Retreat on Your Feet

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“Every day I walk out into the world
To be dazzled, then to be reflective.”
~ Mary Oliver, from Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond)

Join us in September 2019, on a 10-day pilgrimage of experiential creativity in nature. From Lucca to Siena, we will explore the vast Tuscan countryside… while tapping into our interior resources & landscapes.

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A pilgrimage is about finding your voice in the world…and listening closely to the inner muse that guides you out of the essence of your being. You want a taste of it. You’re ready for the walk. But you don’t want to leave your creative juices behind, because your heart has longings as potent as your legs. Why not pack them in along with your hat, socks and hikers? I invite you to discover the beauty of your own story and the gifts of your creative spirit, amidst the gorgeous Tuscan landscape. Please join me on a journey, of adventure and playfulness, freedom and free expression!

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Over the course of 10 days, we will take regular breaks; not only to give our legs relief, but to explore what arises while we walk. There will be writing exercises (free-writing or with prompts), poetry-scribing, art-making (using materials carried and plucked – gently – from nature); opportunities to stretch our calves and bodies – in dance and meditation – to ease any tightness and discomfort. You will stretch yourself in all directions; physically, spiritually, emotionally, and creatively!

Feeling called to stretch your body and soul at the same time?

Our goal is to seek respite from our daily walks – whether we meander in nature or stroll through urban landscapes – by flexing our creative muscles and translating the experience of contemplative walking and sightseeing into a daily expressive practice. We will seek to honour the heart-space that you inhabit each day – whether you seek to rest in a cocoon of quiet and subdued hues, or yearn to express yourself with unbridled joy and the energy of colour-bursts.

Each day, you will set off on a wholly new creative adventure, because we will be in a new location – with that day’s backdrop (and your pain level!) as your inspiration: NOT your typical ‘mobile’ studio!

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A Rare Opportunity

When we walk, far and slow, we are presented with an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Imagine the possibility of leaning into transformation, using the simplest of tools: your legs; for it is rare that a journey on foot doesn’t result in deeper understanding, revelation, gratitude, or acceptance.

Join Retreat On Your Feet, for this unique journey in Tuscany, when two ancient forms will merge: walking and the creative process. By virtue of our shared expressive experiences – whether in writing, meditative movement, joyful dance, visualization and art process – we will forge a new path for pilgrims. Imagine being part of a shared travel experience, a community of wandering creatives!

We will enjoy regular gatherings throughout the days, convene for communal dinners, and experience the awe of magnificent landscapes in Italy.

September 10th through September 19th, 2019

September is the ideal time for walking in Tuscany, along the via Francigena; the weather co-operates, the crowds are less numerous and the vineyards are plentiful!

The route from Lucca to Siena mirrors the joyful and unpredictable undulations of life; the path weaves between the greys of concrete jungle and industrial clutter, to the serenity and solace of rolling hills, blue skies, bell towers, forts and pastoral landscapes.

The Itinerary: Lucca to Siena

Day 1 (September 10th) – Arrive in Lucca

We will gather in the evening for a pre-pilgrimage dinner. We’ll aim for an early night, so we get plenty of rest before setting out the following morning! Details to follow.

Day 2 (September 11th) – Lucca to Altopascio

As we meander today, between industrial landscapes and country roads, we will be see churches and bell towers; a cemetery and an abbey under archaeological study. Along the way, we will stop periodically; to stretch our bodies; to write and read; and to record, in colour, our initial reflections. By day’s end, we will reach our “resting place” (ad Teupascio, the original name of Altopascio), where we’ll seek out a stamp that reproduces the medieval pilgrim’s “pistacchia” (metal pass)! Hopefully, we will all get a good night’s rest.

Day 3 (September 12th) – Altopascio to Fucecchio (Ponte a Cappiano)

Today, the Via Francigena heads into the woods. You will pass through the medieval hamlets of Casa Greppi and Galleni, before stepping into the Bosco delle Cerbaie… where you might spot a herd of horses. We will stop in a shaded space of field along the way, where we will listen closely to the sounds of nature, read, write and conjure creative pieces out of the day’s sights and scents. We will wrap up in Fucecchio (or nearby Ponte a Cappiano), where we will marvel at the Medici Bridge… and dine before bed.

Day 4 (September 13th) – Fucecchio to San Miniato

Fucecchio is home to Italy’s largest inland marsh; a paradise for birdwatchers and plant-lovers. Today’s walk will lead you by a fortress, a view over the Valdarno and into San Pierino – where we will rest and recharge… over haiku, art and wine. The steep ascent towards San Miniato will be your stimulus for a writing practice, focusing on altitude, challenge and aspiration. We’ll eat, sleep and dream (in technicolor, I hope!)

