La Vita In Equilibrio, Tuscany, Italy
Indulgent escape with yoga, meditation, fine wines and culture in the Tuscan hills
Best for: Active and curious couples or singles looking for guidance through meditation, yoga, excellent food and wine, and Italy.
Not for: Young, gluten-free purists on a budget.
Takes up to 12 guests
Days roll with a luxurious elegance from start to finish on this retreat in Tuscany and yet you don’t feel over-fussed. Based at the sublime country estate of Borgo Pignano, you can expect an enriching retreat infusing yoga and meditation with fine Italian wine, food and cultural sights that will lift your spirits, stretch your mind and body (and perhaps slightly your waistband) and allow you to kick back with an aperitivo at sundown. La Vita In Equilibrio means The Life in Balance. There is no deprivation, more a relaxed and generous attitude, all enrobed by rolling Tuscan splendour. With a dream-like, wafting quality, you will return feeling thoroughly spoiled, transported and nourished.
The care and attention from Lisa Dunn, yoga teacher and founder of La Vita in Equilibrio, which allows everyone to truly unravel, and the fabulous location. The maisonette accommodation also provides a welcome autonomy – meet for chai tea or a glass of organic prosecco in one of the kitchens, but on your own clock.
It’s fabulous that there’s no deprivation here, but some discipline is required around mealtimes, as otherwise you might find yourself awake until 6am, digesting, after over-indulging one supper!
Read our expert review
Connie Allfrey reviews a wonderfully indulgent La Vita in Equilibrio wellness retreat at Borgo Pignano country estate in Tuscany and finds authentic yoga, fine wines, great company and a delicious sense of personal freedom
Retreat activities are designed to enrich and relax you and include daily yoga and meditation with optional astrology workshops, walks in nature, soap-making with a local herbalist, a tour of Volterra and the local beehives, a vineyard visit and a spa day at Terme de Sassetta.
The day launches at 7.30am with a two hour class in a serene and spacious wooden-floored yoga room. You start with a 20 minute guided meditation and this is followed by vinyasa flow yoga, all taught by your host Lisa Dunn, from Rome. Lisa has over 16 years experience in helping her students create an injury free life-long yoga practice, paying vital attention to the body and its limitations, rather than forcing postures too soon and paying the price. After a varied warm-up sequence her classes gradually gain momentum and flow, building intelligently to more advanced postures, but always providing alternatives, often with props, for those who need them. There is generally a workshop period in the class when blocks are used to help tackle more challenging inversions, or walk up and walk downs using the wall; it feels a safe place to experiment.
Peacefully situated amongst chestnuts and oaks in the Pioggio Neri forest park, about an hour’s drive from Borgo Pignano (along windy roads – be warned), these beautifully traditional thermal baths provide rich minerals for skin, respiratory and musculoskeletal system. Alternate between the beautiful outdoor whirlpools and cascades and the river stone sweat chamber to evict all remnants of the Vernaccia wine you might have drunk the night before and emerge newborn.
The highlight of the guided wander around this charming walled hilltop town, other than sumptuous gnocchi in a local trattoria with ravishing views, is anything pertaining to the ancient Etruscans who settled here historically 500BC – preserved carvings from their funeral urns show figures shaking hands with the deceased to see them ‘beyond’ in the next life. D.H.Lawrence was similarly enchanted by this ancient civilisation. Be sure to buy some oak memorabilia from the beautifully crafted wares for sale there.
If you’re into wine, there will be little finer than a tour of the family run Fontealeone vineyard, learning about the picking, ripening and bottling process, before plonking down in the sun to enjoy a taster of several wines, with some wine-tasting tips and local history gems from Giacomo, and some grissini. Don’t miss the aged organic Grappa, and the organic spumante, both of which are so palatable you can swerve any side-effects or hangover. A delicious saffron inspired lunch is then served in a neighbouring vineyard, with slightly larger tasters!
Although the trails are restoratively tree-laden, the views are more spectacular from the road, so head down the drive and veer right. Take your favourite tea for an afternoon cup in your kitchen – although they provide a selection, it’s always nice to have your favourite, or take some lemon essential oil for a drop in water first thing before yoga for a quick alkaline boost, without the fuss of the actual lemon (a tip we discovered on this retreat.)
When to Go
These retreats run on set dates in March, June and September, all delightful times to visit the area. The dates for Borgo Pignano in March 2019 are to be released soon.
The indulgent mainly vegetarian menu devised especially for the retreat is phenomenal – super inspired, fragrant and diverse with varying textures and tones – all served with delectable local wines if you so choose. All the produce is organic and locally sourced from, so the menu varies with the seasons. You eat at dining tables elegantly lined down a glass doored corridor, with the bountiful breakfast displayed on one side in the morning, and other dishes later in the day. There’s also a rustic communal dining room near the kitchen with a vast wooden table, bottles lining the walls, a Pecorino wheel at one end and a fire at the other.
Breakfast is bowls of fresh fruit with yoghurt, home-made-granola, divine roasted hazelnuts, fabulous coffees with every kind of milk served in large glasses, and pear juice. There are also eggs and tomatoes for those that desire, plus cheese, beautiful tarts and toasts. Lunch on site is also a staggering three courses – from barley salads, to the best pappa pomodoro with ricotta, delectable stuffed kale rolls, everything served with freshly baked bread, lashings of oil and balsamic.
Supper starts with a tasty slice of young Pecorino drizzled with honey from the estate’s bees, then another four delectable courses, from potato puree with a slow cooked egg and truffle, delightful fried artichokes, to risotto alla Milanese with pecorino, vegetable lasagne, spinach and tomato tartlets and undoubtedly the best square of tiramisu ever to be constructed.
You can choose to add meat to your meal – veggies be warned that there is often an impressive T Bone steak on the open fire in the communal room, for some guest or other. The kitchen are happy to oblige with some simple fresh salad or more cooked vegetables with your meals if your system demands something simpler after a few days indulgence, as the Tuscan way doesn’t seem to involve that many greens.
Dinner is ccompanied by tasty local wines, chosen by Lisa, both white and red, with the option for a finely made cocktail before, or brandy after. Teas are available throughout the day, as there are kettles in the cottages; there are also juices and non-alcoholic cocktails available for people who prefer not to drink alcohol.
The sustainable infrastructure is the heart and backbone of Borgo Pignano’s hum. The main house, farmhouses and maisonettes have all been consciously restored using local stone and reclaimed slate, and the farming uses innovative and traditional techniques, such as a natural system for retaining rain water and preventing soil erosion. Heating and hot water is fuelled by solar panels and chip fire boilers. The estate hums with a happily low impact, forward thinking philosophy; it even has two Tesla charging points in the hotel’s parking area.
Borgo Pignano, Loc.Pignano, 6, 56048 Volterra Pisa, Italy
Transfer Time: 30 minutes