From Umbria with Love

When I first visited Locanda della Quercia Calante 5 years ago, it was after a communication from them to me, offering a perfect setting for my yoga retreats. The family run retreat centre had opened it’s doors to the public just a few years before and were reaching out to the international yoga community to attract new teachers and retreat hosts to their converted farmhouse in the heart of the Umbrian countryside.

I had not considered Italy before to run a yoga retreat, preferring instead to keep things mostly in Portugal and Ireland with an occasional visit to Spain. My retreats at that stage had been running for 10 years so it was time to branch out and try something new.

Five annual retreats there later and although it’s only March, I’m already wistfully dreaming about my September week at Locanda and looking forward to being there and welcoming new guests to a week of yoga and exploration.

What is so attractive about Locanda della Quercia Calante is that it gives you time and space to just, stop. You live for a week with the rhythms of the place, it’s deep connection to nature and Italian family rural life. The first year I was there, I tried to organise the meals and routine in the way I’d always done it, yoga, brunch, free time then dinner. By my second visit, I realised that resistance was futile! So now, we enjoy the luxury of Italian breakfast, hearty family style lunch and 3-course dinner (with optional wine from the extensive wine list). The food is freshly prepared daily, fruits and vegetables sourced from the organic garden (the yoga studio looks out over the vegetable garden so as you practice you can see the ingredients of your lunch being harvested) And the cakes, at least 3 varieties daily including gluten free and vegan but all delicious and tempting.

Once the extended morning yoga class is finished, you have a short wait for lunch, often served outside on the terrace and with the abundance of food provided, a siesta is often necessary before embarking on afternoon activity such as sight-seeing, walking, cycling, lounging by the pool or reading. Guests often wander down to the (very) local village of Castelo Giorgio for a warm welcome in any of the local bars there (I think there are at least 3!) As there are massage treatments available onsite, some guests choose a day or two to completely chill.

There is an optional silent practice at the end of every day, sometimes guided and watching the late afternoon sunlight filter through the trees surrounding the studio, while you practice, gives a deeply peaceful feeling. All you have to do then is decide which wine/non-alcoholic pressé you are having with dinner.

Talking of the trees, there are many old, old friends there, hundreds of years old, set among the beautifully maintained lawn. They provide shade as well as fruit (figs, apples, plums, cherries, walnuts) and you get a sense that they have stories to tell and secrets to keep. The land surrounding Locanda is old, steeped in history and if you have the opportunity to hire a car (recommended) you have within easy reach so many incredibly beautiful examples of Italian landscape and architecture.¬† The nearby city of Orvieto, rises up dramatically¬† from almost vertical “tuff” cliffs and it’s beautiful cathedral, winding old streets provide a cultural escape from the peace and quiet of Locanda.

Further south of Orvieto is the equally dramatic medieval Civita di Bagnoregio or city of the Royal Bath. This is accessible only by foot across a 300-meter long footbridge but is well worth the climb for the views, the history, the ice-cream – you can even get married here!

But to be honest, the second year I came to Locanda della Quercia Calante, I must confess that I stayed onsite for almost two weeks. Finally my colleague dragged me out on the last two days to do some sightseeing. For me, the peace and tranquility, the connection with nature, practicing and teaching yoga in that atmosphere, being nurtured by freshly prepared food, made with love, and observing the rhythms of Italian family life were all the medicine I needed to feel completely rested and rejuvenated physically, and to give my mind the space and time it needed to reset, readjust and just relax.

If you would like to join me this year and be part of the Umbrian experience, get in touch by clicking on this link HERE