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Umbria, Italy

Italy 2021

May 9-19, 2021


Join us in Italy

Into the Mystic: Astrology and Meditation Retreat in Umbria, Italy May 14-24, 2020 with Jill Loftis and Elizabeth Kolendrianos

Join Jill Loftis and Elizabeth Kolendrianos for an indulgent retreat in the ancient mountain village of Monte Castello, Italy. Our home base will the International Center for the Arts.

Our journey together will include delicious food and wines (vegetarian and vegan options available), mystical experiences in the Umbrian countryside, as well as daily yoga, meditation and teachings on astrology. All sessions are optional, you can participate as much or as little as you desire to create your personal retreat experience. Explorations include visits to Assisi, Lake Trasimeno, Montefalco, the spectacular Sibillini Mountains and MORE.

Attendance at meditations, yoga classes and astrology lectures are all optional; there will be plenty of time for reading, rest and relaxation.

Each participant will have a personal astrology reading with Jill, in addition to informal teaching sessions and discussions. No yoga or astrology experience required, everyone is welcome!

All itinerary items listed below are included in the price except those noted otherwise.

Depart U.S. May 13, arrive May 14

Total cost: € 2650.00 early registration (by March 1); after € 2850.00


  • Airport transfer
  • Double occupancy accommodation at ICA
  • Accommodations and amenities for the group, 3 meals per day (except as noted below)
  • Ground transport and guide for itinerary
  • Activities described in the itinerary
  • Off campus meals as specified

Accommodations: Single occupancy rooms equipped with a vanity and a sink with a shared bathroom that serves 2-3 rooms. All have excellent views. Double occupancy available at a slightly reduced rate (inquire) with two doubles sharing one bathroom.

Not included in base cost:

  • International Airfare for participants
  • Travel Insurance with Emergency Evacuation coverage (required)
  • Health Insurance (required)
  • Meals on excursions unless specified; snacks and beverages at stopovers in transit


Contact Jill Loftis for information on registering.


Day 1 - Travel and Orientation

Pick up by private bus at Rome (FCO) airport. Drive to Monte Castello/ arrive for late lunch.

Orientation – meet the group!

4:00 to 5:30 pm Yoga and relaxation for the post-travel body.

6:00pm Wine tasting, mingling and a beautiful view on the patio.

8:00pm Dinner and informal gathering. Lights out, get ready for our first day together!

Day 2 - Monte Castello

Breakfast 830AM.

After breakfast, we will enjoy an introduction to the Umbrian kitchen by our chef, Katia Costanzi. Katia will introduce us to the produce, artisanal products, foraged treasures of the surrounding woodlands, from which she makes our meals in Monte Castello.

Afterward, we will meet our friend Andrea Barcarotti, whose occupation is to seek out the rich treasures of the Umbrian woodlands. Andrea will introduce us to the bounty and diversity of truffles and mushrooms found in the forests that surround Monte Castello. We will follow his dogs Zara and Sasha into the forest and see just how it’s done. It is truly amazing to these incredible dogs scurrying through the forest and field fringes, discovering fresh and aromatic truffles.

Lunch 1pm.

After lunch, option to rest or wander in the village; astrology readings with Jill.

4 to 5pm Yoga. 530 to 7pm Discussion on Yoga/Mysticism and St. Francis of Assisi in preparation for our adventure tomorrow. Dinner 8pm. Prepare a day bag for tomorrow’s adventure before lights out!

Day 3 - Travel to Assisi and Lake Trasimeno

Possible Sunrise Meditation depending on departure time

Our first stop will be a Franciscan monastery in the hamlet of Spineta, above Monte Castello on a neighboring hilltop – here we will have some spectacular views of Monte Castello. At the monastery, the brothers will describe their unique lifestyle and their devotion to S. Francis and his teachings. It is a glimpse into the ancient connections between wine and community here in Umbria.

Afterward, we will move on through the hills and explore the vineyards around the beautiful hamlets of San Venanzo, Rotecastello, and Marsciano. In San Venanzo, we will make a very special visit to the Conti Faina Vineyard ( and explore their ancient cellars.

As we descend into the valley toward Torgiano, we will visit the village of Deruta, famous for its intricately painted ceramics. Here we will have a snack (not included in the trip cost) at one of the wonderful local bakeries, serving sandwiches and pizza, as well and wonderful baked goods and homemade gelato. Afterwards, we’ll learn about the painted ceramics for which Deruta is famous around the world! We will meet our friends at the Maioliche Nulli ceramics studio – one of the most renowned in Italy – here, master potter, Arnaldo Nulli will demonstrate his pottery technique. Our guests to can try their hand at the potter’s wheel, under the patient tutelage of the master.

From Torgiano, we will move north to the spectacular town of Assisi. This spiritual center is famous as the home of S. Francis and S. Claire and they are remembered in the churches of S. Francesco and Santa Chiara. The view approaching Assisi is unforgettable, with the enormous church of San Francesco perched on the side of the mountain. Later, visiting the church of Santa Chiara, we will see some of the most beautiful stonework in Italy.

