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Mandali, Italy

Meditation, yoga and personal growth in a sensitively curated environment with a view to die for

Yoga
Meditation
Fitness
Walking
Relax
Spa
Beauty
Holistic healing
Asian arts
Digital detox
Detox
Vegan/vegetarian
No alcohol
Best go solo

Best for: Men and women of all ages looking to rest, recover or disconnect from busy lives.
Not for: Anyone who can’t cope with a meat or alcohol-free retreat.


GUESTS

PRICE

DATES

Calendar

Mandali is a stunningly crafted retreat set on a high plateau overlooking Lago d’Orta in northern Italy with heart stopping views across to the nearby Swiss Alps. It’s designed to help guests disconnect from the pressures of daily life, switch off from technology, and find time for reflection and getting back in the flow. Come for a Mandali Experience retreat that combines different types of meditation, yoga and movement sessions with personal growth workshops and periods of silence, or attend one of the themed retreats that run throughout the year. Founded by two successful Dutch music festivals organisers who walked the spiritual path and wanted to build a retreat centre which would help people raise their consciousness, it’s a not-for-profit venture with an affordable premium experience ranging from dormitory accommodation to private suites.

Mandali Mediation Retreat in Italy
Mandali Mediation Retreat in Italy
Mandali Mediation Retreat in Italy
Mandali Mediation Retreat in Italy
Mandali Retreat Queen of Retreats
Mandali Retreat Queen of Retreats

What’s Queenly?

Mandali’s mountainside situation lends itself perfectly to contemplation and offers a high-end retreat experience for a medium-range price. It was set up as a not-for-profit foundation (profits are “reinvested back into the community”), dedicated to supporting personal growth and providing an escape from the mundanity of our daily, digitally-mediated lives.

What’s Lowly?

Staff support here is gentle and unobtrusive, but it can be slightly too hands-off for some. However our main liaison, Ajija, was lovely.

Read our personal review

Imogen O Rourke reviews a Mandali Experience at this wellbeing retreat in Northern Italy and finds unplugging, rebalancing and ‘getting a perspective’ comes naturally on a mountainside.

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Retreat Activities


Mandali is a dedicated retreat centre which offers a variety of retreats all year round. Its signature retreat is the 3 or 6 day ‘Mandali Experience’ which offers at least two classes of yoga and meditation a day. During some weeks, guest cans also experience extras such as qigong or Conscious Movement classes, individual therapies which will vary according to the teachers in residence, personal growth workshops and sharing circles. There are also a number of Themed retreats offered by visiting teachers throughout the year with healing and personal development themes from shamanic inner-journeying and detoxing, to spiritual progress and silent retreats.

There are usually two guided meditation classes a day, and the style of meditation will vary considerably according to the teacher that week – so check before if you have a preference. When Shastro is in residence, for example, the meditation is led in stages but does not follow a particular structure or format: sometimes recorded or live music is used, sometimes you are asked to listen to silence, and maybe there will be an outside walking meditation.

Yoga at Mandali is seen as a philosophy expanding beyond the practice of asanas that will help you unite body, mind and soul through healthy diet, exercise, silence, breathing and meditation. Yoga is an integral part of the experience and because it is aimed at all levels, it is never too challenging. The Mandali Experience offers two yoga classes a day between 1 – 1.5 hours long. There is no specific style but the morning class is typically more Yang and dynamic and the evening class will be Yin and restorative. Classes are taught by a team of 10 teachers who vary throughout the year. Yoga sometimes takes place at the same time as qigong when qigong runs, so you have to choose.

Traditional qigong is part of the Mandali Experience every two to three months, but not guaranteed – so do check first if you want it to be. Lessons take place outside in the grounds if the weather allows as qigong is about embodying the shapes and forces of nature. Each class lasts about an hour and requires intensive concentration, patience and a comfy pair of trainers. Qigong takes place twice a day at the same time as yoga – so you have to choose.

Two resident therapists offer a variety of treatments from simple massages to deeply healing work and include shiatsu, ayurvedic and Thai massages and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi. Massages usually take place on a tatami mat. Several of the bodywork teachers also teach private sessions. When Mario is in residence, he offers a powerful group treatment called Conscious Breath, a circular breath workout which stimulates strong emotional release. You will find a menu full of options upon arrival and can book your treatments and choose your therapist.

Every afternoon there will be a workshop designed to promote personal growth. When Niista is in residence, she teaches Conscious Movement, “an embodied movement meditation practice” to a soundtrack. On the one hand it is a free-expression dance class, on the other, it is about freeing emotions from the physical body and “moving beyond our self-imposed limits”. Each one is themed: one session might focus on pausing the busy mind, another on the heart, or on the spine and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Taking place in the afternoon every day there is an opportunity for guests to share anything they want to about what’s happening in their lives in a small group where privacy is the only rule. As many people go to Mandali to escape stress and difficulty, or because they are experiencing burn-out, this is Mandali’s safety net (in the absence of a formal counsellor).

Mandali runs Themed Retreat throughout the year built around the teacher with topics such as Reconnect Women, Return to the Source, Learning Love Skills and a variety of yoga and meditation intensives – see website for details. In January, all the retreats are conducted in silence.

In your downtime there’s a lovely body care area to relax in with a good steam room, sauna and outdoor jacuzzi on a covered terrace with a fabulous view of the lake through a glass balcony. There’s plenty of places to loaf on sun loungers both inside and outside on the terrace, and an infinity pool (which is less than 3m wide – so a maximum of two swimmers at any time).

Personal spaces

All the rooms are comfortable, tastefully decorated with deliberately understated, using natural materials and with charming details like stone basins and distressed velvet cushions and headboards. Most of the rooms are designed for single occupancy but the ‘singles’ have queen-sized beds (with firm mattresses) which are easily big enough for a couple.
All the rooms have an ensuite bathroom (with a shower) and a private veranda, but not all of them have a lake view. The premium rooms have stunning lake views and bath tubs on the veranda. There are also twin rooms (with two single beds) both standard and premium. The most affordable shared room has two sets of bunkbeds and a large veranda. There are also small apartments (hermitages) built on two levels and sleeping four people, with self-contained kitchens.

Note that, because of Mandali’s position, some of the rooms get significantly more sunlight than others. In the wintertime, the lake-facing rooms on the south west get the strongest sun, while the rooms on the south-east side only get it in the morning. However, in summer when the sun burns hot, those rooms benefit from being cooler.

Every single room has an ensuite bathroom (with a shower) and a private veranda, but not all of them have a lake view. The premium rooms have stunning lake views and bath tubs on the veranda. There are also twin rooms (with two single beds) both standard and premium. The most affordable shared room has two sets of bunkbeds and a large veranda. There are also small apartments (hermitages) built on two levels and sleeping four people, with self-contained kitchens.
Note that, because of Mandali’s position, some of the rooms get significantly more sunlight than others. In the wintertime, the lake-facing rooms on the south west get the strongest sun, while the rooms on the south-east side only get it in the morning. However, in summer when the sun burns hot, those rooms benefit from being cooler.

Other spaces to be

There is a large, covered veranda on the first floor which is reserved for silence. Here you can relax on loungers, hammocks or swing chairs and read, write or contemplate without being tempted to enter into conversation.

Insider Tips

Because Mandali is situated on a mountainside, it can get pretty cold in the winter and in the evenings at any time of year, especially when the wind blows. Make sure you bring a warm coat, a shawl and flexible shoes like trainers for doing qigong outside when the ground is cold. There are a number of beautiful walks within close proximity so bring shoes that are comfortable for walking on stony paths and a waterproof jacket. Ask ahead to see if you can share the cost of your airport transfer with others, or for a more affordable option, take the shuttle bus from Malpensa to Gravellona and then a taxi from there to Mandali.

When to Go

Mandali is open all year round for people who want to escape from the general noise of daily life. The Mandali Experience is offered every month of the year apart from January when there is a month of silence. Spring, summer and autumn are the best times of the year if you want the picture postcard scenery but winter, with snow-capped peaks, is quite dramatic and lovely too. Spring comes later in the mountains, beginning in April.

Shared places

Architecture:
The elegant architectural and interior design concept of Mandali deserves a special mention. It was a collaboration between architects Gian Carlo and Matteo Primatesta, interior designer Reineke Antvelink and Feng Shui specialist Simon Brown. The building and temple complex was based on a medieval Italian village but with far eastern influences. Local stone, plaster, roof tiles and reclaimed wood and generally sustainable materials have been used, so that it is in keeping with the little commune of Quarna Sopra on the opposite hill.

