When you think of coastal Italy, you probably imagine leisurely dinners of rich and savory foods; slowly sauntering through romantic landscapes, then returning to sweet conversation with a glass of Italian wine. A time where you can forget about your email, to say the least. But can you imagine the same slowed-down, 'dolce vita' pace on a retreat? We spoke with Francesca Maniglio, founder of Yoga in Salento, to find out how she intentionally helps people find their slow.
Offering yoga retreats with teachers from all over the world, Yoga in Salento retreat center is nestled in the Italian countryside on her family's land. Francesca explains:
“It's a lot of land and my father inherited it from his father, my grandfather, when he was more or less my age. My mother was a well-known landscape architect at the time and was studying for her Ph.D. to become a professor of landscape architecture. As she was doing her Ph.D. thesis she started to experiment what most she liked in her studies, in this place. So, the garden is really beautiful and she has been working on it for 40 years now, so there are trees that are really big, it's a little paradise in the countryside, you can say.” With such an amazing aesthetic in the countryside of Italy, it seemed like a natural fit for Francesca to transform the center into a yoga and meditation retreat.
She moved there in 2007 after living in a tiny apartment in New York. Having spent time on the land as a child, her appreciation for the space - and the pace of living - were already deeply rooted. This formed the basis for what started as a B&B and quickly evolved. Now? She is proud and grateful about having turned her vision into reality.
“There is the philosophy behind it which is to be self-sustainable and aim to zero impact. We are a farm, but a farm without animals. We are a farm for veggies and fruit, so, what we cook comes from our land. The oil comes from our olive trees, the tomato sauce from our tomatoes, the jams come from our fruit trees and the veggies come from our vegetable garden. And so, the guests see the vegetable garden and they see the stuff that comes from the kitchen. And that's quite unique.” With solar panels for hot water and photovoltaic panels for power, the center is completely off the grid -- a very unique experience, especially for city-dwellers.
This doesn’t always mean they like it.
“I think we are stuck between the need of using technology, because that’s how we can promote ourselves, and the need, of not using it for example, for our guests. Years ago I had a debate with Maurizio that runs the administrative part of my business and he would want to put wifi everywhere. I wanted to do a wifi area like a smoking area, because when you go on a retreat you kind of want to shut down certain things and allow another interaction, another way of interacting… But it's so deeply rooted that when you don't offer good wifi, people complain. Last year we had problems with the connection and then we would ask people at the end of the week how the week went, and if we look at this chart, the only criticism was that the wifi was not good enough. But if we are to be coherent we would have to turn it off completely, but nowadays for some of our guests, the only way to have a holiday is to work during the holidays. So... we do have wifi in almost all the property to accommodate the needs of our guests. We leave it to our guests to choose whether they would like to disconnect from technology and reconnect with themselves, others and nature."
It’s a Catch-22. Francesca would ultimately like to create a space where her guests can completely unplug, but does that mean the retreat becomes less viable for those who might need to work a little?
What does it mean to really slow down?
“I believe the holiday time is a time where we should try not to only have a good time but to recharge and to change the habits to something that is like slow motion,” says Francesca. “Slow down, create space for other things to emerge, like yoga and meditation do. You slow down, your space opens and it is very different from what we experience with the hectic life we are forced into by survival now because we don't choose - we are forced to go with this. And so, our payoff is “turn your holidays into wholey days”, and “whole” both in the sense of food ingredients, and in the sense of complete, a day that you feel is fully lived. And so, to create that kind of space you have to have certain qualities in the place where you create it. I believe this place has those qualities and since it's grown so much, and probably, I'm not the only one to believe it.”
Slow food. Slow pace. Meditation. Spacious yoga. Spa and massages. Ayurveda and treatments. Taking the time to land, really arrive at the center, in its history and beautifully cultivated gardens. Instead of trying to pack in a hundred things on your next vacation, maybe you give slow a try. We know you won’t regret it.
Francesca Maniglio founded YIS (Yoga in Salento) in 2007. Francesca organizes workshops, retreats and yoga teacher trainings at the center. Visit Yoga in Salento's center page to view their upcoming events, or learn more on their website.