Stay serene, live green, do you: Serenità Wellness hosts its first all-women, eco-friendly retreat in the Italian hills

Olivia Radocchia is leading her first all women’s wellness retreat in Umbria, Italy this July. Her brand is called Serenità [se-re-ni-tà] Wellness and she’s been inspired to unite all people who identify as women since her most recent trip to Italy in the summer of 2017.

Empowered by the Italian culture and Europe’s tradition of setting aside time each day for wellness, Olivia is excited to encourage women from all communities to step outside of their busy lives, if they are able, and just be. The focus of the Serenità Wellness retreat will be to care for the self, experience total relaxation and connect with like-minded people.

Of course, there too will be fantastic food, cultivated by Olivia and enticed by her upbringing in an Italian-Canadian family.

I first met Olivia in grade nine and we bonded over both having curly hair that took hours to straighten. We connected instantly because of our similar upbringing, family traditions and a love of creating. Today, it’s a pleasure to share Olivia’s story as an entrepreneur and wellness expert.

Read our full interview with Olivia, now, and learn more about how to secure your spot in Serenità Wellness’ 2018 getaway:

  1. Why an all women’s wellness retreat?

I’m surrounded by women in my life – my mother, sister, aunts, grandmothers, coworkers and friends – and I am always in awe of how much energy and love women give to their families and their other responsibilities. I decided to plan an all women’s wellness retreat to create a space for women to take a step back and, for one week, put that energy and love into their own self-care. Being able to focus on your own needs, relaxation and growth, fills your proverbial cup. It’s our responsibility to take the time to feed our souls so that we feel abundantly more calm, happy and full of positive energy; that way, positivity will overflow into our relationships with those we care about, including into our passions and careers.

Not taking time for self-care can lead to burnout and a significant increase in stress. Although it’s easy to find excuses like, “I’m too busy,” sometimes self-care can be as simple as 10-minutes of quiet time with a book and a tea.

The other reason I decided to plan this retreat for women is so guests can cultivate new friendship and bonds. Through experiences in my own life, I have found that women are in competition with each other, be it aesthetically or socially. My vision is to create a judgement-free and accepting space where women can come together – friends, family or strangers – and fully commit to personal growth, while learning and enjoying the company of one another.

  1. When and where did you attend your first retreat as a guest? What was your experience like?

I attended my very first retreat three years ago through the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. It was a short, silent retreat that allowed me to leave technology and distractions aside to better focus on my own experience. It definitely wasn’t easy to sit in meditation for long periods of time and to stay silent (I love to talk!), but it showed me the importance of taking time for myself and cultivating skills like meditation. I loved the feeling I got being surrounded by like-minded individuals, sharing a similar experience. Attending that first retreat definitely fueled my passion for wellbeing.

  1. What do you hope attendees of your upcoming retreat will learn?

First and foremost, I would love for my guests to be able to learn the importance of self-care. Beyond that, I would love for guests to come away with a habit of journaling, a practice of gratefulness, a better understanding of who they are as individuals and even some of my favourite recipes from the Italian kitchen.

  1. With multiple opportunities to recharge and rejuvenate, why else should our readers look into signing up for Serenità Wellness’ next adventure?

The Serenità Wellness retreat offers much more than the opportunity to cultivate self-care and wellbeing! Included in the price of the retreat are many wonderful experiences, such as enjoying a Swedish massage, Reiki energy healing, horseback riding, yoga, organic soap making and other workshops.

Visiting Italy for a wellness retreat also presents guests with a wonderful opportunity to travel, cultivating adventure! I chose Italy as the destination for this retreat not just for the idyllic countryside setting, but for the culture and ambiance.

Italians, as a rule, value relaxation, joy and passion. At the retreat centre, guests are able to experience what it’s like to be a part of the Italian community and infuse these aforementioned values into everyday life.

Attendees will have the opportunity to cook organic meals with the Nonna (grandmother) in the kitchen, help feed local animals and learn gardening tips from nearby professionals.

