Italy: Articles

Om In Italy

What a better place to do yoga than Italy? I recently spent a long weekend at Sunflower Yoga Retreats in Casperia, Italy and left with a renewed energy and renewed engagement in yoga.

Casperia, Italy This quiet and enriching experience is tucked away in the ancient hilltop village of Casperia in the Lazio region north of Rome. While my March visit was cold, their name is inspired by the many sunflowers that appear on the rolling Sabina Hills around Casperia in the warmth of summer.

As their brochure says, they ‘have been offering yoga retreats based around health and relaxation, good food, Italian culture, and nature for 10 years.’ And they’ve definitely got it right.

They host Thurs-Wed stays but as they were light on bookings in March I was able to book a long weekend. There’s a daily 90-min yoga class each morning to get you started. Our morning sessions were in an ancient cave. Gabrielle, the regular instructor, is fantastic and one of the best I’ve had in the 7 years I’ve been practicing. American and trained in the U.S., Gabrielle has been in Italy for several years and her practice focuses on form and alignment reflected in the Iyengar style. Its a great foundation and gave me a refreshed approach to my practice.

Yoga in ancient caveAll levels of yoga are welcome from beginners to advanced. You can come with a friend, partner, group or solo. There were 4 other women their during my stay all different ages and levels of yoga.

Accommodations are in one of three 13th century restored village houses. I stayed in Casa Latini… so lovely and typical Italian. I paid for a single and was lucky enough to have the twin room with sitting room and amazing bathroom carved out of a 1,000 year old cave!! The house also has a rooftop patio you can sit out on, enjoy a glass of wine and the views of olive trees and grape vines in the distance.Sunflower Retreats

Casperia is tiny so you can walk around it in no time and no cars are allowed within the village walls. There are two cute yummy restaurants in town that are oh so affordable! Shared kitchens in each house allow you to shop at the local grocery and cook your own Italian inspired dishes. I was in heaven at the grocery… pasta, wine, cheese, olives… what more can you ask for?!

And finally there are fantastic holistic spa treatments you can book during your stay… from massage to polarity to reflexology (check out the Self & Spa sections for more details).

Sallie, who takes care of you throughout your stay, also plans excursions to Hot Springs, Hikes and Cycling. Cooking classes and Italian lessons can even be arranged.

The weekend was just what I was looking for… some good quiet alone recharge time.

Thank you Sunflower Retreats! I look forward to my next visit.

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New ‘Message in a Bottle’ … Everyone’s Favorite Police Man Enters Wine Business

Coming this fall to Britain and the U.S…. Sting, the ex Police man and British rocker, announced he’ll be producing 30,000 bottles of Chianti a year from his Tuscan estate, Il Palagio, near Figline Valdarno.

Sting in the cellar

Sting began bottling this new wine in 2007 … based on the Sangiovese grape with a touch of Cabernet and Merlot… and it should be on shelves in September.

What inspired the effort? His profound concern for the environment. He says, “I always use traditional methods – no pesticides. I am a farmer who looks after the land to nourish it and not to plunder it.”

Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, purchased the 16th century villa, south of Florence, in 1997. The 860 acres already an organic farm produce honey, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and Tuscan salami.

The future plans to bring a Chianti DOC and a Tuscan red.

The wine will also be available at a shop on the property that Sting will inaugurate by June.

You can see Sting on his Tuscan Estate on “Songs from the Labryinth – The Making of the Album.”Sting's Tuscan Estate

Update 14 Oct 2010: also see Sting Opens his Tuscan Farm Shop

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Favorite Red: Siepi from Castello di Fonterutoli

Enoteca
Two years after discovering this remarkable winery and its delicious wines, Siepi from Castello di Fonterutoli still reigns as my favorite red.

It was a chance stop on our Autumn 2006 trip to Tuscany … we were exploring Chianti for several days and still hadn’t picked up any olive oil to take home. Thomas Cook’s Drive Around Tuscany & Umbria claimed the Mazzei family wine estate in the village of Fonterutoli has some of the best. So per the book we drove past Castellina in Chianti looking for the village. Before we knew it we drove right through it… blink and you’ll miss it…its that tiny. We wound up driving through a field trying to follow the map back.

What a pleasant surprise… not for olive oil but for a full wine experience. As we pulled out of the field and re-entered the village, we saw the Enoteca de Fonterutoli sign on the right so we parked across the street. There were no other cars in the gravel lot but there was a tour bus… a potential red flag …we ventured past their new restaurant and across the street to the Enoteca (wine bar).

Leonardo, one of the hosts, was closing the Enoteca as we approached. He was about to take the bus tour group on an English tour of the winery and invited us to go along. What timing!!

This was our 3rd winery tour of the trip and by far the most authentic. This cute little town is 80% occupied by the Fonterutoli winery which explains why were walking into what looked like old houses that were actually cellars for barrels of wines.

After Leonardo’s interesting tour including a view of the new facilities (which are now open) we were back in the Enoteca with Leonardo and the tour group was boarding their bus. We had the tasting bar to ourselves and tasted a full flight of wine in their incredible new tasting bar for only 8 Euro.


My favorite… Siepi! Siepi is an award winning wine 50% Merlot and 50% Sangiovese … elegant, cherry, smooth.. perfect for a special occasion or splurge (as it is the most expensive wine I’ve ever purchased other than the 3 bottles of Dom I’ve bought in my life). This wine really makes you understand the great things that can be done with grapes!


Siepi

Visit their site for all the winery details including the restaurants and even accommodations…

Definitely worth a stop when you’re in Tuscany the Mazzei family has owned the winery since 1435!

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Highlights Of Italy

We’ve lived in Europe for two years now and have been lucky enough to travel all over the countries but Italy is one we keep going back too. We just made our 5th trip to this beautiful and diverse country. Here’s our itinerary from Tuscany Autumn 2006 that includes my DON’T MISS highlights…

  • Lucca, Radda in Chianti,
  • Villa Vignamaggio,
  • Castello di Fonterutoli and a fabulous restaurant in Florence,
  • Ristorante Acqua Al Due (make reservations… its worth it!).

Download Tuscany Trip Sept/Oct 2006 (Word Document).

Tuscany also has great beaches… we visited the cute old art deco town of Viareggio (straight out from Pisa) and spent 2 wonderful days at Beach Club Irene across the street from the Hotel President soaking up the sun & enjoying delicious italian lunches on their patio.

Enjoy!

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