An holistic holiday at Donkey’s pace
Slow walking in the Cilento, is a form of Meditation that comes naturally, like breathing. It is meditation in motion, in action.
Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.
The ‘Motion’ is the strolling in nature at the slow and sure pace of donkeys that have, since memory, been the companions of work and travel, only recently ousted from everyday life by ‘modernity’.
When coming to discover the beauty of this place you won’t find people motionless in the lotus flower position trying to silence their ego to feel their unity with the world. You will rather be invited to go for a walk. Walking. Not hitting the trails like fit trekkers that have everything to see in only a few days. You will set off to cross the hills, starting a journey, like used to be so usual, in the company of donkeys that help carry your load. They are the ones setting the pace. A tranquil 3km an hour. The ideal speed to keep your breath and look around you.
This is the pace of the Cilento. A region with a hot, sunny climate on the western coast of Italy, just south of the famous Amalfi coast, just as beautiful but just less marketed to tourists.
Most of the Cilento area is a national park. It’s a place where nature showed off it’s beauty: hills rolling down like fingers to the sea on one side and fertile planes reaching the foot of mountains on the other. Olive groves rise above the regular lines of vineyards and country roads wind up to old villages perched on rocky outcrops.
You can feel that time has not passed at the same pace here as it has in the cities. Walking the old unpaved roads you can feel the ghosts of people passed this way. Villagers going to markets, but also pilgrims, Etruscans, Romans, ancient Greeks… Cilento is a land of riches with a turbulent history that saw times of fortunes and wars; that saw invaders and foreign settlers; pilgrims travelling far: to and from Rome, the sacred lands, the Mediterranean ports…
Time has run slower and truer here. Life still moves with the seasons, the sun and the wind crumble the dry walls, the historic monuments and the archaeology scattered about in the landscape. At the quick glance of the tourists in search of nostalgic charm, Time may seem to have completely stopped here; but simply it hasn’t accelerated to the frenetic pace of the metropolis, the speed of motorways or fast broadband connections. When you slow down to the locals’ pace, you will find a bubbling of life along these slow crumbling roads and where there is life there is movement, change, evolution.
People tirelessly work the land and enjoy the fruits and well deserved rest. They passionately celebrate life with friends, with music and dances. They grow their grains, consciously preserving their old varieties, and make their bread in beautiful shapes, not just to eat, but to nourish all: the body, the soul, and the relations. Sharing the bread remains a celebration of the hard work and the rewards donated by the land. There is a gratitude that brings out an innate desire to share with pride and joy, to celebrate life, to preserve traditions.
This is a lifestyle that is intrinsically holistic (read Holistic Lifestyle – A Journey of Tastes), without rhetoric effort; it’s a simple and conscious living, full of joy and gratitude for life itself.
When coming to walk across the Cilento national park, the journey, rather than the destination, is the important thing. Like life itself.
Enjoy the journey, stop along the way to savour what you find. You will surely arrive at your destination. But what’s the hurry? What’s the destination in the journey of life? Well, life’s destination is only death. So enjoy the journey. Rather than galloping at the speed of horses to your destination, take it at the slow, sure pace of the donkeys, that help you carry everything you need to stop and camp, when you find a beautiful spot or darkness reaches you.
Enjoy the sun on your skin, the shimmering of the sea, the wind in your hair. Enjoy breathing and feeling alive. Enjoy the fortune of sharing your journey with your beautiful and peaceful companions, both 2 and 4 legged ones.
And as Times have moved on here too, so the old tradition has got a new dress, new names. The old trails now have a new map designed like the Tube map. The modern network that connects farms and ‘Agriturismi’ has been called ciucciopolitana (like metro-politana = the Tube, with ciucci = donkeys).
You can travel between hospitality ‘stations’ with original names: Tempa del Fico; Casale del Sughero; Fattoria al Gelso Bianco; il Rifugio del Contadino… and you get to stop en route to meet the locals, see what they do and taste their delicious local produce.
This form of holidaying and travel has also got new names: Sustainable, conscious, participatory, Eco- tourism.
The farms also offer a wealth of other low impact/ high involvement activities for visitors; cultural and ecological education for schools; and more specifically therapeutic activities with the donkeys to help people affected by stress, anxiety and high blood pressure. Children with social and communication problems benefit particularly from contact with the donkeys. This is called Onotherapy.
Onotherapy is a branch of the Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT).
If you are an AAT therapist, we would love to hear from you. Contact Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org