We will also be taking a day trip in to the beautiful medieval town of Perugia, where guests can immerse themselves in café hopping, people watching and strolling through cobblestone streets.

The Serenità Wellness retreat encourages guests to create their ideal experience by participating in as many or as few of the organized activities as they would like. After all, we should all take a little time to live by the famous Italian saying, ‘La dolce far niente,” which means, “The sweetness of doing nothing.”

Photo courtesy of: Olivia Radocchia.
  1. Why the word Serenità? What significance does its meaning carry with you?

Serenità is the Italian word for serenity, meaning the state or quality of being serene, calm or tranquil. These are the very feelings that retreat guests will experience during their stay. I chose the Italian translation of the word, not only to symbolize the important role the Italian culture plays in the experience of the retreat itself, but because the Italian language is very close to my heart and a part of my family.

  1. Tell us about the retreat venue. Why did you feel compelled to choose this place?

I stumbled upon the venue, Tribewanted Monestevole, while perusing an Italian website of eco-friendly bed and breakfasts. I was browsing for a place to stay on my next trip to Italy, but after finding this venue, I just knew I had to plan a retreat there.

Tribewanted, the company behind the venue, originated in 2006 in Fiji. They created a self-sustainable community and later branched out to build similar communities in Sierra Leone, Bali, Papau New Guinea and now, Italy. The company works with local communities to host travellers, members, students and families, while also investing much of their revenue into local projects, supporting their communities.

The venue itself was originally built in the 15th century as a watch-tower for the nearby Monestevole castle. Renovated throughout the years, this castle is now a beautiful stone building with a gorgeous, luxuriously rustic interior. It sits on over 100-acres of rolling hills, forest and olive groves.

Monestevole is proudly self-sustainable and utilizes renewable energy, biomass for heating, water and waste recycling, gray and black water treatment, compost, permaculture and green architecture. They also believe in responsible travel and encourage every guest to plant a tree on their grounds during their stay!

This venue is perfectly aligned with my values of supporting the environment, growing and eating organic food and minimizing our carbon footprint. Along with self-sustainability as a priority, this venue is in a gorgeous historical building in a dream-like setting, nestled in the Italian hills. I couldn’t think of anything better!

  1. What inspired you to pursue a career in wellness and retreat curating?

Beginning in high school, I very much enjoyed wellness related activities, although I wouldn’t have used these words at the time. I spent a lot of time camping, reading food-for-the-soul types of books and taking quality time for myself. I studied psychology in university and was lucky enough to have a wonderful professor who taught me about Positive Psychology – the scientific study of what makes life worth living.

I recently completed my masters of psychology and have been working with adults and children, conducting psychological assessments.

However, my goal has always remained: Work with individuals in a clinical setting through therapy, as well as in a more creative and entrepreneurial manner. Before September 2017, I had no idea my passion would take shape in retreat curating, but after finding Tribewanted Monestevole online, it felt like a natural step in the right direction.

  1. What do you think intimidates potential customers when they consider whether or not to sign up?  And, what does Serenità Wellness do to support their customers from day one?

I think for many, it can seem daunting to take the step to travel to Europe for a retreat, especially if someone is not a frequent traveller. I would definitely encourage all readers to look at it as the first step in an exciting new adventure! I also let all potential customers know that I can assist them in finding the best flight and train rides, ensuring an on-time, and easy, arrival.

Understanding that budget may also be a concern for customers, I am offering a $150 discount to people who sign up with a friend. This strategy lessens the stress of travelling solo! While some customers may not be able to find a family member or friend to bring with them, I would assure all clients that the Serenità Wellness retreat is an ideal place to travel to on your own, as well. We will cultivate wonderful new friendships during our stay.

  1. Describe the work that goes into making something like this happen.

Lots of communication! From day one, I’ve been connecting with the wonderful event planner at the retreat centre, finalizing dates, activities, accommodations and food. While planning takes a lot of work, it has been the marketing and “spreading the word” that has been the most salient aspect. From distributing fliers, to networking, to social media marketing and word of mouth, planning the Serenità Wellness has definitely become a second job!

