How should I begin…It took me a few days to figure out what to write and how to write about my experience, because this retreat gave me a very emotional and powerful experience. We live in a world where things happen too fast, and it has became an effort and a luxury to just make time for oneself to relax, or doing nothing. My whole purpose of doing this solo retreat in Italy, is to come all the way here, stay at this magical place Eremito. Eremito is Italian, in English it means hermit. So I was here, in the photo below, in the middle of nowhere. That is where Eremito is.

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In the middle of Umbria, Italy, the land of medieval and spiritual part of Italy, Eremito is not easy to get to. Well comparing to other cities in Italy like Rome or Milan, in order to get to Eremito it takes some effort and time. But when I first found out about Eremito while browsing through the Design Hotels website, out of curiosity I knew I have to go one day. So I made up my mind, packed my things and went there for 3 days. Eremito is not a place for romance or honeymoon. It is a place where you go and have a detox, a retreat.

I did not know what to expect before I go, because simply by looking at the photos, it looked very stylish and cool, and it is definitely not an average place for travellers. I only knew I wanted a moment of peace and quietness, and I knew it was going to be very very quiet in this place. Imagine, in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of Italy, surrounded by nothing but the preserved primitive forests.

 

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Eremito Hotelito del Alam was opened in 2013 by Marcello Murzilli. It took Marcello 4 years to build this place, with the concept of offering a space and opportunity for solo travellers to detox, to unwind, to reflect, or to meditate. Marcello has seen it all in his life. In the eighties, a fashion designer at that time, he established the clothes brand “El Charro”. Later he sailed around the world in a re-conditioned 1937 scottish cutter. And then, he settled on the Pacific coast of Mexico where he lived in a jungle with his wife (of which, 4 years in a tent), where he built and ran Hotelito Desconocido for 14 years. After miles of driving in Italy when he returned and getting lost, he discovered the ruins of where Eremito is. Umbria is known for its well preserved medieval churches, towns and monasteries, and also it is the birth of spirituality. So he decided to build the monastery again according to the original structure with historical aged stones, bricks and rocks, and redesigned the interior to create this first ‘digital detox’ hotel in Italy, and the first hotel in the whole that only offer 14 single rooms called ‘ celluzze’ ( the cells used by the hermits in past times who in their small and simple spaces were able to find time for meditation and prayer.)

When Marcello picked me up at the nearest train station Fabro-Ficulle, his jeep was not working, but he just laughed it off as he was trying to fix it, and told me ” This is life, sometimes not everything goes well, but it is important to have patience, life is not easy!” A very wise man who chose to live a life as a hermit in the middle of the mountains. As we drove off to Eremito, Marcello was telling me his stories and why he wanted to build Eremito. He told me ” Take what you need from here, you have a life in London, and there is a life here in Eremito. Take what you need Ophelia, and go back live a better life there. But remember, there is always a life here.” Another very wise advice from Marcello, at that point I was not quite sure what would I take home with me. I knew I was excited about going to Eremito, I wanted to experience what it is like to live in a monastery. But honestly, even I travel solo all the times, I was not sure how I was going to take this experience- being in the mountains, with no signal, no wifi, no electronic devices, no nothing at all. About 45 mins of bumpy drive later, we arrived Eremito (the road leading up to the entrance of the hotel was built by Marcello, because there was no roads at first).

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When I arrived, I already felt a sense of peacefulness and tranquility of this place. I was mesmerised by the view.

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The previous guests were waiting for us to have lunch together. There I met a beautiful Italian lady and we became friends. When they left, the whole place returned to quietness. So yes, I had the WHOLE place to myself as a guest. Eremito is run by 5 people. Marcello the owner, Delia the receptionist, Sergio the chef, Stefano and Eli who took care of everything else. They all live in the hotel like a little community of their own. So now you may think, 45 mins drive to the nearest train station in the middle of nowhere, how do we eat? All stays are all inclusive- 3 meals prepared in the kitchen by the super sweet Sergio. Everything is vegetarian and mostly organic, most of them are from the garden, some of course you have to buy from groceries. But everything is freshly made by Sergio there. The food is SO DELICIOUS AND FRESH. They also serve the Umbrian red wine, coffee, water, fruits and bread.

