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Urbino Project 2014 | April 15, 2024

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Everything Comes Naturally

Olivia Lynch
The Zazzaroni family celebrates 30 years in natural medicine

What do you notice when you enter your doctor’s office?

Perhaps it is the smell of cleaning supplies and latex. It might be the stacks of month-old health magazines that few people have ever read. Most likely the décor is drab, so your eyes may be drawn to walls plastered with ads for new medications and signs reminding “Get your flu shot.” Or maybe it is the never-ending line of defeated-looking patients, heads in their hands after waiting so long to be seen.

Antimo Zazzaroni Institute of Natural Medicine acupuncturist

But in this waiting room, you do not recognize any of these things. Instead, you smell fresh flowers and crisp linen. Your gaze lights on the many posters along bright green and white walls. They are “maps” of different body parts: eyes, ears, and feet, intriguing drawings with a cartoon quality and bright colors. And instead of waiting on a hard plastic chair, you sit on a couch of plush fabric while the receptionist offers water and cappuccino with a smile.

This office, a charming brick building, stands against a lush, green background of mountains on the outskirts of Urbino. The sign reads “Isituto di Medicina Naturale,” the Institute of Natural Medicine. The patients who come to the Institute are looking for a natural solution to their health problems, different from that offered by an MD, and that is exactly what they get. There are no Western doctors, and no prescription drugs.

More different still is the family who runs this business.

Antimo Zazzaroni

Antimo Zazzaroni welcomes patients into the Isituto di Medicina Naturale–the Institute of Natural Medicine. He and his family are celebrating 30 years of business.

The Zazzaronis sit at adjacent desks in an organized office on the Institute’s main floor, filing paperwork, answering calls, and organizing events. Maria Assunta Bordon, psychologist and director of studies at the Institute, becomes animated when explaining the core concepts of their approach to medicine. “It is very important to get to know your own body to understand your own needs,” she says, growing more excited. “You have to take care of the person not the symptoms.”

Basta, basta!” exclaims her husband Antimo Zazzaroni—enough is enough! Zazzaroni, who is also director of public relations, places a careful hand on Bordon’s shoulder, signaling her to slow down her speech. Their son Enrico, the marketing manager, chuckles and shakes his head.

The Zazzaronis’ interest in a healthier lifestyle began when Antimo was suffering from digestive problems. At the time, he and his wife had steady jobs, but their passion for health and helping others drove them to share their experience of non-conventional medicine with others. And so, in 1983, the Institute of Natural Medicine was born.

The patients who come to the Institute are looking for a natural solution to their health problems, and that is exactly what they get.

Natural medicine, or naturopathy, is defined by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians as “a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.” This process includes a variety of methods such as massage, acupuncture, and an individualized diet.

According to the World Health Organization, only 5,000 of Italy’s 250,000 physicians have used alternative medicine, statistics that mirror those in the United States. In Italy, only 24 percent of the adult population has ever used this type of treatment, while a study from 2007 showed that only 38.3 percent of American adults have.

But interest in natural medicine continues to grow, says Antimo. “There is more and more interest in consulting a naturopath, to work on primary prevention, especially for people of the female gender from 25 to 50 years old.”

Institute of Natural Medicine

The Institute of Natural Medicine is located outside of Urbino and features beautiful scenery for patients to enjoy.

In the beginning, when the field was relatively new, the Zazzaronis focused on education through courses and conferences on these various holistic topics.

In 1994, they opened the pride of their establishment, Scuola Italiana di Naturopatia, the Italian School of Naturopathy, now one of the oldest in the country. Students who enroll in this program must complete four years of coursework, as in the United States, before becoming a practicing naturopath. Each class has about 50 students who already have degrees in medicine but want to expand their expertise.

Massimo Volponi, an Urbino physician, attended the Italian School of Naturopathy from 2000 until 2004 after a magazine article prompted his interest in this type of medicine. “I was the only local student in my class,” says Volponi, “people travel from all over Italy to attend this school… Although there are many in the country, this one [in Urbino] is one of the best.”

Family at work and family at home are one and the same,” says Enrico Zazzaroni.

None of the Zazzaronis teach in the classroom, yet they work closely with the students to ensure they receive the best education possible. Throughout the year, they also promote a series of free holistic medicine conferences while overseeing an office with a staff of eight, two secretaries, and six doctors, who provide services such as acupuncture, nutrition counseling, and massage.

Every October since 2007, the Institute has hosted in Urbino an event called “Biosalus,” a festival focused on organic and holistic wellness. Biosalus 2014 will be held on October 4 and 5. The theme country this year is Brazil, and the festival will focus on medicine from the Amazon with events such as “The Art of Healing through Music” and “The New Food for Peace.” Biosalus brings hundreds of people to the city, leaving an impression of not only health culture, but Italian culture as well.

For this family, Urbino is not only a beautiful location but also a place that enables them to focus on their well-being. “It is more complicated for them to work here than a big city,” comments Gabriele Cavalera, press secretary of Urbino and the Institute’s public relations assistant. “But they chose to have the Institute here because it would be contradictory to promote a healthy life in a city with traffic, pollution, and stress.”

The Zazzaronis work long hours but are careful to take care of themselves and each other. They eat well, using Bordon’s knowledge of what she calls “energetic cooking;” they make their home in a small, close-knit community and enjoy simple activities such as needle work and walks through the garden.

Antimo Zazzaroni explains, “[Working with your family is] not so easy, but a way to grow.” Bordon adds, “What joins us [the family] is that we are complementary.”


Mauro Cucci, a doctor at the Institute, performs acupuncture on a patient as a method of pain relief.

Their son Enrico had never planned on working with his parents. About 10 years ago, however, he desperately wanted to purchase a new motor bike and began helping them as a way to make money. He quickly realized how much he enjoyed organizing events, and his passion for the business grew.

Enrico says, “Family at work and family at home are one and the same.”

Antimo, Maria, and Enrico consider their staff as well as their students a part of their extended family. This “family” likewise sings the Zazzaronis’ praises. “Maria and Antimo are a truly wonderful couple with an immense amount of knowledge and great experience,” says Matt Traverso, health and wellness coach, in an online testimonial. “Their talents are blended to perfection, finding ideal application in the continuous development and improvement of people’s lives.”

For the Zazzaronis, family—whether natural or extended—is everything. “The great satisfaction,” says Antimo, “comes from the beautiful human relationship established with the students who attend the Italian School of Naturopathy. From them we get the urge to do better.”

This article also appears in Urbino Now magazine’s Urbino Centro section. You can read all the magazine articles in print by ordering a copy from MagCloud.