Saturday: Checking In
Landing in Palermo, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Unlike previous retreat experiences, there hadn’t been a pre retreat phone call or Zoom call to connect with other participants. It literally felt like it was a show up and see situation. Which, I’m all for adventure. But, the introduction to Palermo and fellow member felt slightly uncharted.
When Katharine and I arrived as the described pick up point, we had no idea as to who we were looking for to meet – beyond the driver would be holding a “Sensational Sicily” sign. However, the closer to the pick up time it became, the more concerned we the became because we didn’t see anyone with the sign.
However – as things tend to do, we slowly found other members of the group in the mess of it all. It turned out that our driver was a bit late. Once he arrived, introductions were made and we were on our way to Masseria San Giovanni Sgadari and the start of the “Sensational Sicily – Yoga, Culture + Self Discovery in Italy” retreat.
Riding along in the comfortable motor coach, I was excited and also unsure of what to expect. The more we moved out of Palermo, the more Sicily looked rugged and beautiful. I allowed myself to relax as much as possible into the experience.
Arriving at the Masseria, I was pleased with the look of the estate.
My two bedroom suite was filled with the essentials.
The first night was all about welcoming gifts, and light, stretch based yoga. Which honestly, due to the walking Katharine and I had done in Rome and Florence, was understandable and greatly appreciated.
As I stretched my body, I allowed myself to really be in the mindful present of being in Sicily.
The presence of being in the Villa for this retreat felt more – profound – than being in Montenegro the previous year for the Dive Into The Depth Of Your Being: Montenegro Yoga Retreat. Yet, that was an experience in its own right, based on what I was going through.
However, in Sicily, in a Baroness’ villa on a hill, I felt a profound sense of place and peace. There was space, a sense of openness and – most importantly – an amazing pool.
Dinner was a glorious affair of vegetarian food, prepared al fresco.
There’s something about sitting along a long table, eating and drinking wine, sharing stories as the sun sets beyond the hillside. As the stars lit up the sky, I felt a profound sense of calm. Of living in the moment.
After dinner, I brought my computer out to the patio and began writing. The words poured out of me, cascading onto the screen. I felt proud of having this website, that I could show people my world and my point of view. In the heart of Sicily, I felt aligned with my creative vision. But, most of all, I felt the alluring pull of the inner silence.
The only sounds I heard were the light mummers of after dinner conversations in the distance. Dogs barked in the town below. The utter peaceful quiet was what I’d been waiting for.
Finally – for the first time in a long time – I felt held by the natural world.
Sunday: Warming up to Sicily
Sunday, I awoke with the sunrise. I grabbed my camera and walked the short path to the infinity pool. Watching the light rise across the rolling hills of Sicily was incredible. I watched in delight as the sparrows dive bombed the pool, in play.
It reminded me so much of how shameless play is so important. American society trains us to be workers, slaves to consumerism and capitalism. But, we are consciousness in bodies, evolving.
We need play.
We need to cultivate desire for pleasure.
We need to feel a sense of self love and beauty.
This was a day that was solely at the villa. I focused on getting to know my fellow retreat participants and relaxing by the pool.
Dining al fresco under the warm summer air was a lesson in magic and building community.
Monday: Cefalu, Italy
Monday was our first group visit outside of the Masseria: a visit to the Northern coastal town of Cefalu. From the moment we stopped for a group photo at the overlook, I was enthralled.
The waves crashing against the rocks were enchanting. Exploring Cefalu, I was visually overwhelmed. This was the vintage Italy that I’d imagined through postcards. Cefalu oozed sensuality.
Read more at: “Cefalu, Italy: An Afternoon Stroll on the Northern Coast of Sicily.”
Tuesday: Agrigento, Italy
On Tuesday, the group took at tour to the southern coastal town of Agrigento. Luigi, our tour guide, led us on an incredible tour of the sights of Agrigento. We toured the Santa Maria Assunta detta di San Gerlando – Agrigento Cathedral, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci, Teatro Pirandello, and Infurna Pasticceria Giuseppe.
After some free time in Agrigento, we gathered as a group again to explore Valle de Temple.
Between dodging rainclouds, waiting for people to aimlessly wander out of the shots I wanted to take and the heat – I was more than ready to leave to return back to the Masseria. But, visiting Agrigento was absolutely beautiful.
Read more at: “Agrigento, Italy: A Walking Tour of Ancient Sites Amidst a Rainstorm.”
