Kaliyoga Italy review | yoga holiday, Italy
Relaxing yoga retreat in immaculate Puglian farmhouse
The Quick Read: Kaliyoga’s 6 night yoga holidays in Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot) take place in a stunningly converted 18th century farmhouse with views of rolling green hills and shimmering white villages all around. A week here is an opportunity to truly relax – in hammocks, on walks, by the pool – and to reach a deeper level of yoga practice, with four hours of classes a day that invite you to develop your personal understanding of the asanas. Reiki, reflexology and intuitive massage offer a further opportunity for healing and nurture of body and soul. One of our favourites.
Price symbol: ££
Who it’s best for: The yoga is suitable for all levels, and this yoga retreat would suit anyone with hectic lives looking for some time to themselves in a relaxing, warm environment – especially busy mothers or professionals looking to reconnect with themselves. Mothers and daughters, pairs of friends and busy solo professionals come – you’d feel comfortable here with a companion or alone.
What you can do: Yoga starts at the civilised hour of 8.30am – the first of two, two-hour sessions that include asanas, pranayama and (in the evening) yin yoga. Every day the class begins with five minutes, then ten minutes, then eventually 20 minutes of self-practice. The group is often hesitant to do this at first, but by the end of the week 12 grown people are un-self-consciously playing on their yoga mats, with gentle curiosity and enjoyment in what their bodies can do.
Yoga teacher Luce’s playful and intuitive approach is infectious. ‘Hold the bolster like it’s your boyfriend,’ she says at one point. ‘Actually this is better than a boyfriend.’ She makes pranayama – or yogic breath work – a central part of the practice, teaching breathing exercises to cleanse and energise the whole body. ‘I want you to breath more this week than you do usually for a whole year,’ she says.
Apart from doing four hours of yoga a day, guests can take bikes out for cycle rides in the countryside, walk Tommy, the friendly bear-like dog, lounge by the pool or wallow in the open air Jacuzzi to soothe any overstretched muscles. Reflexology and reiki are on offer from highly skilled local therapist Julie, and massages from talented Alessandra and Jola, who all get consistently good feedback and get booked up by the end of each week – it’s best to book in advance.
Wednesday is day-out time, when a trip to the beach is arranged in the summer or a visit to wander around the white piazzas of Ostuni if it’s not sunbathing weather. In the evening, there’s the option to dine out in the nearest village and indulge in some of the local pasta, wine and pastries if you so choose.
Where you stay: Masseria Pavone is a stunningly converted 18th century farmhouse with trullo-roofed cottages dotted about the grounds. Some guests stay in the farm’s mansion house, with its grand staircase, balconies and airy rooms; others in the cottages with their distinctive conical dry stone roofs, traditional to this part of southern Italy (and a 15th-century form of tax evasion according to local legend). They are other-worldly, magical places – as we woke each morning looking up at a tunnel of light, we had to remind ourselves that we weren’t having a near-death experience.
The farms grounds feature twisted old olive trees, pomegranate trees with jewel-like seeds bursting out of the fruit, a friendly pair of braying donkeys and a family of cats entirely satisfied with their good fortune in this life.
How was it for us: A week at Kaliyoga was a welcome airy respite from the heaviness of city life for me. In my memory everything is bright – the white buildings, the blue sky, the sparkling swimming pool. Between the yoga sessions there was plenty of time for quiet contemplation, reading and writing in hammocks. It felt like a much-needed time-out to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m going too – what a retreat should be. All that self-analysis did bring some darkness, but the retreat staff and other guests (and Tommy the dog) helped to relieve it.
The yoga helped me to develop my own sequence for self-practice and after over a decade of practicing yoga something finally clicked about not forcing my body into positions I am not ready for.
The yoga was gentle, but after a few days I did find my body aching, and was grateful for the hammocks, pool-side loungers and lack of demands. A reiki session with Julie was insightful and left me with plenty of food for thought – it really did feel like she has a sixth sense.
What we took home: Luce’s mantra, ‘I’m strong and stable, centred in myself’, pops into my head at unexpected moments. I find it very grounding when London life is threatening to unbalance my inner peace.
Would we go back: It would be a delight to revisit this beautiful retreat. Although I benefited from going solo for this trip, I was inspired by a loving mother and daughter in the group to take my mum next time: she would be very comfortable with the gentle pace and nurturing atmosphere.
People watch: Luce is a wonderfully encouraging and supportive yoga teacher, who imparts the holistic wisdom of the practice when guests get caught up in the physical challenges, and manager Nick is a calm and reassuring presence. Let’s not forget the bear-like fluffy white dog Tommy, too, who is always happy to see guests and who’ll take you for a walk if the yoga becomes too intense.
Food watch: The cuisine at Kaliyoga Italy has a distinctive local influence. Melt-in-the-mouth buffalo mozzarella, local olives and even pizza feature on the menu, but with a healthy, mostly vegetarian interpretation (with some fish). Post-yoga breakfast is bircher muesli fortified with abundant nuts and dried fruit. There’s a late mediterranean lunch every day and the evening meal is a three-course event, preceded by appetisers and a non-alcoholic aperitivo.
The local restaurant was asked to make vegetarian food, which was alien to them at first (they tried to grate an avocado with the skin on) but which in the end brought delectable results – including delicious green beans with breadcrumbs and potato mash with fava beans and stuffed mushrooms.
What’s queenly: The three local therapists Julie, Jola and Alessandra are a cut above your average spa therapists for their intuitive style. (Chef Alessandra also makes mouth-watering raw food treats like chocolate tart).
What’s lowly: Each morning we’re invited to come to the yoga shala half an hour early to meditate. This is a great way to start the day, but it would have helped meditation novices if at least the first one was guided by a teacher.
Insider tip: It’s not on the schedule, but the labyrinthine town of Locorotondo is a short cycle away and ideal for an afternoon escape (with a naughty cappuccino) if needed.
Price going solo: From £795 to £1295 per person for 6 nights, including accommodation, food, yoga classes and transfer for day out on Wednesday. The massage and reiki treatments are extra (€50/£35 for an hour).
Value for Money: Kaliyoga Italy isn’t the cheapest yoga retreat you could go on, but for your money you get to stay in a beautiful place with delicious food. For those that need a deeply relaxing break, it’s worth it.
Sister retreats: Kaliyoga has been running yoga retreats in Spain since 2002 – check out our review of Kaliyoga Spain. Kaliyoga teachers Tashi and Lely also run occasional yoga weekends in London.
Reviewed by Anna Leach
© Queen of Retreats