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The Ultimate Italian Yoga Retreats And Vacations

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/11/2015 Jessica Kane
ITALY © The Eremito ITALY

By Ileana Franceschi

A secret to test how serious the offer is: check to see if in addition to the word “retreat” it also says workshop, seminar, and that it lasts a week, though you can also stay for just three days or a weekend. Also, that the place has a real Shala – basically an anti-gym without mirrors and air conditioning going full blast. Yoga packages often offer the option of a shared room: don’t underestimate the idea, because it could be a therapeutic choice or adolescence redux.

Once you’re there, you’ll spend plenty of time “practicing” but also talking about it, a useful strategy to avoid mulling over personal, work-related, and metropolitan conundrums. Another sign that the place is serious is that lessons start at 7 a.m. and end around lunchtime, so that most of the day is free, given that the venues are often stunning. You can also stay at the facilities and be enticed by alternative treatments, things you’d never expect to experience like Pancha Chakra, a practice that some have summed up as “the equivalent of taking your car in for complete detailing” (giving you exactly the satisfaction afterwards). You move but also read a lot, and there’s no yoga vacation that doesn’t also turn into a book club. The group dynamics couldn’t be livelier, and you can opt out or participate: to talk about practicing yoga and listen (and leaving your cellphone in your room every so often). And the presence of a community – not virtual by any means – will come in handy. Here are the best addresses in Italy.



These are the seasonal venues of Ashtanga master Lino Miele, which have attracted students like Willem Dafoe and author Francesca Marciano, who is also his official interviewer. The first two are holiday farms. One (Il Casale, The Country House) is in Tuscania, in the hills of the southern Maremma, just a few miles from the sea, lake, and hot springs. In the other – Ca’ Le Suore – is a farm with over 170 acres at the foot of the Apennines in the countryside between Pesaro and Urbino,where guests enjoy more of a social life: they eat together, do Pranayama and more. Some have commented on the local winery and “great wine,” but none of the masters would approve, of course, given that they don’t drink. You can make your own decision, but given how good the winery is, don’t complain the next morning if you can’t stop sipping. As we said, you’re not supposed to smile while practicing yoga, but during post-practice meetings Miele – a showman by nature – will talk to you about “purification” seriously but tongue in cheek, or will make you laugh about your self- centeredness and self- destructive behavior. The most recent innovations are the two- or three-day “digital detox” vacations – basically, without any technology – at a place that’s rightly called “the hermit” – the Eremito (Hotelito de l’Alma) – and is basically a monastery perfect for fans of Game of Thrones where the rooms are called cells.


Il Casale:

tel. +39 3275751897

Ca’ Le Suore: Eremito:




This place’s motto is “travel light, live light, be the light.” In the Zollino countryside, near the sea between Lecce and Otranto (amid trulli, the castle, the Baia dei Turchi, and Porto Selvaggio). It was founded by Francesca, a Genoese filmmaker originally from Puglia, who has given it the look of a resort but the ethical hallmark of a holiday farm (the Samadhi agricultural association) that focuses on complete self-sustainability, so the fruit and vegetables at brunch and supper are grown on the premises. The setting is incredible: a low house with stuccowork, the Shala amid the trees, the path, the ancient villa with a portico and a living room open to everyone, and rooms in the other buildings that dot the estate. But there’s also the tree-lined swimming pool, the Jacuzzi, WiFi ... and the place welcomes family and dogs. The noises? Birds and crickets. The top yoga teachers – certified – come here: from John Scott to Durga Devi and Dechen Thurman, offering everything from Ashtanga – sweaty and tiring – to Jivamukti, Acroyoga, Ishta (classic Hatha plus Tantra plus Ayurveda), and Dharma (a mix of the nine forms of yoga). Pancha Chakra is also done here: a top expert in this technique, Dr. Lal Krishnan, who is an expert in pediatric Ayurveda, medicinal plants, and more will be here in April.



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