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Gerace, Calabria, Italy

Aligning Mind and Body Through Yoga Practice

In order to properly care for your whole self, you must move — and yoga is a great way to align your mind and body.

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Gita Italiana 2010: Finding Treasures in Alghero, Sardinia

Welcome to our first stop on the Gita Italiana 2010! Today we’re hanging out in Alghero, Sardinia with my friend Keren Bensoussan of The Road Less Travelled.

Finding Treasures in Alghero

After having travelled all over Italy, I was finally called to Sardinia, Italy’s island famous for its emerald sea.

I was offered work so I accepted, but not after seriously questioning how long I could survive on an island. I am a city girl after all, but the airport was only 15 minutes away, and that sealed the deal.

My first days in Alghero were wonderful. It was like being in paradise. Tall trees fanned the streets with their delicate green leaves; the quiet sea glistened with sunshine diamonds in mountainous horizons, and I could walk through Alghero’s “central park” at ease, safe in a mother Alghero’s arms. I felt young, innocent, even slightly vulnerable, which made me wonder, “what is going on here?”

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

A week later I ran into my landlord.

“Ciao, Keren! Come va la prima settimana in Alghero?”
(“Hi Keren! How is your first week in Alghero going?”)

I told her that everything was fine but that something was different and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Ah, sì, tutti dicono che Alghero è speciale.”
(“Ah, yes, everybody says that Alghero is special.”)
She said this with a glint in her eye.

“… well … what is it?” I asked her.

“Non c’è criminalità,” she answered.
(“There’s no crime.”)

Certainly petty crime exists, but there is no “hard” crime like murder.

There’s no mafia either (there have been kidnappers, but only if you’re really rich. The rest of us can relax.)

I stood there sort of speechless, reflecting on what she said and I suddenly understood: When people feel safe, they are kinder towards one another. Which basically means that you don’t need to be on the defensive, and you don’t have to worry about being “straniero” (foreign) because they welcome foreigners with open arms.

Just as Sardinia is known for its sea, warm weather and cool breezes,

Sardinians are known for their generosity, sincerity and simplicity.

Porticciolo Beach by Keren Bensoussan

Porticciolo Beach by Keren Bensoussan

When my teaching contract ended my students took me out for pizza and bought me gifts. It was a lot of pizza and a lot of gifts so I asked, “why?” They told me that it was a tradition that began in the past when it was a great honor to have visitors arriving on the island. Sardinians will open their home to you, treat you like family and embrace you without expecting anything in return. It’s simply their way.

Sardinia is also the oldest land in Italy. In fact, I don’t really feel like I live in Italy here because they have their own language (Sardo) and their own history. “Il continente” (the mainland) is more like Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” while Sardinia is humbler and simpler. When you get here all you really have to do is relax and be yourself.

But like “il continente,” Sardinia differs from place to place. I have visited many towns and cities, all very interesting, but have found that Alghero, “the gem of Sardinia” is truly special. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a port town that has greeted many tourists has something to do with it. It is more open-minded. Perhaps it’s the fact that it has a strong Catalan influence that gives it an exotic edge. Or perhaps it’s the strong Sardinian values that are instilled in a population that has had to survive on a separate piece of land- pulling together and developing trust and honesty amongst themselves so they could thrive and live in peace with each other.

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

Capo Caccia by Keren Bensoussan

A Sardinian friend told me that in his village, in the past, doors didn’t have locks on them. When someone arrived, they entered and were welcomed just the same.

I have woken up in some Italian cities with the sound of church bells banging in my ears (bing, bang, bong go the church bells at 7am) but here in Alghero, it’s a lullaby, sweet and gentle, like the people. Just another thing I love about Alghero.

This sweet simplicity extends also in the culinary department. There is less sugar in the desserts. The pasta special is “spaghetti ai ricci” (spaghetti with sea urchin). I never liked sea urchin’s overwhelming flavor until I tried this dish. I personally love the fresh sardines from local markets and although it sounds like sardines may have something to do with Sardinia, it doesn’t. And of course there is the Mirto, the local liquor made of berry leaves which is delicately sweet and strong but not in excess. Everything seems to be done with balance- perfect for a seeker of “la via di mezzo.”

When my contract ended I left Alghero but decided to return. A sweet Sardo convinced me to open a Yoga B&B with him and I agreed.

Sunset by Keren Bensoussan

Sunset by Keren Bensoussan

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Keren Bensoussan is originally from Montreal, Canada. She has been living in Italy since 2007 and teaches ESL and Hatha Yoga in Alghero.

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Grazie mille Keren!

Be sure to come back tomorrow when we’re headed to the Aeolian Islands from Calabria!


If They’re Pleasures, They’re Never Guilty

happy day by kool skatkat

happy day by kool skatkat on Flickr

I read a great post at A Child of the Universe (now defunct) that I’d like to share. Dana wrote about an interview by designer Sohiny Das of New Delhi.

One question presented in the interview was:

Guilty pleasure?

Her answer:

No guilt in pleasures.

Tell me you don’t love that.

Why shouldn’t we accept, appreciate, and embrace every single thing that gives us pleasure?

Or as Dana so eloquently wrote, “There is absolutely no reason to feel guilt for things that make us happy or give us pleasure, with the caveat of course, that we receive pleasure from something that doesn’t hurt anyone else. Other than that, the sky’s the limit I think.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been surrounded by quite a bit of stress lately. Nothing horrible, but enough that my mind wanders from issue to issue even as I’m dozing off at night. So I think it’s time to remind myself of some not-so-guilty pleasures that really, truly make me happy in order to combat some of the negative energy I’m feeling around me.

And just in case you’re in the same frame of mind, I thought I’d share some of my pleasures to get you thinking about yours. A lot of my pleasures revolve around doing not much of anything at all, which may be just what I need to clear my head:

  • Sleeping in with P on a rainy weekend morning–when even the doggies don’t stir before we get up.
  • Lounging around in pajamas as I lazily make coffee and ease into the day.
  • Yoga on the balcony in the morning sunshine.
  • A morning in giro by myself, enjoying a cappuccino and a ciambella in my favorite bar with new magazines from the news stand to keep me company.
  • Long walks with the doggies into the mountains, watching them race each other, play, and chase anything that moves.
  • Sunday afternoons on the couch, under a blankie, with a mug of steaming tea and a stack of English-language magazines and/or a great book.
  • Marathons of any number of American series like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, The Gilmore Girls.
  • Afternoons with P in the garden.
  • An entire morning reading my favorite blogs.
  • Treating myself to a fabulous bouquet of flowers, whether hand-picked or purchased.
  • A long bubble bath by candlelight followed by putting on clean, fleecy clothes (only in the colder months, of course).

What are your (not-so-guilty) pleasures?


Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Recipes

 

Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake