A guest post by Misty Foster of Green Suitcase Travel
I’ve been working on surrendering to whatever comes up in my life: trials, tribulations, joy and harmony. All of it.
Surrendering to the unexpected. Because I’ve found that not only does it lead to a much more interesting life, it also allows you to expand as a human. I’ve also found that much of life is about choice and how you chose to respond to your circumstances. If you chose to respond to respond to a situation in anger, you’ll find a million reasons to be angry. If you respond with happiness, well, you get the picture.
Thinking in this way gives you tools to be discerning in tough situations and tools to help you thrive. It helps you manage your expectations for living a healthy and mindful life. For me, this also transfers over to how I travel.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a trip hoping for a certain outcome or thinking it would play out a certain way, only to have my plans ripped out from underneath me. When this happens it can be discouraging, but it can also create room for something even better. That’s the essence of travel. It’s why we chase after it, no? Because it teaches us how to surrender to something bigger than ourselves.
This is exactly what happened for me at Maraviglia Conscious Living Center in Tuscany.
I had it set in my mind that I needed solitude during my trip through Italy. I planted this seed in my head that I needed to do some soul-searching. I wanted recluse and refuge. And while that did happen, it didn’t happen in the way I imagined. Because I couldn’t have known how the dynamic of the group or the love that emanated from Maraviglia would manifest.
I had been in touch with Francesco, the owner of Maraviglia, before my arrival to his retreat center. There was already this sense that he was different from most folks I was going to interact with during my trip through Italy. Maybe it was the fact that I had been introduced to him through Louree and Kynder, or maybe it was just a vibe I was picking up on. Whatever the feeling, I could tell that it was going to be a special place. To that end, my expectations were met, tenfold.
Arriving at Maraviglia is like walking into a big, juicy hug from your long lost friend. In fact, the moment I stepped out of the car, I was greeted by Francesco with a big hug. It was as if he and I were reconnecting after years apart. There was an instant kinship between us. Whatever stress and anxiety I had from driving on the (challenging) Italian highways to get there melted away the moment I stepped on that soil.
What I quickly realized is that at Maraviglia—the house, the people, the Tuscan countryside—it’s all a container for peace and healing.
Music and lavender filled the air as I dropped my bags off in my room. I was quickly greeted by a handful of faces that would soon become my family for the next few days. Next, Francesco gave me a tour of the grounds and shared all the ways in which his childhood home, now converted into a retreat center, had transformed. He shared that his vision was to create a place where travelers could disconnect from the daily grind and to get back to the basics… to immerse themselves in what nature has to offer.
As someone with a keen interest in sustainability, I knew Maraviglia was going to speak to me on a deep level. From the organic olive grove that surrounded the house, to the natural water well in the yard, this was rustic, Tuscan living at its best. That said, the conscious living center is modern in its own right. The shared and private rooms are comfortable and have all the amenities you could want. The house is also cozy and chic. It feels lived in but also luxurious. Something about this unique combination gives way for you to feel at ease.
That night, the other housemates and I settled in for a home-cooked meal outside. The sun set in the distance as fresh pasta and wine started to find its way to the table. The guests all started to share laughter and personal stories.
It was a recipe for magic.
Even with a slight language barrier, it became clear to me that everyone at that table, was there for their own form of soul-searching. We had all landed ourselves at this table because we were the kind of people who knew how to surrender to our circumstances. It ended up being a beautiful and inspiring night, and it was only my first night there. I had a distinct moment where I thought to myself, “You know, I thought that being alone with myself would be the peace I was seeking out, but I’m feeling really comfortable and taken care of, in this moment.” In that instance, being surrounded strangers, who were not quite strangers, felt serene and honest. This feeling stayed with me from that first night until my departure.
Yoga, Pasta and Presence
At Maraviglia, we started our mornings with meditation and yoga led by Nea Swanston. Nea has an incredible gift for facilitating a practice based on the energy of the group. She could read exactly where everyone was at and curate a yoga flow around that energy. It didn’t matter if you were a master yogi or a novice, all that mattered was that you showed up for yourself.
The rest of the day was left for guests to do as they pleased. I spent my time reading, napping, getting to know the other housemates, and finding my moments of solitude in nature.
The rest of the day was left for guests to do as they pleased. I spent my time reading, napping, getting to know the other housemates, and finding my moments of solitude in nature. At one point, Francesco invited a few of us to go to meet the neighbors and gather lunch from their garden. His neighbor Gianluca, shares land with Francesco and together they harvest olives and other organic goodies. They also share a passion for sustainable living and good hospitality. Gianluca is a gracious host who took care in sharing his bounty with us. We collected items for lunch and made a delicious and hearty salad. Again I found myself easing into country living, which allowed me to listen to my heart and instincts. That soul-searching I wanted to do? It came naturally. It came as I lived out my experiences at Maraviglia. I was able to gain clarity about questions I had going into this trip. I could do this, because I had folks surrounding me who wanted me to feel comfortable and cared for.
Francesco has set Maraviglia up as a place where you can attend curated group retreats throughout the year or personal retreats during selected dates. I was there during open house dates and I have no doubt that when I return, in any capacity, it will be just as magical. It’s just the kind of place where you can’t help but fall in love with those around you. There are no distractions, no external pressures. It’s just you and nature, and those who are there to be present with you, in whatever comes up.
Maraviglia is the kind of place I will recommend over and over again because I believe in the people who bring it alive. I believe it's the kind of place that will attract those who want to expand their hearts and minds. To me, this is what good hospitality is all about. It’s about creating a space for mindful living. It’s changing the idea that good hospitality only comes in the form of a posh, ridiculously expensive hotel. Places like Maraviglia exist to show that where there is surrender, there is magic.
A warm thank you to Francesco for welcoming Misty via the Kynder Wayfair Travel Program, and to Misty for creating this heartfelt diary of her time spent at Maraviglia.
Photos courtesy of Misty and Green Suitcase Travel.
(For new visitors to our blog: Kynder is a travel platform featuring kind + eco hospitality establishments and tour companies around the globe. Feel free to explore our site to find new favorite places to stay, eat, treat and retreat!)