Our Spain & Italy 2022 Camino retreats – The Way Of The Heart and the Dolce Vita

Your Camino starts when you say YES!

Four months ago a group of beautiful people were drawn to this journey of inner and outer discovery and said yes.

Here we are in our meeting place, Biarritz. What a special place to celebrate the start of our adventure. We dipped our toes in the ocean. We ate typical French food. We danced in the square as the sun set over the sea, then entered our first candle-lit cathedral. We were given a little necklace to journey safe with.

We sighed. We are here. We are here.

What a blessing and joy to see the connection unfold between a group of women from all over the world who said yes and took a leap of faith.

Sometimes that’s what life requires of us.

“Pilgrims are a hardy breed. They trudge rough roads, put in long days, and live on breadcrusts. But hunger turns those crusts into gourmet fare, and pilgrims sleep well from their fatigue, even when their beds are hard ground and stones are their pillows. On clear nights the stars that steer them cover them with their canopy and token the eternal.” Huston Smith

Here we are – pilgrims for a few weeks, dipping onto stretches of the road to Santiago. It’s uniting and surprise-full. And it’s just begun.

It’s soulful travel. It’s reverential. It’s an opening and a drop into the Dreamtime of wandering where time stands still as we make the archetypal anti-clockwise journey back in time on personal labyrinths to find the whispers of our centre. Or just a little peace and joy.

We took a bus and train to St Jean Pied de Port via Bayonne. A gift! We found Joanne, the last member of our Spanish Camino on the train after someone heard us mention her and said “Oh Joanne? She’s on the other end of the train.” The Camino synchronicity has begun and if one thing’s for sure, it will continue to grow.

In St Jean, Beilari is a heart-centred Albergue where Joseph and Jakline set the tone for sharing a little of yourself and serve up a killer 3-course vegetarian dinner. They sang us a French tune about a bird, messaging the importance of accepting and recognising the beauty and freedom of who a person is without trying to clip their wings. By 10.30pm we were plunged into silence.

The morning broke with lofty angelic music piercing the dawn – Joseph’s pilgrim alarm clock.

We spiralled up the Pyrenees to Orisson Refuge. Misty, other worldly. Sweaty and soaked in dense fog. Suddenly cool.

Another warm Caminoesque afternoon of stories, coffees and a communal dinner wraps Day One in a perfect bow.

“If we truly want to know the secret of soulful travel, we need to believe that there is something sacred waiting to be discovered in virtually every journey.”
Phil Coussineau
After a cosy “Art of Pilgrimage” afternoon I organised at Orisson in a cosy corner of the dining room, we were ready to continue our upward climb the next day.
We made it over the Pyrenees and the border into Spain in cold misty weather.
The sun broke through on our descent making it a warm welcome to the grand monastery at Roncesvalles, run by a group of Dutch volunteers.
We attended the Pilgrim’s mass for a blessing. We had the traditional 3-course pilgrim’s meal at one of the two local restaurants.
Thr next day we walked 22km to Zubiri in hot weather which ended around 37 degrees Celsius. A swim in the stream was first on the list and then back to enjoy the luxuries of our boutique guesthouse, a converted 17th Century farmhouse. What bliss after 3 nights in dormitories.
Today Pamplona! 27km later and no breakfast due to the St James festival, we were relieved to reach the old city. We enjoyed a 3-course dinner at the famous Café Iruna which writer Ernest Hemingway frequented.
An unexpected highlight was the church at Zabaldika where a nun ushered us up a tiny stairwell, inviting us to let something go and set an intention. This was the soulful journey in sharp focus.

It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed.
~ Art Wolfe

We are on pilgrimage!
It’s exceptional.
It’s wild.
The door to the soul is open.
We laugh, we cry, we manage.
It’s time to reset, re-find, re-love, rejuvenate. Heal. Awaken. Dare. Dream.
I have 7 strong women to journey with.
Personal records are being set.
First-time experiences are happening.
We are navigating our inner and outer landscapes.
Every day is different.
Every pilgrim has a pebble in their shoe. (A perfect French proverb!)
We walk, dancing with pleasure and our own unique pebbles of discomfort.
This is life!
And I am so grateful to be here with these women, my sisters, my teachers, my soul travellers.

