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A Most Delightful Weekend in a 250 Year Old Home in Sassi, Italy

When my Italian friend and host suggested we go to Sassi for the weekend, I agreed, but I had no idea what, or even where, it was. Next thing I know we are headed out of Lucca and towards the mountains of northern Italy. Before long we are zooming along steep switchbacks, away from the city, enjoying the changing colors of autumn and the view of the valley below. Finally, we enter the most charming little historical village and stop in front of a giant red home, made of stones and concrete. To my right the Alps are towering in the distance and an ancient castle sits high on a hill. It was like like a view from a postcard. Staying in a 250 year old home, enjoying the astounding view, and mushroom hunting in the forest were all remarkable, and made for a most delightful weekend in Sassi Italy.

The Historical Home

 

Paolo Pocai’s family has owned the old homestead for generations. The front part of the home was built in 1770 and there is still an old brass plate above the door with the date on it. As if that isn’t remarkable enough, the back part of the building was a 15th century tower and still contains some of the ancient doors and the original circular stone staircase. The home contains some of the most beautiful antique furniture and chandeliers I have ever seen! It’s hard to guess how big the “house” is, as some rooms in the basement have never been completed, but I would estimate that it was well over 4,000 feet, which seems to be about normal for summer homes in the country in Italy. I helped Paolo prepare the home for winter as he doesn’t go there much anymore in the off season.

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My Experience with Permaculture and Compost Toilets Near Biella Italy

My lifestyle as a travel blogger is rarely full of glamour and luxury like most people think. The past week has been a good example of that. I spent the days working my butt off for a family running a Permaculture retreat and education center in the mountains near Biella Italy.  Compost toilets, not-so-hot hot…

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How Ego, Greed, and Hypocrisy are Destroying the Yoga Community

I’ve struggled with whether or not I should write this article. I don’t want to discourage people from doing yoga, because it is an incredible life-changing practice, but I do want to bring attention to a disturbing pattern that I think needs attention. The pattern is that ego, greed, and hypocrisy are destroying the yoga…

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Hiking, Swimming, and Shopping Around Lake Orta in Omegna Italy

The retreat center I’m staying at has an incredible view overlooking Lake Orta, and since I’ve been staring at it from a distance for the past week, I figured it was time to see up close. I, and my two friends Liza and Chi, decided to hike down to the town of Omegna, which is situated on the northwestern most point of Lake Orta. We filled our day packs with snacks and our swimming suits, and set off for a fun day of hiking, swimming, and shopping around Lake Orta, in beautiful Omegna Italy.

Hiking

 

 

There are a total of eight hikes in the  surrounding areas of Lake Orta. They range in difficulty level and duration. We were actually staying in the mountains, near the tiny village of Quarna Sopra, located about 50 miles from the Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy. Fortunately, one of the hikes starts at the back gate of the resort. From there it was all downhill, on a cobblestone path cutting through the forest. Half way down we came upon a charming little church, built about 200 years ago. Out front there was a fountain with fresh spring water where thirsty hikers can fill their water bottles. It took us about an hour to make it down to the town.

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Lessons in Humility: You Want Me to Do What and for How Long?

I couldn’t understand a word my coworker was saying. She spoke Italian, and I speak English. Grazie and ciao was the full extent of my knowledge of the Italian language, but I gathered from her motions that I was supposed to follow her. I followed Katarina down the stairs into the basement. Workers were everywhere. People from the kitchen (she calls it the “chicken”) were carrying supplies up and down the stairs, and a couple of other women were folding towels on a table on the far side, jabbering away in another language I couldn’t understand. Katarina opened the door to a storage room, filled with folded and stacked towels and sheets. In the center was a huge pile of wrinkled sheets and pillow cases. She picked up the iron and pointed at the large stack. Then she pointed at me!

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Magical Sintra Portugal and the Unbeaten Path

There is something special about the energy of Sintra Portugal. From the moment I arrived I felt alive and well. I haven’t felt such positive energy since Rishikesh, India or Friday Harbor, Washington. I don’t know if it’s the climate, the sea air, the happy people, or its mystical history, but Sintra is simply magical, and I really didn’t want to leave. The village is so much more than palaces and castles. Get off the typical tourist path and you will discover gorgeous beaches, charming coastal towns, impressive wineries and a fascinating history.

The Cork Covenant

 

Capuchos, also known at the Cork Convent, is a 15th century monastery that provided refuge to impoverished people. It’s intriguing to think that at the same time they were building all those lavish palaces, they erected a monastery for the poor, in between ancient boulders and Cork Trees. The door frames are about 4 feet tall and edged with cork bark. The hallways are about two feet wide and the ceilings about 5 feet high. The buildings feel like part of the landscape and the whole place has an incredible spiritual vibe. I sat and mediated there for a while. One of the more fascinating stories about the place is that one of the most famous monks fell in love with a woman, and they moved into a tiny cave just outside the monastery, where they lived happily together for the next 30 years.

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