Kaliyoga Italy: The Short Version
Kaliyoga is a well-established provider of Yoga Retreats in Europe with current locations in Italy, Spain and UK. Some of the retreats combine Yoga with another activity such as walking or horse riding or a detox theme. I spent a week at Kaliyoga Italy, located in Puglia (Southern Italy, the Itrian Valley) for a Yoga Retreat.
What I experienced there was fantastic people, both from Kaliyoga and the group of people I was on retreat with. Lovely country, architecture, walks and bike rides in clean air. Safely gluten-free and delicious food. Revitalizing and energizing and relaxing yoga practice. Comfortable accommodations and facilities.
My vacation with Kaliyoga Italy was magical. I highly recommend to anyone interested in a gluten-free yoga retreat, or just a yoga retreat 🙂
Kaliyoga Italy: The Longer Version
The Non-Negotiable Gluten-Free Bit
Taking longer vacations gluten-free is more challenging than eating out or going on short trips. Effort is needed to first find and then validate that the catering and food available where you are staying are safely gluten-free.
So when I looked for a Yoga Retreat my first filter criteria was exactly this, could I enjoy a safe gluten-free vacation? Kaliyoga make this easier than most by mentioning on their own website that they are able to cater for coeliacs and people with allergies. Starting from this point I engaged via email and phone with several nice people from Kaliyoga to ask them how they would do this and what risks if any would be present? The outcome was ideal both in terms of their keenness to respond and the answer itself. All food prepared and served at Kaliyoga Italy is gluten-free (*)
But it gets better. In the week before my arrival the Kaliyoga Italy Manager contacted me to tell me that in the kitchen there would be non gluten-free certified oats, kept in a jar, used to make granola for non-coeliacs. A gluten-free buckwheat based granola would be prepared separately for me. She asked whether this was okay or whether instead I preferred that the oats be removed entirely during my stay. The presence of non GF certified oats in a jar presents no significant risk so I was happy for them to remain and wow, what an excellent and confidence boosting engagement this was!
The only remaining risk to manage came from any occasions I would choose to eat away from the retreat and part of the schedule was a meal out in the nearby town of Martina Franca on Wednesday evening. Again, here is excellence. The fantastic hostess at Kaliyoga Italy identified a restaurant (Garibaldi Bistro) capable of providing a gluten-free meal, spoke directly with them to confirm this and advise them of the need to cater for a coeliac and then on my request we had a 3-way phone conversation in advance that let me assure myself of their understanding and capability.
So the gluten-free need was well and truly and safely satisfied. After that, what about the actual retreat itself, any good?
I have joined one prior Yoga retreat at Yoga Rocks, Crete (also fabulous and gluten-free capable). Based on two retreats I think the magic of a retreat comes from a combination of the yoga practice, the people and socializing, other activities at the retreat or in the locale, the food glorious food and the accommodation.
The Yoga Practice
Our teacher was Tashi, clearly an extremely confident, capable, warm, funny and articulate yogi. We had AM and PM practices with the AM practice beginning with a sitting meditation. These were optional but joined by almost everyone, every day. The group had a range from complete beginners with no experience who were interested in starting a yoga practice through to more experienced people interested in enhancing or revitalizing their existing practice. Common within each session was a period for self-practice multiple sun-salutations, incrementally introduced poses and transition to end-session relaxation. Some sessions appeared to have a theme and two that really popped out were one were Tashi very playfully had us hop, walk and crab-walk around our yoga shala on our hands and feet. The second, masterfully timed, was a breathing focused session following an afternoon bike excursion that had perhaps left some with less pre-evening meal energy to expend on more vigorous yoga!
In addition to some formal classes and one retreat I have been self-practicing for 6 years. I learned very few new poses but I did certainly refresh or improve my form for ones I already knew. I also for the first time in my life performed a handstand and headstand. Tashi encouraged our development and experimentation but left plenty of space for those who preferred to proceed at a different pace, and yet language was inviting rather than demanding, often using phrases that began with “maybe coming into such and such pose”.
On two evenings there was completely optional post-dinner mantra chanting conducted in a room with acoustics that transformed everyone into a budding opera star or starlet.
Kaliyoga Italy Food
For me, an incurable foodie, the food had an importance similar to the yoga itself! It was gluten-free, vegetarian and fantastic, varied, delicious, delightful and healthful. We were fed four times a day.
Breakfast was a buffet of fruits, granolas, seeds, coconut and various dairy and non-dairy milks and yogurts.
Lunch varied each day and was also buffet style, always with some kind of main plus a sauce and salad and sides.
Late afternoon there was a ‘Raw Teatime Treat’ prepared by the very talented Alessandra (Radiantly Alessandra) also one of the therapists.
Evening meals were semi-formal and 3 courses.
All meals were taken together and great food was accompanied by lovely people and enlivened conversation. The lunches and dinners were prepared by local chef Giovanni, and only once before in my life have I enjoyed a week of such fantastically flavoursome food (at Yoga Rocks).
My absolute favourites were Egg Plant dumplings, Fava Bean Falafels and some insanely nice Viennese biscuits. The biscuits were served to us one evening as dessert. A large cookie jar filled with additional biscuits from the same batch were offered the following evening *after* dessert. The jar did not get broken and we conducted ourselves with more restraint than a pool of piranhas but no biscuit survived longer than a couple of minutes.
Kaliyoga Italy Locale
The Masseria (17th Century Farmhouse complex) itself has a swimming pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, hammocks and lots of nice places to read, sunbathe and relax or socialize. It has a stock of mountain bikes and helmets that can be taken out any time. Finally and not least it has an enormous and enormously friendly swiss mountain dog (or bear, hard to tell) called Tommi and an even larger donkey named Lupolo. Tommi can be walked by guests, well, if he wants to be walked that is. If he does not, you ain’t going anywhere.
Included in the week itinerary was a guided bike tour leading to the Gardens of Pomona, a botanical garden with 600 varieties of figs. There was also a day trip out to Alberobello and a beach (depending on the weather) and one evening meal taken in the nearby Martina Franca. I personally walked and cycled several times to each of the nearby towns, marvelling at the clean air, greenery and upon arrival at each place, characteristic architecture and vistas. Whilst wandering idly I was most stunned by what must be a contender for the most beautiful alleyway in the world, watch!
The Itria valley area is the valley of the trulli, strikingly attractive round cone-shaped roof stone houses unique to the valley. The entire valley is blanketed in olive, fig, cherry and almond trees, with globe artichokes also found. I regret none of the fruits were yet ripe during my visit! I understand late May is the time for the cherries, June for a first harvest of figs and August for a second. If you were to go at these times I am certain you could pick ripe fruit direct from the trees during most any walk.
A broad range of therapy treatments are available each day ranging from those with a physical focus such as deep tissue & hot stone massage to others with a more spiritual and mental focus such as reiki and somatic bodywork counselling. My anecdotal survey of fellow guests indicated these were very greatly enjoyed and beneficial.
I could or should perhaps have talked about these first. The Kaliyoga people, Manager, Hostess and Helpers were just fantastic, friendly, interested, social and accessible. The group itself consisted of a mix of single travellers and pairs. There was both a mother and daughter and father and daughter pair. Ages ranged from just-graduated to thinking-seriously-about-retirement and there were three males amongst our group of fifteen. We bonded incredibly well and I am certain this enhanced everyone’s enjoyment of the retreat.
If you have any questions, please do ask and if you consider or decide to go and this helped, I would love to hear that! 🙂
Om mani padme hum.