Shared places

Living Areas:
The interior design throughout is luxurious but low key, using natural fabrics, muted colours and traditional metalwork. Leading off from the stylish reception area with distressed velvet chairs and sofa, the open-plan dining room forms the heart of the communal space with long refectory style wooden tables. There’s a separate room with cushions for groups who want more privacy or for celebrating occasions.

Shared places

Quiet Areas:
Above the reception, there’s a modest-sized square format ‘library’ with low velvet sofas, big soft light lamps (not that easy to read by!) and a huge bookshelf (mainly filled with blankets rather than books). In the winter it is heated by a wood burning fire (encased in a glass grate). This is the only room which has wifi, although it is a quiet room – talking is allowed, but no noise from electronic devices. A door leads through to a large covered balcony overlooking the lake (also a ‘silent space’) with hanging basket chairs and sun loungers for reading or contemplation – a sanctuary on a hot summer day. The Diamond room opposite is a lovely wooden floored room used for smaller indoor classes like qigong or sharing circles.

Shared places

Temple:
The ‘Temple’ is the centre piece of the Mandali village: a beautiful and satisfyingly compact structure based on classic Italian Renaissance chapel format (the square topped by a dome) made with wood and natural plaster but with far eastern elements – a Hollywood impression of a Shaolin temple if you like! Inside is a large round room with a raised wooden floor used for meditation and yoga, recesses in the walls for candles. Upstairs there is a second domed meditation room with a huge, intricate Murano glass chandelier. Even the bathrooms here are stunning with large stone flagged floors and large stone basins. Yoga mats, cushions, bolsters and props are all supplied, along with meditation cushions and lean chairs.

Shared places

Body Care Centre and Swimming Pool:
The Body Care Centre area combines ancient and modern: stone flags, a water fountain carved out of stone. It feels a bit like the Roman baths, except with lots of structural glass and electric low lighting. There’s an infinity pool with sun loungers (which is less than 3m wide – so a maximum of two swimmers at any time) which leads through a glass door outside to a large square stone jacuzzi on a covered terrace, where you can bubble-cruise with a fabulous view of the lake through a glass balcony. The spa has a particularly good steam room (all stone with cold hand showers) which reaches its peak steam in the afternoon, and a sauna.

Shared places

Garden and grounds:
Mandali has a fantastic situation.The elegant Temple is the garden’s centrepiece and the accommodation and rooms curve around it resembling a medieval village, with a paved street and transverse archways running in between the rooms (echoing the village of Quarna Sotto on the hill opposite). Mandali has a few mature trees but as it was only built in 2017, the garden shrubs and plants still have some growing to do. There are sculptures, a mind-map to walk around and grassy verges in front of the rooms. A permaculture garden is planned.

Sustenance

The eating area spills out onto a generous balcony overhanging the lake with about 8 tables. In hot weather, this becomes the main living space. A team of cooks work day-long to deliver three nutritious, delicious and always vegetarian buffet meals. The food is always fresh, organic and mostly local.

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Breakfast delivers an abundance of fresh and stewed fruits, dried fruits and nuts, with homemade yoghurt and cereals and pastries, along with local cheeses and eggs. For lunch, slow roasted vegetables – sweet potato, zucchini, aubergine, carrots and fennel – cooked in local herbs are often on the menu, bean or rice salads, with something mouth-watering like asparagus tortillas or mini vegetable quiches. Supper is usually lighter.

No food is wasted here – it will recycled into tomorrow’s meal (the asparagus from the salad may end up in a quiche for example). Mandali cater for most food intolerances (with a little warning) and there is a strict no alcohol policy. Throughout the day, fruits, nuts and little snacks, a selection of Yogi teas as well as tea and coffee in big urns is available.

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Sustainability

From the architecture to daily rituals, Mandali has been designed to be as low-impact and sustainable as possible. It was built with reclaimed wood and eco-friendly, local materials, the heating system is based on woodchip burners and the kitchen, spa and swimming pool are run on solar panels. There is little plastic in evidence and everything possible from food to paper napkins is reused or recycled.

LOCATION

Mandali Retreat Center Via Belvedere 2 28898 Quarna Sopra (VB) Italy

Airport: Milan Malpensa

Nearest train station: Omegna

Transfer time: 1 hour/1.5 hour from the airport and 20 minutes from the station

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