After seeing the town, we will continue our ascent up the mountain to the Eremo della Carceri, the hermitage of S. Francis. Here one can truly feel a spiritual presence, strolling among the ancient Ilex oaks, in a forest considered sacred by the Romans. Passing through the monastery in silence, and finding the simple cave in which he slept, one can feel the presence of the saint who renounced worldly possessions and chose solitude here in nature.

After we leave Assisi, we will pass along the shores of Lake Trasimeno and some of the charming villages along the beautiful lake. While we are here, it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to sample some of the local fish. With this in mind, we’ll stop at a great local fish restaurant, Ristorante Da Faliero ( ) on the lakeshore and enjoy a great meal before heading for home. The fixed menu, five course dinner, local wine, and choice of sparkling or still water are included. A vegetarian or vegan option is available and is also included. Other menu item options as well as wine upgrades are available for an additional fee.

Day 4 - Monte Castello

A very relaxing day after yesterday’s full day full.

Breakfast 8:30 AM

10:00 am Discussion/journaling questions on our experience at Assisi; Guided Meditation.

Lunch 1:00

Optional tarot meet-up and readings with Jill in the afternoon; rest and free time.

4:00 to 5:00 pm Yoga

5:30-7:00 pm Astrology and the Current cycles; chat about tomorrow’s adventure!

Dinner 8:00

Get some rest, tomorrow we adventure!

Day 5 - Sibillini Mountains

Possible Sunrise Meditation depending on departure time

We will leave immediately after breakfast on our trek to the spectacular Sibillini Mountains. Our path itself follows the routes familiar to the ancient Umbra people and then later by the Romans. We’ll explore a spectacular landscape that includes abandoned castles, ancient hamlets, and extraordinary vineyards. Passing through the rolling mountains on our route, we pass through ancient villages such as Gualdo Cattaneo, Bevagna, Montefalco, Giano dell’Umbria, Castel Ritaldi, Bettona, Cannara. On our return, the sight of the vineyards and olive groves cloaking these rolling hills – on the opposite side of the mountain range- in the late afternoon light is unforgettable! In this landscape you can truly see Umbria as the “green heart of Italy.” Here you find arguably the most Umbrian of Umbrian landscapes.

The full-day tour today takes us on a broad overview of the area and we will see a number of spectacular sites. We will pass by the famous mineral water sources of Sangemini and Aquasparta. At the base of the mountains, we will see one of these springs, well known to the ancients: Fonti del Clitunno. Through the majestic limestone cliffs around the valley, rainwater filters down through the earth and pulses to the surface in these crystal-clear springs. As one writer describes: some of these underwater “craters…seem to give access to the earth center.” Ancient writer, Pliny the Younger wrote of: “many and different veins” that “give life to a pond so pure and crystalline that you could count the coins thrown into it or the stones glistening at its bottom.” We’ll pause only briefly at the beautiful spring, but long enough to sample its water (the Romans believed would make one a good orator) and to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino on its banks.

Along the way, we will also see one of the most truly impressive sights in Umbria, the Ponte delle Torri, outside of Spoleto. The 230-meter-long and 90-meter-high medieval bridge has an obscure history – as Domenico Pacieri writes, “If you ask the story how, by whom and when it was erected, the story remains silent.”

From here we will continue along the valley to the extraordinary town of Norcia. Renowned since the middle ages, the village was a center for surgeons, and also for butchers. Its cured meats are among the most famous in Italy, and as we stroll through the city we will tour the various shops and sample their delicacies – and bring along some samples for a great, picnic lunch in the mountains! As we leave Norcia we will continue to ascend into the mountains to the ridge, from which we have amazing views. Crossing over, we enter the Piano Grande (great plane) of the Sibillini Mountains. The great plane itself is a large plateau that boasts one of the most spectacular displays of wildflowers in the world in June and July. Ascending on the other side of the basin, we arrive at a spectacular high point, from which – on a clear day – it is possible to see both eastern and western shores of Italy! Around you, in the distances, you see a place with a remarkable and mythic history- you’ll see in the distance, the Cave of the Sybil, and Pilates Lake (believed to turn blood-red at certain times) – the valleys in the distance were home in the middle ages to magicians and necromancers. We’ll pause at this mystical and beautiful place and enjoy a picnic lunch of cured meats and cheeses from Norcia as well as some of the other local produce – including renowned truffles and mushrooms – all accompanied by the wines of the vineyards we will visit on our return home. The picnic lunch is included will offer vegetarian and vegan options.

After lunch, we will return to Montefalco – about an hour away. As we see the town in the hills above us, we’ll tour vineyards producing the Sagrantino grape. Perhaps our most unique stop will be the Cantina Fongoli: owned by the same family for generations, it is one of the most atmospheric – and oldest – cantinas in the region. We will talk with the oldest member of the family and experience the breadth of his knowledge and his connection to the wines the family produces, as well as his perspectives on the challenges of bringing an artisanal product, with a familial heritage, into the contemporary market.

We’ll be back home to Monte Castello in time for dinner, and reflection on a remarkable day.

Day 6 - Monte Castello

Breakfast 8:30 AM

10:00 am Guided Meditation; astrology readings.

Optional walk into the village/grounds.