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After lunch I was shown to my own room/ celluzze. I got more and more curious about this place by now. The view, the food, the people, the room. There is nothing, but there is everything you need.

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All rooms are named after a saint in Italy.

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As you can see, the rooms are very basic, but it has a very raw and stylish design. They are basic but not primitive at all. Everything is functioning very well. Clean, tidy, comfortable bed, few lights, a shower, a toilet, a sink, and a window with stone chair that you can enjoy the view outside while reflecting or relaxing in the room.

I particularly loved these shower gel and shampoo. Marcello joked about this ” I love to make life difficult. It is easy to have shampoo and shower gel in plastic bottles, but I just love to make everything difficult.

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and the hand made soap made by Marcello’s sister

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This is a light next to the bed. Honestly you don’t need to have any lights on at night because the moonlight is so bright.

The rope on the bed is for wearing to the jacuzzi where it was dug with stone and hot water running from below, it only opens at 6-7pm daily. And the rope is a proper hermit rope! I had a laugh about it when I put it on- it was amazing.

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So, day 1 at Eremito, all guests left, Stefano was off work, Marcello had to do some work in Rome that day, just me, Delia and Sergio. What do I do? No wifi, no signals, no connection, no tv, no laptop, no nothing. What Do I Do? I decided to take a walk to the waterfall at the bottom of the valley.  After about 30mins of walking all by myself in the forests, I reached the waterfall.

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It was a little scary for me at first, because I’m not a huge fan of hiking, and all by myself in the forests, just few signs towards the Torrente direction, with no GPS, no signal, no connection, and no one at all in the whole valley…for a moment I thought I was lost. There were moments I second guessed my navigation, and I had turned back a few times thinking to walk back up because I wasn’t sure if I even hear the sound of the running water and the river. But just as the moment I turned around, I turned back and kept walking. I guess that’s a thing I had to learn in life- just keep walking and have faith. It might be scary and daunting, but you never know until you try and find out what is just behind another tree. Heading back up to Eremito, I told Delia about my little exploration, and told her if I scream at the bottom from the valley would she hear me?  She was very kind and said “I saw you walking down and I knew you went for a walk, so I know you’ll be fine. If I don’t see you back in one hour I will start looking for you.” So you see, there is actually nothing to worry about.

Ok now, what do I do next? Delia had to work, Sergio had to prepare for dinner, I already had my little forest adventure…whats next? nothing. I decided to take a shower, and sunbathe in the garden. The sun is too beautiful to stay in.

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And I made two new friends- Peppo and Nina 🙂 They just played and sunbathed around me the whole time.

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It was only 5pm- and I had already sunbathed, showered, hiked, had lunch…dinner won’t be served till 8pm…WHAT DO I DO? So I went in, and laze around, read a book that I bought months ago but never had the time and energy to finish it. I went inside to the interior lounging area, or what its usually a lobby of a hotel, it was so cool and comfortable. Hiding from the sun a bit, lying on the mattress, sitting on the rock, just doing nothing, with the Gregorian chanting music playing, was pure joy. By now, I finally started to calm myself down, and relax, and just do nothing. I was the only guest at the hotel, and everyone was so nice and sweet, that I didn’t even lock my door by now.

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So you can see the interior of the hotel is every single bit a very medieval monastery that Marcello rebuilt exactly according to the ruins of the original structure.  Basic electricity was used in the hotel, but the long day light and bright sunshine keeps the place well lit all the times.

I went out to read my book under the sun again. By 6.15pm Sergio came to the garden and asked if I want any tea, and told me the jacuzzi is open. I got a little curious and decided to try it out. It was really nice with blue lights and hot water, they also have a sauna next door, and a place for morning yoga classes led by Marcello.

