I’ve been reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Oh don’t look at me like that. I was bored over the holidays and all those E! Entertainment sneak peeks into the movie set made me curious.
My terrible foray into ‘mommy porn’ has convinced me my website is a hedonistic poster board for a handful of the seven deadly sins.
I say a handful because I can’t remember them all. But I definitely tick the boxes for gluttony and maybe lust, if you can lust over expensive spas and gorgeous locations.
And because I have an overactive imagination, I thought it was time for a little purification. You know, I’d rather not condemn myself to my personal hell, which would be living the overly dramatic life of Mr Grey and Miss Steele – why can’t they go five pages without arguing?
There isn’t a lot of demand for wellness retreats, restorative escapes or detox clinics in the Maremma Tuscany. But if you feel like a break from all the self indulgence, try these three gorgeous escapes.
Il Pardini’s Hermitage
As my favourite, Il Pardini’s Hermitage goes first.
This Giglio Island retreat is simply breathtaking. It’s a 1950s villa built on the edge of its own private beach.
Only 30 people can stay at one time, making it an absolutely divine place to relax and swim, sun bake or try your hand at Japanese Raku ceramic making.
The owners are dedicated to wellness, so lunch on the terrace is made from organic and homegrown ingredients. They even make their own yoghurt and cheeses from their goats’ milk.
A small teepee in the garden houses a jacuzzi with warm sea water, while massages, yoga lessons and personalised ayurveda treatments are all available.
But what really caught my attention was the tiny villa they only rent out in spring and autumn. You can only reach it by sea or a very hard hour’s walk, so you can be sure no one will come to bother you, except for the hotel staff delivering all your meals with local wines and aperitifs. Now that is my idea of a retreat.
2. The Sant Bani Ashram
The next choice is a little more spartan, but a lot more spiritual.
It’s high in the hills of a small town in the Colline Metallifere known as Ribolla and it’s the only ashram in Europe to practise Surat Shabd Yoga.
In case you are, like me, unfamiliar with this particular type of yoga, Wikipedia defines it as (and yes I do get the irony of using Wikipedia) the “Union of the Soul with the Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being”. Much clearer.
This beautiful retreat runs regular yoga, ayurvedic therapy and meditation session – all of which are free and open to all. You’re welcome to stay on the ashram in perfect peace for about €20 a day, vegetarian meals included.
3. Merigar West Tibetan gar
The last option for our Maremman retreats is a weird one. You expect good food, farmers, mountain scenery and plenty of provincial charm in Monte Amiata. But do you expect Tibetan monks?
One of Italy’s few Tibetan communities happens to have found their home just outside of Arcidosso.
Maybe they were drawn by the calm or peace or goats, I don’t know, but it’s a beautiful and peculiar escape from typical Tuscan life. A dip into the spirituality of Asia without leaving the Maremman hills if you will.
Merigar West is the best outfitted of all three of my choices. They have an incredible range of courses and rituals all year round and usually in English.
There are week-long yoga classes, courses on scripture, breathing classes, purification, meditation and dance. All the costs are kept as low as possible so everyone can join in.
Meals are provided and they can even organise special accommodation rates at local agriturismi.
If you don’t feel like taking a course, you can just visit the refectory, explore the Temple of Great Contemplation and The Stupa or check out the library with its huge collection of spiritual texts.