Lunch 1:00

Rest time or astrology readings with Jill

4:00 to 5:00 pm Yoga

4:30-6:30 Astrology teaching/discussion.

Dinner 8:00

Pack your day bag with swimsuit, towel and water sandals for the Hot Springs tomorrow!

Day 7 - Orvieto and the Hot Springs of Tuscany

Possible Sunrise Meditation depending on departure time

After breakfast we will depart for Orvieto. En Route, we will stop briefly for one of the most beautiful views of Monte Castello from the vantage point of the Bocca della Strega. The “mouth of the witch” is so called because the “v-shaped” valley produces a moaning sound when the wind blows through just right. Regardless of whether the witch “speaks to us” or not, it is a spectacular view of our village, with the garden in the foreground and Cypress trees climbing the mountain – you’ll certainly want to take a photo of the iconic view! From here we will travel around the mountain to the hamlet of Doglio. Here, we will pause briefly to stroll around the picturesque village and have a cappuccino before heading off on our way. As we continue, we will wind out way up to the ridge, passing through picturesque woodlands, rich in the truffles for which Umbria is famous. Soon we reach the top of the ridge and the plateau. Here amazing views await us at every turn, until we reach the castle hamlet of Titignano. This is arguably the best view of the Tiber River as it swells to become Lake Corbara. We will have lunch in the castle and while there, sample their excellent wines. The fixed menu, five course lunch, local wine, and choice of sparkling or still water are included. A vegetarian or vegan option is available and is also included. Other menu item options as well as wine upgrades are available for an additional fee.

Approaching the city, one is immediately struck by its remarkable location. Perched on a plateau atop a column of soft, volcanic rock called, tuffo, the sheer cliffs reveal caves and holes which are the sources of illumination for an ancient underground city, well below the city of the middle ages we see today. Upon arrival in Orvieto, we will begin our tour with a descent into St. Patrick’s Well, a masterpiece of Renaissance engineering and carved from the living rock beneath the city, it is composed of a double helical stairway, in which those going up and those going down, never meet. It is an extraordinary place!

Afterward, we will walk together to the Duomo (Cathedral) of Orvieto. Here we will have a brief lecture explaining the significance of this remarkable example of Italian Gothic architecture. People will have a chance to wander around the exterior and through the inside of the church and perhaps visit the famous frescos of Luca Signorelli. Afterward, we will meet at an enoteca, just off the main square for a winetasting. A sampling of four to five wines will be provided free of charge in the tasting.

From here we will continue our westward journey to the Cascate del Mulino. One of the most beautiful hot springs in Italy. Don’t forget your swimsuit, towel and sturdy sandals such as Teva’s – the beautiful formations are not difficult to scale but can be slippery and uncomfortable in bare feet. Here we will pause, relax and enjoy the wonderful waters. Afterward, we will return to Monte Castello for dinner.

Day 8 - Monte Castello

Breakfast 8:30 AM

10:00 am Meditation and readings with Jill

Lunch 1:00

4:00 to 5:00 pm Yoga

5:30 to 7:30 pm Final Astrology Lecture/Transits and the Astrology of 2020

Dinner 8:00

Day 9

Possible Sunrise Meditation depending on departure time

After breakfast, we will depart for the village of Bomarzo, to see the famous: Sacro Bosco (Sacred Wood), the home of Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) just below the village of Bomarzo. Designed and built by Pier Francesco Orsini in the sixteenth century as a means of coping with his grief over the loss of his wife, the enormous mannerist sculptures of fantastical beasts that inhabit the park are carved from the living rock of the hillside.

Afterwards, we will continue south for a tour of the fantastic water gardens at Tivoli ( ). The sixteenth century garden, and a UNESCO World Heritage Culture Site, is a true marvel of engineering. Its magnificent sixteenth-century fountains are completely powered by gravity! We will enjoy a great lunch at Tivoli, and the fixed menu, five course lunch, local wine, and choice of sparkling or still water are included. A vegetarian or vegan option is available and is also included. Other menu item options as well as wine upgrades are available for an additional fee.

Afterwards, we will begin our trip home, stopping at Marmore Falls ( ). This, the tallest waterfall in Europe, was actually made by the Romans, around 250 BC as means of draining the nearby swampland. It is one of the great natural sites of Italy, and was called by the poet, Lord Byron: “the most beautiful waterfall in Europe”. Today, the falls are used to produce hydroelectric power and the water is diverted for certain periods during the day – being at the site to see the enormous volume of water begin tumbling down the mountainside is an unforgettable experience. Be sure to bring a raincoat. During the hour and a half visit, we suggest walking up to observation platform: “Lovers Balcony” to see the unique, circular rainbow.

Day 10 - Monte Castello

Our final day together!

Breakfast 8:30 AM

10:00 am Meditation and reflection upon the journey. Last visit to the village

Lunch 1:00

2:30 to 5:00 pm Optional tarot/astrology with Jill

5:00 to 6:30 pm Extended yoga class; evening open for packing and relaxation.

Farewell Dinner 8:00

Day 11 - Departures
Morning departures for Rome; Arrivederci Monte Castello, until our next visit, Ciao!