The older I get, the more I value time to disconnect. From the busy world around me, my inbox and myself. From the thoughts and ideas that go on and on in my mind, reconnect with the essence of me again.
Been thinking about a yoga retreat for a while. Allowing myself the luxury of quality-time in the here and now, without distractions. If possible in a stylish environment, please.
Enter Mandali Retreat Center. This unbelievable place just opened in the North of Italy and stands out through its unique and inspirational environment, both the place and it’s open and friendly people. This is where a luxury boutique hotel and a retreat center meet.
Mandali Retreat Center, a little city of light
The first thing that happens when I step out on the terrace deck upon arrival, is that I am overcome by the beauty of nature. Moved to tears by the endless panoramic views, high above the Lago d’Orta. The second thing that comes up, is the thought when to return to this magaical place. So far my first 5 minutes at Mandali.
A team of three, spiritual teacher Cáli Ornelas and Dutch entrepreneurs Wouter Tavecchio and Wildrik Timmerman are the founders of this special center for contemplation and inspiration. Building the ultimate – non-profit – retreat center that is accessible for all, is what they have in mind.
After years of searching the globe, they found an old, deserted hotel on this more then magical spot. What once was hotel Belvedere, now forms the Mandali retreat center.
The Mandali Experience
Mandali offers an ongoing program, called Mandali Experience or provides a dedicated program with a dedicated international teacher. I opted for the first, the 5 days retreat program. The schedule is simple and the same for five days. The power of repetition.
Five days of (guided) meditation, yoga classes, relaxation in the body care center, sessions with healing teachers and walks in the surrounding mountains.
Our morning yoga teacher, Daniele Rabozzi, is a well-known local teacher whose meditative Yin yoga lessons – done with eyes closed – made me experience the true stillness of mediation. Mille grazie, Daniele.
The sound of Mandali is definitely produced by birds. Their singing is my alarm clock in the morning, background music during meditation – every morning at 7.45 hrs – and when they stop in the evening, it’s my cue for sleep as well.
Body Care Center, aka the Spa
The ‘free time’ slots indicated in the daily schedule are best spent in the spa, located down the stairs in the main building. Talking about the schedule, you are not obliged to attend classes. If you prefer to stay in your room for 5 days and stare at the ceiling, you’re welcome. But you will miss out on opportunities to immerse yourself into your natural flow of being.
During the Mandali Experience, focus on relaxing and caring for the body is as important as the yoga & meditation classes. The Body Care center has a sauna, steamroom, indoor pool and outdoor jacuzzi with terrace overlooking the lake and beyond.
Also two treatments rooms for various types of massages; Ayurvedic, Re-Balancing or Healing. Best to book in advance.
Going to the chapel
Since we are in the Italian countryside, Maria is never far away. Next to the center is the start of a pilgrimage walk down the mountain to a little chapel, the Santuario Fontegno. A steepish, winding path down the slope paved with uneven cobble stones.
We walked this path in silence a few times as a morning meditation. With every step, the surrounding sounds become more profound, the birds songs louder and louder. Almost like cheerleaders.
Imagine the sun rise behind the mountain tops, colouring the sky misty orange. The silence made me notice so much more. I even stopped to let a convoy of ants cross.
The real challenge to stay inwardly focussed and detached from the outside world came the second morning. Local workers were doing some tree maintenance with the use of chain saws. But hey, who cares?
Bedroom with ‘thé Mandali bath tub’
My premium room (no. 7) is located on the right side of the main building, on the first floor. With again the overwhelming view of the mountains and lake Orta. Endless views from the shower, from the bed but most of all from the copper bath tub on the veranda. Even the locals envy this view.
The room has everything I love about a small luxury hotel. A simple but very stylish interior – done by Dutch designer Reineke Antvelink – with pure and high quality materials. Like the rest of the Mandali Center, key colours are greyish green, black steel and wood. Add thick, soft mattress, crispy white sheets and organic amenities for the full picture.
How about the food, you say?
The Mandali retreats are on full board basis and the restaurant’s deck also faces the lake. During our week Dutch chef Kes Lilani was over from Amsterdam and in short: move over Yotam O.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner equal a daily vegetarian feast (served in buffet style on fixed times, after day two Pavlov could have used me for an experiment). One of the mouthwatering dishes is grilled butternut with caramelized pecans, balsamic raisins and rucola. Recipe, please.
Special attention for the desserts, particularly the vegan chocolate brownies by Italian chef Viramo. Bellissima!
Filtered water, healthy herbal teas, cookies and fresh fruit are available all day. There even is a station with fresh ginger, lemons and fresh mint to make your personal tea.
This week was a wonderful experience and what I felt after the first minutes didn’t change but only grew stronger. I am looking forward already to come back later this year.
Who ever says that luxury impairs on the holistic way of life is proven wrong, Mandali enhances the true sense of connection with oneself even more through a well-balanced and stylish environment. The spiritual luxury of body, mind and soul becoming one.
5 day retreat from 480 € beginners or advanced alike
my stay at Mandali Retreat Center and the Mandali Experience was by invitation on behalf of Chapter Fifty. Transportation and treatments were on my own expence. I only accept items or collaborations that answer positive to the question: “does it match my lifestyle?”.
I will not promote anything that I would not wear, eat, sleep or see myself. Authenticity is very important to me. Words, photos and opinions are my own.