You know those places you walk into and you just can kinda tell they’re haunted? Maybe it’s a little chill in the air or a subtle feeling that makes the hair on your arm stick up. There are times when the energy of a place isn’t settled… and you can feel that.
Whatever the opposite of that is — that was our abbey in Sicily. Every hallway, every room, every nook and cranny had a feeling of peace to it — a place to rest a weary soul.
The Abbazia Santa Maria del Bosco dates back to the 17th century, when Benedictine monks wandered the vastness of its hallways. They lived deeply mindful and prayerful lives, infusing every inch of the abbey with a sense of tranquility.
Today, the abbey has been in the hands of the Inglese family since the mid 1800s and they have put their hearts and souls into every room. Though an earthquake in the 1960s took down the ceiling of the near 500-year-old cathedral, the ruins next door provided not only a sense of the depth of time, but that this place had seen some shit over the years. There is literally no way to describe the feeling of walking through the cavernous hallways of 50 foot ceilings to get back to your bedroom for an afternoon siesta. The cloisters and gardens provided the perfect backdrop for everything from walking meditation to photo practice, from afternoon journaling to a killer Sicilian cookout. The whole place made life feel right — fresh milk from the abbey cows in our cappuccinos each morning and amaro tasting next to twelve foot 200-year-old wine barrels after sundown.
Our view from high up in the misty mountains over the rolling Sicilian hillside felt like living in a poem.
For each Moveable Feast Retreat, we look for locations that have that “if the walls could talk…” feel. And this one, our dear abbazia, told each and every one of us some pretty incredible stories.
It wasn’t all candlelit vigils and evensong. Though at times, we pretended to live #datmonklife, we can tell you firsthand that Robyn never sounded so good as she did reverberating off the stone walls of the giant former refectory with acoustics that rival Carnegie Hall. Perhaps that was the abbey’s greatest gift to us, letting us know that she was large enough to contain our multitudes — one night, it was a silent prayerful meditation, and the next was a wine-soaked show tunes parade down the grand staircase.
MFR is for those who want to feel the fullness of life down in their bones — to pull up a chair and truly connect with another human, to pour themselves another glass, to sing at the top of their lungs, and live a moment so quiet you can hear the flicker of a candle flame.
The abbazia was the perfect backdrop for the 2018 MFR, and we’re grateful for every person throughout history who left us a space to expand into.
The rooftops of Palermo, a two hour drive from our mountain abode.
This was the Airbnb the staff stayed in the nights before the retreat to prep and shop. The largeness of Sicilian architecture is unrivaled Stateside. I gotta say, something just feel really good about having that much space above your head.
Laura welcoming everyone to the abbey’s front door.
Each night, we locked the abbey’s giant original door, dating back as it says here to 1604.
These are the door frames above each bedroom. I mean c’mon.
Morning cappuccinos waking up to this view.
The former refectory — home of early morning yoga and late night dance parties.
Welcome dinner – night 1.
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