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And then, I got a little bored before dinner and I was like a child, investigating every single part of the hotel and see what everyone else was doing. (well it was just Delia and Sergio apart from me). So I went to the kitchen, and chat with Sergio to see what he was doing. He was preparing for our dinner.

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Sergio was so sweet that he was explaining to me everything he did. He speaks ok English, I spoke very little Italian, but somehow we managed to understand each other and I had private Italian cooking classes there too! They just let me wander around the kitchen freely anytime. They had left water and jars and cups around for me to take what I need whenever I want. By now, I already felt like home.

Dinner was a very very special experience to me. Every night they serve silent dinner in the dining room. Candle lights lit, Gregorian chanting music on, but everyone has to enjoy their 4 courses vegetarian dinner in complete silent. (that is to say, you can’t even say thank you to Sergio). At first it was very funny because when I sat next to Delia, we wanted to talk, but in the end, we just enjoyed our food and actually TASTE and ENJOY every single bite of the food prepared with heart by Sergio. It was genuinely amazing. Especially in modern day every one is using dinner time as a socialising connection. Thanks to the busy life people can only catch up over dinner and food, or instagramming the delicious food or checking in on Facebook. But here in Eremito, nothing of this is happening. I asked Marcello the next day is there a reason for this ritual practiced by hermits or monks in the old days. He told me it is because by 6pm the monks will do their evening prayers, and then had dinner in silent, then the nighttime prayer, and morning prayer and breakfast also in silent. This is to prepare themselves and their mind to end and start the days with a completely peaceful and quiet mind. That’s why Marcello implemented this ” rule” in Eremito. This is the only “rule” he set in the hotel, and with a very good intention. It’s hard to tell you exactly how it feels until you have tried it yourself.

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And how do we know it’s time for meal or when the dinner is over? They ring a bell- just like the old days. After dinner we were lounging next to the fire place in the relaxing area enjoying the fresh apple tea Sergio had prepared for us and chatting. Delia and Sergio were asking me how was my day so far. And the 3 of us just chat and connected, and we even went outside to sit under the beautiful sky, watching sunset and the moonrise. Never in my life I have seen a moon rising from behind the mountains. It was so bright, so near, and in the endless mountains, you see nothing but stars.

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I even climbed up to the rooftop of the hotel and moon bathed under the bright full moon. It was pure pleasure. I could not even find a word to describe how comforting and powerful it was. The beauty of nature. This place is magical, dreamy, spiritual and peaceful. All by myself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by moon and stars, hearing the sound of night breezes, it is soothing and calming.

So I slept like a baby for sure- with no one in the entire mountains. With the sunlight shining through and birds singing, I woke up before my alarm set off. Feeling refreshed, I had the whole valley to myself again for breakfast. Sergio had my breakfast prepared, but none of them woke me up because there is no rush or no set time line at all. And as I went for breakfast, I had no words but joy, gratefulness and peacefulness.

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I was just soaking in the morning sun, the beautiful scenery, the fresh food Sergio prepared for me, and the company of Sergio, Delia, Peppo and Nina (and the bumble bees). The tranquility was beyond. Day 2 started beautifully, I knew 3 days are not enough. Marcello had told me ‘stay for a week if you want! If you find something from Eremito, make sure you take it with you, sometimes it may not be the same the second time you come here.’ He was right. Unfortunately I had everything booked and projects lined up for the coming months. But then, I thought- instead of thinking so much ahead of what is going to happen when I leave, why not just enjoy this moment, right here right now with the sweetest people?

Day 2 pretty much went by similarly.  Marcello had returned from Rome in the afternoon and checking in to see how I was doing. I was lying on the mattress in the lobby reading and having a nap. By then, I think I already mastered the art of doing nothing. I got in touch with my inner child,  like a kid, really curious about every single thing there. I was just investigating every piece of rock, touching and feeling them, checking the fire place, staring blank outside to the endless mountains, sun bathing, strolling around the place, flipping through all the books other guests had left behind, and reading through all the messages left by other guests. You can pretty much tell how much all other guests enjoyed this place by the fact that all of them made effort and took time to leave messages to Marcello. There was even christmas cards and postcards sent from abroad.

