When one of your favourite yoga teachers decides to move to Australia, you know it’s likely that you might have to go that extra mile to make sure you still get the most of their tuition. While I didn’t make it quite as far as Melbourne where she now lives, when Shelley Allen let me know that she’d be back in Europe this summer and hosting a yoga retreat in Italy, I signed myself and my friend Julia up straight away. We’d been talking about going on a yoga hols together this summer, so an opportunity to go with a teacher I knew and get to see a new part of Italy was just a bit irresistible.2014-07-08 18.52.30

After a pasta and wine filled weekend in Rome (we stayed in an awesome Airbnb apartment that I’d highly recommend) we caught the bus out to Val Vomano, in Italy’s Abruzzo region, where we were a short car ride from Shanticentre where Shelley was hosting the retreat. The centre is run by duo Steph and Rupert, who eight years ago set off from England in search of somewhere they could run as a yoga centre. It’s a beautiful old house, set high up in the hills with views towards the mountains and of the surrounding villages. As well as being their home, Steph and Rupert have built Shanti specifically for yoga so its got a lovely energy of and from both homeliness and yoga. The studio is used solely for yoga and massage treatments and is a really calming yet energizing space to practice.

Moon salutations on the terrace

Moon salutations on the terrace

Each day started with a dynamic practice at 8am (yes I went on holiday and got up earlier than I sometimes do for work) alternating between Ashtanga and flow sequences. Shelley used to teach an Ashtanga class at Yogahaven on Monday nights which I loved, but since she left the only evening Ashtanga at my studio has been on a Friday, when I’m often otherwise engaged (cough, in the pub halfway through a bottle of wine, cough). The nine of us who’d come on the holiday were all of a similar standard with a decent amount of yoga experience and keen to progress so we were able to try a few new things as well as perfect some of the basics. Shelley’s a great teacher and always able to develop you – on the first time I ever took hold of my big toe to kick out in a balance she spotted me across the room yelled ‘Hang on Laura, I’m coming!’ and sprinted over to make sure I kept my balance! Three years on, she was giving me slightly more challenging asanas to attempt but it’s testament to her teaching that after a week each class still felt fresh and new.


Evening practice was more restorative and held on the big terrace that mine and Julia’s room opened up onto, or by the pool area, unless weather dictated that we have it in the studio. This gave us the chance to focus on meditation, or chanting, as well as different asanas including moon salutations, which we did on the evening of the ginormous Super Moon. (I like to think that it came out because we’d done so many moon salutations, rather than just adhering to a lunar calendar)


Both classes were followed by either breakfast or dinner, while lunch only interrupted sunbathing, massage and chill out time. The food was sensational. Rupert, the chef, created amazing vegetarian dishes using local produce that left me feeling nourished and satisfied and begging him to write a cookbook. Steph meanwhile is a masseuse and reiki master so her diary was quickly booked up with treatments that we all wanted during the week. My Indian head massage and reiki treatments were out of this world.


While the setting, food and yoga were all fantastic, inevitably it’s the company you find yourself in that makes a good holiday. The seven other people who had come on the holiday with Julia and I made a brilliant group to spend time with and we all bonded swiftly, not just over our shared love of yoga but with some hilarious rounds of Cranium (best board game ever) and came away with the in-jokes and phrases that are the mark of a close group.

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If you want a yoga retreat then I can’t recommend Shanticentre high enough. And should you find yourself in Melbourne then look up Shelley – combined, the two forces created the perfect holiday.