Thursday, January 18, 2018

Italy, Marco Priori (Natural Survival) and the Sweat Lodge

With Marco Priori in Leonessa, Italy

On a recent trip to Umbria, Italy I had the chance to visit my friend Marco Priori who is heading up the Natural Survival movement in Italy.  He and I had decided to experiment with the concept of building a homemade sweat lodge and meditating for an afternoon like traditional Native Americans before plunging into the depths of a near by fresh water spring to lock in the experience.  What came of this was truly enlightening and life changing at some level.

*Stick around I have an awesome video on the experience (if you skip there you'll need the password: Italy).

Now if you know me, you know I love Italy.  I lived there for 3-years back in 2010.  I even married my lovely Italian wife just to have an excuse to go back year after year (not really, but really) and this year we made it back.  Oh man, how excited was I to see Italy again!

It was an amazing experience filled with lots of food and time with family & friends.  Hours sitting around grand tables filled with wine, cheese, and all the blessings of Italian dining while talking endlessly.

Why don't we do that here in America?  Seriously it is so awesome, why!?

(left: out for a night in Frascati just outside of Roma with Giorgio Priori.  right: preparing the table for our New Years dinner party).


This was a great highlight, Christmas dinner!  It lasted for 5-hours, had some 7-courses, and ended with this lovely sunset over olive tree covered hills.  Not everyday you do that in the day-to-day.

Christmas dinner in the San Polo (near Tivoli)
I also made homemade Lemoncello with Nonna Anna who gave me her Sicilian recipe!  It was made with amalfi lemons, so AWESOME.  They're big like grape fruit and smell so good.  Mmmmm.

Come visit me and I'll get you a sample!

From there we progressed north some 2-hours out of Rome to Umbria to a large farm near the town of Prodo.  This is the view from the farm house looking down on the castle in the center of Prodo.

Side note: One family owns the castle and the entire farm land that you can see in front of it...OMG!

There we spent the following 5-days enjoying both the nature that surrounded us and the amazing medieval villages of Orvieto, Todi, and my personal favorite Civita di Bagnoregio.  It was classic Italian tourism at it's best.  David got to explore with his cousin Lolo, he loved being with Lolo so much!

(David and his cousin Lolo (Lorenco) from the tower over looking Orvieto)


Civita di Bagnoregio (below) was something rare to behold and truly baffled my ability to comprehend such a way of life.  The infrastructure of trade and transportation during that period that was required to supply food and water to an isolated city of this size truly inspired my imagination.

What were these people doing up here?  I could only imagine the life.

btw: That bridge obviously was not there when the town was established some 1000 years ago.   Strangely the ground beneath it is sinking.  In just the past 100 years that has dropped some 30 or more feet down.  They now predict the town has only a short time before it too will disappear. Glad we got to see if before then.

While the experience of more traditional tourism in Italy was enriching and fun for the family and myself.  A big highlight for me were my experiences with Marco and going out into nature.

(Marco sitting at our table where we drank and ate till our hearts were content before our 6-hour hike - oh man that's some good food)

Our adventures started with a trip north to Leonessa, where after a full afternoon of eating pasta and drinking wine we decided to hike the 5-mile and 2000 feet hike up to the Chiesa de San Giuseppe (here is a good description and visuals of the hike up past the 5 monestaries called, Colle le Croce).  As we hiked up we observed the nature that surrounded us, we studied the tracks of animals and humans that had passed before us, and we watched as day would turn to night over the ancient village of Leonessa below.

This place was frequented by the Romans...Romans!  How cool is that!?

Once we reached the snow covered top.  We drank wine, lite torches, and hiked back down.  It was amazing.

(left: entrance to Chiesa de San Giuseppe, the reflection of red is the torch lite to illuminate the cross overlooking the town below.  It's a tradition and the whole reason we hiked up here.  I didn't take that photo of the cross.  I don't know why.  It was cold and we were rushing down the hill.  I just missed it.  I'm sorry.  right: the touches as we started our trek down the mountain to the lights of Leonessa below)


Update: Marco sent me some additional photos and I do have a photo of the cross illuminated and some additional of the hike down.

We further enjoyed a winter wonderland on our way down!

Before leaving the area Marco and I drove over and hiked in through the snow to their old home in Capo d' Acqua.  It was a bitter sweet experience as the place was still quiet and special, but now a little more empty with the absence of Marco and Alice.  They were forced to leave after the earth quakes of 2017 that left their 200 year old home (here to the right in the photo) uninhabitable.  I felt a sense of sadness as we visited the old water spring where we once cleaned and took a bath.  The whole place felt more like a ghost town now than the warm welcoming little village Marco and Alice had made it into (see my previous post from my 2014 visit here on the story of their life before the earth quake).

On our second to last day together we experienced one of the most unique things I had personally done in near a decade, the sweat lodge.  We started our by hiking some two miles down into a deep mountain entrenched valley where a crystal clear natural spring ran through the heart of it all.  Our goal was to create a place to meditate to focus on our goals, our lives, and what we wanted for our futures.  We would then plunge ourselves into a small pool of ice cold spring water that was located just outside our canopy.  Neither of us had any clue what we were about to experience.

(left: the frame of our structure for the steam lodge. right: the fire and completed lodge shortly before we entered)


Over the next 5-hours we would collect wood, build a fire by hand (no spark, no fuel), create a canopy from our surroundings and a green tarp we had hiked in, and heat rocks till they glowed a bright luminescent red.   Then we rolled the rocks into a pit we created, entered inside, and started splashing water over them.  Instantly the space was blinded in steam.  The smell of the roasting rocks covered with the fresh spring water left an aroma of earth that filled our lungs.  It was truly a rare and a delightfully unexpected after affect that we didn't expect.

Then we started a passage through the 3 parts of meditation, which happened naturally; first came reflection on the internal (self), next reflection on those you are experiencing it with (others), and finally reflection on the environment and things that are treating you to this experience (nature).  It was truly enlightening.  When I entered the water after I was so relaxed and present that I settled into a calming breath and literally had an out of body experience.  After a few seconds fully immersed, I neither felt the sensation of cold nor the feeling of my physical body around me.  I was transcending the physical at my best estimation and felt as warm as if I were in a hot tub.  It was inexplicable.

**must see video below of the experience (password: Italy)

In the end we cleaned up and headed home relishing the experience.  A little over a week later, I was on a 12-hour+ trip back to home in the US and back to my reality.  Now returning to the routine, I think back to all that we did and that moment in the spring water.  It's got me asking a lot of questions about life and how we're living it.  It's got me wanting to live out those promises I made to myself in that sweat lodge.  The whole thing has got me, it's got me good.


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