wellness hotels

15 Parks and nature reserves

12 Thermal resorts

31 Kilometres of coastline

Tourism

Tourism is promoted with a wellness focus, through spa programmes, biking holidays and local food culture.

Romagna is promoted and marketed under the Wellness Valley brand as a destination specialising in holidays that combine movement, outdoor routes, food and wine excellence, culture, art and landscape

Since July 2014, the Wellness Valley Tourist Promotion Association has actively promoted hotels, beaches, events and tourist routes selected by the Wellness Foundation. Wellness holiday packages are sold through the website www.visitwellnessvalley.it

 


GoneWithTheWind/shutterstock

Romagna has been promoted as wellness destination since 2014
PUBLIC HEALTH

Emilia Romagna was the first region in Italy to authorise the medical prescription of physical exercise as therapy, in 2014.

A Health Round Table created by the Region of Emilia Romagna and the Wellness Foundation aims to enable fitness and wellness operators to administer physical exercise for therapeutic purposes.

An initiative between local doctors and the Wellness Foundation has led to an agreement where doctors will promote exercise as medicine, with physical activity prescribed as the principal drug in the fight against chronic disease.

FOOD & GASTRONOMY

An organic produce supply chain has been set up in Romagna as part of the Wellness Valley, creating considerable added value for the products.

Casa Artusi is a centre of Italian gastronomic culture includes 2,800sq m (30,140sq ft) of space with a library, restaurant, cookery school, wine cellar, bookshop, museum and events location Foodwell, a four-day food festival dedicated to healthy food for those who are in motion, takes place each year in Rimini offering food tastings, cooking classes and recipe contests.

 



Originally published in Spa Business 2018 issue 3

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