Spiritual therapy centres abound in in our part of the world. For example, at Bagni di Lucca Ponte, a holistic alternative medicine centre, the global village, under the aegis of Dr. Montecucco had been offering a variety of courses ranging from Yoga to Reiki for over ten years. There are religious retreats too, as at Sillico and Borgo a Mozzano. If one is trying to recover from an increasingly complex world, with its stresses and strains, the whole upper Serchio valley is an ideal place to attempt to make sense of one’s existence and move forward in one’s journey in life.
I’ve never explored this sort of thing very much, except peripherally. My guide in life has tended to be nature herself. As Wordsworth wrote, ‘Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher’.
The road to Renaio is certainly a total immersion in nature. Leaving the attractive borgo of Barga the route climbs up a spur of the Apennines and enters the most wonderful chestnut forests with some trees over five hundred years old and with circumferences in excess of sixteen feet. (One tree even has a room with windows inside its trunk. Not surprisingly it’s used as a bird hide).
In the midst of this natural wonderland there’s a very special retreat which I was invited to visit yesterday. Called Sensone, the name is actually a misspelling of ‘Sansone’ which is Italian for Sampson. In fact, Sensone isn’t a bad misspelling for it can refer to the great sense (Sensone= great sense in Italian) which encompasses our other five senses in a greater intuitive awareness of what’s around us, increasing our consciousness of the inter-related oneness of the universe.
In English, Sensone could also be an abbreviated spelling of ‘one sense’, again referring to an all-inclusive and transcendent intuitive force through which natural powers are recognized.
Renaio is a sweet little hamlet situated at a height of 3300 feet. It has a charming chapel with neo-gothic details in which a religious festival and procession was held just last week-end (which I unfortunately missed as I was at another religious festa at Gombereto).
From near the chapel a woodland goat-path descends into a verdant valley in the heart of which is Sensone’s spiritual retreat. No other place could have been chosen so appropriately: it is simply exquisite. The view from the cottage opens out onto waves of ever-distancing hills culminating in the Pisan Mountain and, beyond, to Volterra.
On the terrace overlooking this seventh heaven we had lunch starting with a delicious combination of spaghetti and salmon, followed by chicken salad and ending with affogato – ice-cream melted into coffee.
As Italians say ‘what’s the point of eating alone?’ and our repast was accompanied by wide-ranging conversation among our six guests which included a couple from Brisbane, now travelling in Europe, and a brilliant cook and backwoodsman from Ticino, the Italian Switzerland.
Sensone’s land comprises over one hundred acres providing an excellent cordon sanitaire sheltering one from the intrusion of unwanted development and assuring perfect peace.
The animals sharing the property include this sweet pony which provides children’s treats in the form of rides when it ambles down toward Barga.
There are some very friendly cats and dogs too.
Clearly, an idyll must be bought at some price and if you read the Sensone diaries in Barganews at http://www.barganews.com/?s=SENSONE+DIARIES&x=0&y=0 you’ll get the sense of both the creative and destructive forces of nature at their mightiest.
A variety of very interesting courses are run at Renaio and it’s possible to contact the owner of the centre to find out more details. If you care at all about the world, the energy potential within you, the ability to both reach out and reach within, the desire to be genuinely fulfilled, the wish to discover what’s truly unique about yourself and the realization of a true joy then surely this magical place should be on your agenda!