  1. What has been your biggest challenge when planning this summer’s retreat? How are you working to conquer this hurdle?

I believe my biggest challenge thus far has been developing an effective marketing strategy, as this is not an area I am experienced in. It’s been a wonderful learning experience, to say the least, and I’ve been supported by many friends and others who have run retreats in the past. The most important thing I’ve done to conquer this hurdle has been simply asking for help. It’s common to feel as if we should have all the answers, or walk our journeys on or own, but while planning this retreat, I’ve learned that it takes courage to ask for help, and more often than not, others are happy to share tips and advice.

Photo courtesy of: Olivia Radocchia.
  1. What plans are in place to ensure Serenità Wellness encourages everyone who identifies as a woman to register for the retreat?  

On the Serenità Wellness website, I’ve kept my definition of “woman” open and neutral. I welcome anyone who identifies as a woman to register.

  1. With one retreat in the works so far, what do you hope Serenità Wellness will look like in a year from now?

I am already getting excited about what next year will look like for Serenità Wellness! In 2019, I am hoping to run two to three retreats, one being for women and the others being co-ed. I definitely want to create an opportunity for everyone to get back to basics and experience the beauty and tranquility of the Italian countryside! I am also planning to run one of the retreats in the early fall, when Monestevole will be cultivating grapes and olives to make wine and olive oil! I think it would be wonderful for our group to participate in the process of making said healthy, organic products. I am also planning to host year-round wellness workshops and offer Reiki energy healing.

  1. What advice would you have for someone on a similar career path, looking to launch their next wellness adventure?

Just go for it! I’ve found that sitting on great ideas for too long, or overthinking the process, tends to stop the idea from actually taking off. It’s important to really believe that whatever you’re planning is going to transpire beautifully and that you have all the necessary skills to make it happen!

Sometimes, we can get so bogged down with our own negative self-talk, and all the reasons why our ideas won’t work. But, I’ve also learned that it’s crucial to surround ourselves with people who are on a similar path. Being around like-minded people motivates and inspires us. It too builds relationships, ultimately strengthening networks!

  1. When you’re not working with Serenità Wellness, what other projects are you involved in?

I’m a pretty busy gal! I have two day jobs working in psychological clinics; one in which I conduct psychoeducational assessments with children in the school board and the other in which I conduct psychological insurance examinations for adults. I have also recently begun to run a mindfulness program for children on weekends using the amazing MindUp curriculum, produced by the Hawn Foundation. It is such a joy to see young kids experimenting with mindfulness and learning about how their minds work! I also volunteer at Caritas, which is a therapeutic community for addiction recovery. Here, I spend time at a beautiful farm in King City, Ont. teaching mosaic art workshops to residents and hanging out with all their awesome farm animals – like llamas!

  1. Who makes up the Serenità Wellness team?

While running Serenità Wellness has been a mainly sole venture thus far, I do consider the individuals who work at Monestevole, the retreat centre, to be an integral part of the team. Adrienne Levonian is the lovely young lady who lives at the venue and is their main coordinator. Not only has she been integral in helping me organize all the fine planning details, but she will also be teaching yoga classes and will be our in-house masseuse during the retreat!

There are others, such as the chefs, gardeners and horse trainers, who will be integral in facilitating certain experiences for our guests. They will lead cooking classes, sustainability workshops and horseback riding!

Photo courtesy of: Olivia Radocchia.

We’re dreaming of horseback riding, fresh olive oil and well-needed time for the soul. Like Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat, Pray, Love and Drake have taught us, you only live once. Register for the Serenità Wellness retreat now at serenitawellness.net/register.

To learn more about Olivia’s planning journey and her commitment to mental and physical wellbeing, follow her on Instagram at @oliviarad. To contact Olivia directly, send her an email at info@serenitawellness.net.

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