It is a real thing to turn around and look back at the hills and villages you’ve left behind. You realise how far you’ve come.

And as you walk you learn to turn that awareness to your life and you realise how far you’ve come.

What a beautiful few days on the meseta, the spiritual part of the journey. To Castrojeriz and now Fromista.

No need to rush. Just walk. With the land. With yourself, noticing. Always noticing the journey and how the road stretches on ahead. Never ending.

Yesterday we walked to the Cruz de Ferro. This was one of the highlights of our 12-day Camino in Spain.

We walked there in silence. Up to the highest point, expecting a high of 34 degrees later in the day.

We placed our stones for ourselves and friends. There was a festival of St James in full swing which changed the usual contemplative mood. Music sang out. People in traditional dress danced.

Every day has its surprises. Nothing is for certain. We’re delighted when we find coffee and breakfast. I learn to be patient. How lucky am I to be here again. The Camino is still recovering from the years of Covid. It’s not very busy. But we engage whoever is on the path!

The weather is gorgeous and we swim in a pool down the road. We find dinner in a small bar which is just perfect. Again.

Another day of being alive. Of appreciation for having made it. We’ve walked about 150km. We’ve transferred
to select areas, beautiful hotels, casa rurals and authentic pilgrim accommodation. We’ve done it our way. Alone and very much together.


As time goes by,
You will loosen your grip on that rock,
The one you always thought was home,
And you will realise that home is not a place,
It’s a state of mind.
Let it go.

As times goes by,
You will learn to see yourself more clearly,
The girl who was always too much of one thing,
And too little of another, was actually
Everything she needed to be.
Let her out.

As time goes by,
You will let the simple things become the big,
And you will allow the big things to become the simple,
And that readjustment will be,
The day you really start to live,
Let it be.

As time goes by,
You will be forced to say goodbye many times,
And your soft little heart will shatter but,
It will still beat and that will bring you,
All the purpose you need.
Let it beat.

As time goes by,
You will stop choosing wealth over peace,
You will stop choosing money over time,
And you will see that the treasures you need,
Are in the smiles and the laughter.
Let them in.

As times goes by,
The moments you remember when your life flashes past,
Are never the awful memories my friend, it’s the joy,
The summer nights, the lazy days with loved ones,
The midnight chats and the morning hugs,
Let them happen.

Let them all happen.

Donna Ashworth

Love for every step of the journey – 21km today From Fromista to Carrion de los Condes.

We made it to Santiago! Almost 200km across Spain. A journey of the mind, body and soul. Impossible to not feel altered, empowered, rejuvenated, grateful.


Here we are on the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome!

For a week we are following the Via Francigena in Tuscany, Italy. This stretch, from San Miniato to Siena, is known as the prettiest part of the VF.

Three people have departed since Spain and four new ones have joined.

We are adjusting to the magnetic feel of Tuscany’s rolling hills and endless vineyards and olive groves, which lead us on. It is definitely less populated with pilgrims.

We have completed 3 days, from San Miniato to Castelfiorentino. Then to Gambassi Terme and now we are in San Gimignano, one of Italy’s best preserved medieval towns and Unesco World Heritage site.

Staying in the 13th Century Ostello Sigerico last night, was such an authentic experience. We enjoyed a communal dinner with other pilgrims.

The road of discovery and delights goes on as we navigate high temperatures. Early mornings are essential.

With less cafes along the route and sometimes none at all, it was Camino magic to stumble across a monastery this morning with a coffee machine!

This is the Dolce Vita.

Nine of us completed our Italian Camino today! 100km across Tuscany on the Via Francigena pilgrimage.

I am blissed out from fresh air, exercise, Italian culture & food, (always) the journey and sharing it with eight truly unique, special people. I am so lucky to have spent these last weeks doing just this! It’s a dream for me to be part of others’ brave unfolding and joyful discovery.

Wow, we are in Siena. It’s hypnotic. We made it. Spain and now Italy. We are hot and tired but so alive. We handled heat, discomfort (there is always a pebble in a pilgrim’s shoe) and injuries.

Siesta sounds good right now. Then Prosecco. And of course food.

Camino complete 💚

How to finish a Camino in Italy? Learn to make pasta and tiramisu in a real Italian’s home! Then sit down to dinner and feast 😋

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