When Lisa Hampton, yoga instructor and founder of Mindful Fitness in San Diego, announced that she was holding a weeklong yoga retreat in Tuscany a year ago, my immediate response was “yes!”

I didn’t know Lisa very well, having taken just one day-long retreat at Keys Creek Lavender Farm with her, and I didn’t know if I could afford a week in Tuscany, but I knew I had to make it happen. I don’t think she believed I was serious, because when I sent my deposit a few months later, she seemed surprised.

When I signed up for the retreat, my life looked a lot different. I was happily married, my family and life intact. Little did I know that by the time the retreat rolled around, I would be midway through the divorce process and living half-time with my son.

I was in dire need of an Eat, Pray, Love experience.

This Could Seriously Be Heaven

I arrived in Lucca after spending a week hiking the Dolomites with a friend, and I was ready to ground down and be in one place where I could recuperate. I’d seen photos of Il Borghino, the villa where our retreat would be held, but they couldn’t prepare me for the magnificence.

The villa consisted of three houses: the owner’s house on the hill, and two guest houses each with four or more bedrooms. Looking out of my window, I understood why Frances Mayes and every other foreigner would give up everything to relocate to Tuscany.

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The pool, a work of art in and of itself, overlooked the valley where Lucca lay. Across the rolling hills, other villas and homes stood out with their signature red roofs. In the distance, donkeys brayed their ridiculous laugh.

I was home.

Lisa had partnered with a group called Yoga in Italy, who provides the framework for retreats at Il Borghino. They supply the yoga equipment, the excursions, and the food, which is lovingly cooked by Maria Angela, an octogenarian who prefers to cook in her own kitchen and schlep Styrofoam containers of it to the villa each day.

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The staff of Yoga in Italy were amazing, and oddly enough, many were Aussies. It was pure coincidence that they hailed from the same country. Throughout the week, they engaged with us and delighted in our delight. It occurred to me that they do this every week for about 22 weeks a year, and yet their enthusiasm never flags.

Who Has Time for Reflection?

While I’d planned to have some serious alone time on my trip, I stayed pretty busy with excursions I couldn’t bear to miss, like the bike tour of Lucca, the cooking class with Maria  Angela (who I secretly dubbed my adopted nonna), and the walk to the winery down the road.

And the friendships I made kept me busy. I hadn’t expected to spend so much time socializing, but we all instantly connected, moving from complete strangers to family pretty quickly.

With twice-a-day yoga classes, I felt well-oiled mentally and physically. I cleaned out the cobwebs in my head, and began preparing for whatever would come next in my life.

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The experience was unbelievably good for my soul. It netted me friendships I will nurture back in San Diego, and I ate and slept like I never have in my life. I would say this was the trip of a lifetime, but I fully plan to return to Il Borghino and my little slice of heaven in Tuscany.