Santa Maria del Focallo is a seaside resort on the south east coast of Sicily. It’s just to the east of Pozzallo, the main port for ferries going to Malta. There is no town as such, but the resort has a beautiful blue flag beach lined with sand dunes that extends for about 8 km. Most of the year (excluding school summer holidays) it’s a very peaceful place.
I came here in mid-September 2023 to stay at the Floripa yoga retreat for a much-needed week of R&R. It doubles as a kite-surfing school and you can also try normal surfing, body boarding and SUP.
There is a direct bus to Pozzallo from Catania airport, but Floripa offers a transfer service for €90, which I split with two others who landed at a similar time.
The grounds are lovely and green with statues of buddha and hibiscus bushes everywhere. The rooms aren’t cheap at €142 a night but that includes breakfast, a sunbed at their beach bar and three hours of yoga every day. There are cheaper dorm options as well.
The yoga, taught by a mixture of international teachers, is divided into two ninety-minute sessions; a high-powered Vinyasa class at 8am and a slower-paced Yin class at 6pm. I enjoyed both very much but I found that I need a break from Vinyasa every three days to give my body time to recover, despite being quite fit and flexible. Private lessons and specialist classes (ecstatic dancing anyone?) are optional add ons.
I really enjoyed the classes and in particular those of Isabela who would sing to us during the relaxation periods while playing a bellows-powered Indian harmonium. In one Yin session she was joined by two other musicians on drums and guitar for a Kirtan recital. Kirtan involves call-and-response style chants where the singers recite a legend or express loving devotion to a deity.
My only criticism was that the shala (yoga room) could get quite crowded at times with up to twenty five people squeezed in. Plentiful mosquitos and an ineffective aircon meant it was hard to decide whether to keep the windows open or not. The weather in September can be quite muggy as the sirocco wind blows in from the Sahara, so this Norwegian’s mat turned into a swimming pool during some of the heavier sessions.
In general the weather was quite sunny (25 to 35 degrees) with occasional light showers in the mornings. Some days could be fairly windy but with low waves, which was great for the kite surfers, and other days were breezy but with larger waves, so the surfers and body boarders could have some fun. I managed to read a book (a rare occurrence for me) and get a tan going despite the wind.
By the way, the book I was reading is called Il Gattopardo in Italian. It describes the end of the aristocracy in Sicily and the changes in society as Garibaldi invades. It’s a great story that was also made into a film which has the added bonus of Burt Lancaster speaking Italian.
The only other drawback was the lack of any decent restaurants nearby (see next post), or any useful shops. I could have opted to have the vegetarian meals at the retreat but I do like my fish and meat, and to practice my Italian with the waiters rather than speak English all the time with the other residents. For me this meant a lot of walking along badly-lit roads without pavements, although I could have borrowed a bicycle from Floripa (itself without lights).
Despite these little niggles I had a great time and met some lovely people and I may very well go back next year.
A review of the local restaurants next…