Wednesday: Relaxing at the Masseria
Wednesday was a personal day at the Villa to relax and regroup at our collective halfway point.
Our morning yoga class with Kim was light and easy. In addition, an unexpectedly deep morning reiki with James was exceptionally brilliant. I felt a powerful clearing and cleaning out of deeply held energies, outdated patterns and attachments in my energy space.
Our evening intuitive development class was a lesson in how to use a pendulum. Holding the pendulum in my hand felt like a warm hello of an old friend. I used to design and make them, when I was younger.
It was a well thought out rest day, amidst a week of activity.
Thursday: Palermo, Italy
We began our Palermo tour effectively once we departed off our motor coach and walked through the city gate of Porta Nuova. Immediately, I was caught in the visual beaut at the gate of the city of Palermo, near the Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman Palace). The city was bustling – and so was Via Vittorio Emanuele.
What I noticed the most about the buildings was the fact that the majority of them were empty.
Kim swiftly led us through the street, past the Palermo Cathedral and to the Piazza Vigliena. Here, we met our guide, Domenico, and began our walking food and culture tour of Palermo.
The tour was a mix of cathedrals, incredible points of interest and food from the vibrant food market stalls of Palermo. It reminded me of Istanbul, Turkey and my tour Istanbul: Asia Side Highlights in a Day. Domenico was skillful in weaving Palermo’s past with its diverse and stimulating presence in the present.
Ending the tour with our choice of gelato or canola at Ruvolo Quattro Canti and enjoying a cappuccino, I was sad to have pre booked my ticket to the Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman Palace) so soon. However, I looked forward to the captivating apartments and the La Cappella Palatina.
Much to my annoyance, upon my arrival I was informed that the apartments were closed and only open on the weekend. Therefore, the only things open were the Palantine Chapel, the Royal Gardens, and a seemingly random modern art exhibit.
Yet, they charged full price for the ticket entry. The audacity.
So, after a extended rest in the garden at the bar, enjoying a spritz, I ended up meeting up with some other members of the tour group.
Together, we walked to the the Palermo Cathedral and took a quick peak inside. We stopped at the No Mafia Memorial nomafiamemorial.org and enjoyed another Campari Spritz break at 4 Canti Caffe.
After stops at shops, we eventually meandered our way to the Palermo Marina (La Cala). Walking along the shoreline, with Via Cala on my right and the marina from the waters of the Gulf of Palermo to left, was extremely tranquil.
The boats were lined up and oozed luxury. With the fast paced traffic of the dynamic city, it was easy to want to spend more time there.
However, we had a group dinner reservation Primi Piatti to attend to.
Friday: Taormina, Italy
To say that I wanted to live the best version of my White Lotus life in Taormina was an understatement. It was a pull that I had, ever since I had the idea to visit Italy. I knew that I wanted to visit Taormina. But, I wanted to do it with the greatest ease and happiness possible.
I love it when a good plan comes together.
So, at 8am, a small group of us boarded a Mercedes sprinter on the way to the coast.
Later in the evening, Kim and James arranged for a local drum artist to come, present his drums and play for us. It was beautiful and literally, the perfect way to end the week.
The best feeling is being on a yoga and tour retreat and feeling completely satisfied the day before you leave. With everything I’d seen, contemplated and moved through in the retreat, I felt a sense of completion. I felt that this retreat was a magnificent balance between yoga days at the Masseria, tour days in Sicily and the lack of cell service or wifi in my room.
The right people were drawn to the group to experience this trip. Even the way that I found out about it – from a divinely guided intuitive reading with James at Liberate Yourself to the very strong “yes” I felt when I meditated about if I should book this retreat – it was perfect.
Would I recommend a similar meditation, yoga and tour trip with James and Kim?
I would have booked Kim Larkin’s retreat to Morocco, immediately following this trip. However, I wanted to take time and be home, integrate and relax for a bit.
Sometimes, I resist the idea of being in Los Angeles for extended periods of time. Because, I feel trapped in roles and projections of being black and female in America. Traveling with my camera in other parts of the world, I feel the most freedom. I feel in love with life, at its very essence.
Travel is truly an expression of self love and inward discovery. Combined with meditation and a serene space and you have the makings of pure magic.
This retreat was a brilliant way to make that happen.
Kim Larkin: https://www.kimlarkinyoga.com
James Bene: https://www.benemudra.com
Sensational Sicily – Yoga, Culture + Self Discovery in Italy with Kimberly Larkin and James Bene
Via Giulio Litterio Sgadari
90026, San Giovanni PA Italy