THAT’S AMORE! – Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Renewal
A retreat for gay male couples in rural Tuscany facilitated by Don Shewey
June 8-15, 2013
For busy, active adults in committed relationships, it’s often amazingly difficult to make time to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed and intimate way. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, and housekeeping get the attention they demand – but what about exploring and growing together, erotic play, Quality Time For Us? In this week-long retreat, couples will gain instruction and practice in creating simple, elegant, and fun intentional ceremonies in order to revitalize and celebrate loving partnerships.
I’ve been leading programs for Il Chiostro since the year 2000, some of them in rural Tuscany and some of them in urban centers (Venice, Florence, Rome, Bologna). One of the cool things about these adventures is that we’ve been going to Italy long enough that we have developed great contacts in every location so that participants are guaranteed to have an off-the-beaten-path experience. We get to interact with the local people and the landscape in a way that goes beyond typical guidebook-driven tourism.
“That’s Amore!” will take place at a new venue for Il Chiostro called Terzo di Danciano, an 18th century villa overlooking a valley between Tuscany and Umbria. (The website proudly boasts, “Are you the type of person who can appreciate the added value of a location where love and respect for nature dwell? You simply want to sleep, dream and make love in one of our super romantic rooms! They all have wonderful views.” It’s that kind of place.) The grounds, with its luscious lawns, hiking paths, and swimming pool, will provide a lovely setting for the retreat. You can find out more about the venue here.
My vision for “That’s Amore!” is to use the sheer beauty and the cultural richness of the Italian setting to inspire creativity in the way that we nourish and replenish our relationships. One thing I have learned from my own experience and from working with couples in my therapy practice is that relationships are like gardens – they don’t thrive unattended but require a certain amount of attention and renewal. It’s important to take time off from business as usual, to set aside the time and space to keep the lines of communication clear and to sustain a robust physical connection.
Easier said than done, though, right? At home you may tend to develop efficient routines and personal habits; in Italy, with “That’s Amore!” you will have an opportunity to go beyond the status quo and try on some artistic ways of expressing romance, tenderness, and joy with your partner.
We’ll begin the week with some practical instructions on the rudiments of creating ritual space: using sacred objects, formulating intentions, making time commitments. “Ritual” may sound like something only encountered in church — so what is a ritual where a relationship is concerned? Does it require candles, a liturgy, funny hats? Or can it be something as basic as, say, a massage exchange? Rituals can be simple outlines for intentional actions, devised on the spur of the moment, that employ whatever is at hand and finish up in 10 minutes – or they can involve elaborate preparation and go on for hours. We’ll experiment with many variations over the course of a week. We’ll spend part of each day exploring a different kind of ceremony using music, words, photography, movement, touch, meditation, food, and the natural environment.
The retreat is limited to six couples, each of whom will have a spacious room with a private bathroom. Although “That’s Amore!” will include exercises designed to enhance verbal communication and understanding between intimate partners, this will not be a week-long couples therapy session. The program is intended for gay male couples who would enjoy spending a week in a structured environment that supports renewing and replenishing the love you share. My intention is for each participant to leave with not only a deeper connection to your partner but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.
I think one thing that participants have always appreciated about the programs I’ve done with Il Chiostro is the balance we strike between structured activities with the group and free time on your own. Each day there will be stuff we do together as a group, usually in the morning, sometimes involving expeditions to neighboring towns (Cortona, Perugia, and Assisi are all nearby). There will be some free time in the afternoon to have lunch on your own, wander around, lounge by the pool, or nap. And then we will come back together to share our findings for the day and to have dinner prepared by our private chef. Plus, there’s something nice about being in Italy with a group of gay men; gay life in Italy is so elusive it’s sometimes hard to find. Gay travelers, even today, can find themselves in awkward circumstances, like at hotels where it becomes a hassle for a male couple to organize sleeping in the same bed; with Il Chiostro, we create an atmosphere where it’s easy to be yourself.
The price for the week-long retreat is $2,195 per person, which includes seven nights’ lodging, breakfast and dinner each day, and local transportation. Registration details and other information can be found online here.
If you have any questions at all about “That’s Amore!” please don’t hesitate to contact me.