Day 5 (September 14th) – San Miniato to Gambassi di Terme

With only 6 hours scheduled for today’s walk, we will begin the day with a walkabout in San Miniato; you may feel inspired to take notes and record impressions. A ridge walk leading out of town, will be followed by a stop in Calenzano for the day’s digestibles. At Coiano, we will gather by the fountain for stretches, gentle movement and writing. We will wander through olive groves, wheat fields, and vineyards – until we reach the thermal baths of Gambassi di Terme. After a rest and warm soak, we will dip into some art-making, while reflecting upon our spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Day 6 (September 15th) – Gambassi di Terme to San Gimignano

On this breathtakingly picturesque section, you will delight in the lush landscape of trees, churches and forts. We will rest at the Santuario di Pancole, where legend says the Madonna appeared to a mute shepherdess, healing her condition. We will reflect upon, and write about, our own (definition of) miracles. Arriving at San Gimignano, we will gather inside Rocca di Montestaffoli (fort), for a reflection and creative experience centered on walls; both natural and manmade.

Day 7 (September 16th) – San Gimignano to Colle val d’Elsa

Today’s portion of the Via Francigena takes you through woodland, wheat fields and olive groves… picturesque Tuscany at its best! Our route will diverge off the main – and much more demanding – path, just past Molino di Azano. In the hamlet of Prodeggia, you will delve into a writing practice, reflecting on the life path you have forged, and continue to envision, for yourself; with all its diversions and detours. At Colle val d’Elsa, we will seek out the legendary glassworks; after which you will have the opportunity to create a transparency-themed piece of art.

Day 8 (September 17th) – Colle val d’Elsa to Monteriggioni

On this, your second to last day on the Via Francigena, we will walk in silence. Whenever we voluntarily step into solitude, our experiences are markedly different than when conversation fills our ears – and interior landscapes. As you walk through Scarna, Strove, and Abbadia a Isola, you will find yourself paying closer attention to colours, sounds, scents… even changing cloud patterns! The towered walls of Monteriggioni – described by Dante in the Inferno – will welcome us to our last night on the VF. Here, you will have time to process the day in words (written and/or spoken).

Day 9 (September 18th) – Monteriggioni to Siena

En route to Siena, we will again find ourselves meandering between woods and rural roads to asphalt. Towers, castles, hamlets and ridges of olive trees will guide us to the Chioccola castle, and the Strada della Chioccola, where we will gather around a 200-year old oak. Here, we will move our bodies in the shadow of an ancient tree, write, draw and express gratitude for nature’s timeless welcome and embrace. In the evening, marking the end of this momentous journey, we will have a special celebratory dinner in the Piazza del Campo – Siena’s equivalent to Santiago’s Plaza do Obradoiro.

Day 10 (September 19th) – Departure from Siena

After this experimental week of walking + creative process, you might need a long rest (or to catch a flight home)! But if you’d like to continue on with me, until Rome – or only part of the way, please let me know. I’ll be happy to discuss options and ‘onward’ fees.

10-Day Creative Walking Experience: 850 Euro.

For this trial run, discounted to only 180 Euro.

*100 Euro to be paid upfront, in Lucca; with the balance owing on arrival in Siena.

>Included: All creative explorations and activities. Writing and/or art materials. List of possible accommodations en route. List of backpack transport companies (highly recommended to walk hands-free!). Suggested packing list.

>Excluded: Airfare. Accommodations. Tips & gratuities. Insurance (recommended). Food. Transport. (We will walk – loosely – as a group, so nobody will be left behind!)

Retreat On Your Feet reserves the right to make qualitative changes to the offerings en route; depending on factors such as: weather, availability of space… and fatigue of participants!

It would be a JOY to share this distinctive experience of walking + creativity with you. Please take a moment to browse previous creative expression sessions and workshops: Heartshops. Then, if your heart feels tugged in the direction of this sui generis, creativity-infused pilgrimage, please contact me asap to reserve your spot!

HIGH NOTES:

  • Be sure to obtain a ‘credenziali’ (pilgrim passport) before you leave home (or at your point of arrival), so that you can request a Testimonium (papal certificate) in Rome! You’ll also benefit from reduced rates at numerous pilgrim accommodations along the way.
  • I will supply some materials, but here are some lightweight items to pack:
    • Pencil, pen, Sharpie, a few choice coloured pencils.
    • Sketchbook and/or notebook, to take notes and record ideas.

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YOUR PILGRIM GUIDE

A lawyer by training, Amit Janco is a writer, artist, and practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, Narrative Therapy and Reiki (Level II). With a wide and eclectic background, in fine and graphic arts, energy healing, yoga and therapy, Amit offers an unorthodox approach to her individual and group HEARTshopswhich she has facilitated in Canada, Nepal, Cambodia, and Bali. What might begin with a stroll along the beach or in a forest, might expand into a multi-dimensional practice incorporating the arts, music, movement, writing, visualization, essential oils and energy healing. Amit’s passion for long-distance, mindful walking, resurfaced as a result of a devastating and near-fatal accident; during a prolonged period of physical recovery and rehabilitation, she rediscovered the healing powers of art, walking, stillness and nature.

In 2013, Amit walked nearly 1000 kms along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. Her newly released memoir, (Un)Bound, Together: A Journey to the End of the Earth (and Beyond),  weaves together the disparate threads of physical impairment, emotional acrobatics and a search for spiritual grounding on the Camino.

Amit will guide you in accessing your creative flow, with an open heart and mindful soul.

Web: amitjanco.com

Blog: healingpilgrim.com

Insta & Twitter: @amitjanco

Facebook: Amit Janco

For registration and information, please contact: retreatonyourfeet (at) gmail (dot) com

 

 

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