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By evening, there were 2 other guests from Switzerland. Instead of a silent dinner, Marcello decided to all have dinner outside in the sun to warm up everyone. (that’s why we could chat) It was always nice to talk to people from all kinds and of all age, you learn so much through them and their experiences. Disconnecting from the outside world to connect with yourself, and to other people, are the true essence of life and humanity. Imagine if we were all on our phones, I would never be able to find out how respectful the Swiss couple was doing in their country, and I will never be able to understand more about Marcello’s life experiences, or Delia’s previous encounters in other countries. I had forgotten completely about my phone already. I only took it with me to take photos of the beautiful scenery.

I had already felt like home there, with my new little family of few. I was so reluctant to leave the next day. During breakfast, I had the cake that Sergio made purposely for me the day before. I told him it was really delicious, so he taught me how to make it, and I watched him preparing it the day before. I was so touched.

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I had to leave earlier with Marcello because he needs to take his jeep to repair in Orvieto (about an hour drive from Eremito). And the trains from Fabro-Ficulle was not very frequent. So I had to say goodbye to this magical place. I was so sad to leave when I hug Sergio and Delia goodbye. We had our little connection, short but sweet.

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The jeep broke down again in the middle of the road, so Eli had to drive his car over and fix it. While waiting, Marcello gave me another wise piece of advice- keep everything basic to mechanics, not electronics. One single piece of electronic fuse malfunctioning had the whole Land Rover down. That’s why he installed everything at Eremito that is very basic, but functioning properly – never put anything that a handy man cannot fix. So we drove 2 cars to Orvieto where they sent me off at the train station. I didn’t want to leave or say goodbye. When Marcello hugged me goodbye saying ” don’t forget about us”, I almost cried. I will not forget about them for sure,  I will return for longer next time.

When I got on the train, I was thinking over and over again what Marcello told me about ‘take what you need’. I took what I needed. I took the time to do nothing, to enjoy and admire the beauty of nature. I took few days off to relax. I took on a semi-vegetarian diet. I took a chance to experience a life I’ve never had. I took a leap of faith to go all by myself to explore in the woods. I also took the magical experiences I had during my stay in Eremito. I took the lessons I learnt from Marcello- life is not easy, but there is always a life here. You only need basic things in life and that’s the real luxury. Take what you need and live a better life there. It is the experiences that counts. I know I can always return and retreat, I know there will always be a little home in the middle of Umbria, hidden in the mountains, with very sweet, gentle and kind people with big heart welcoming me. I also took the love and blessings I was given by Marcello, Sergio, Delia, Stefano and Eli with me. I took the essence of life- the basics, the beauty, the simple yet powerful connection with other human beings. It touches the bottom of my heart, so long-lasting and genuine.

In life there will always be encounters, some people click with you right away, some don’t. It is not how long you have met that person for before you decide how strong the connection is, it is how strong the connection is decides how long you’re going to stay in each other’s lives. This experience at Eremito is life-changing. I knew about the importance of having some alone time, it is healthy for the mind and the body. And Marcello created a place where he has respect and freedom for all kinds of people from everywhere and all religions to come here to think, to reflect, to heal, to discover, to explore. Connecting to oneself, taking one step backwards in life is essential to move forward. We live in a world where too much is going on at the same time, we barely have time to sit down, let the mind calm down and to feel how and what we are feeling. Eremito is a dream that Marcello shared with the world- you find peace there when you’re ready. It’s a place for you to just be. 

The luxury in life is not depending on how much you earn or what possessions you have, but to understand and appreciate the essence of life- the basics, the love, the beauty of it.

Thank you Marcello, for showing me the beauty of life in its simplest essence. Life is never the same again.

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EREMITO – Hotelito del Alma

Località Tarina 2
05010 Parrano (Terni)
P.IVA 10569141004
Tel. +39 0763 891010
Email: info@eremito.com