Happiness Reboot

This Puglian retreat promises to renew your ‘inner happiness’ with sunshine soaked food, nightly hair brushing and tambourine bashing.

Of the many ways working through heartbreak, going on a retreat has be one of the most positive, right?

Surely better than the traditional coping mechanisms of booze, fags and one night stands.

After 15 years my marriage had collapsed so I decided to go to a woman’s only retreat in Puglia. I hoped to return with rebuilt self esteem and a tan.

My chosen retreat was the ‘Tarant’ at the luxe Borgo Egnazia hotel. It promises attendees will ‘rediscover their feminine potential’ and find a ‘liberating path.’ Which is quite a big claim for a four-day break. You are encouraged to abandon yourself to the ‘loving care’ of their therapists, yoga teachers, musicians and dancers. You also get your hair brushed every night.Reader, they had me at hair brushing.

After an easy flight into Bari, I was met by a sharp suited, Mercedes driver and whisked to the Borgo Egnazia hotel. It’s a perfectly doable forty five minutes away. As you drive through the gates it becomes obvious it is big hotel (rooms run into the hundreds), but it’s laid out well enough to feel relatively intimate. And it’s all done in the best possible taste. Think pale sun bleached stone, muted paint colours and baskets bursting with perfect apples.It’s a modern hotel made to look like a traditional Italian village, which feels a bit fake. But this small negative is immediately cancelled out by the highest levels of luxury and chic.

I’m shown to my villa, which I am sharing with the two other Tarant students. I’m nervous about this (I mean we all had the university roomy that thought hair ‘self cleansed’ right?) but a) they are lovely with high levels of personal hygiene and b) the place is spacious enough for us all to have enough privacy. Their reasons for coming? One wants to unearth her mojo, the other seems to be a professional spa vistor.
The villa goes for 20K a week peak season.

That evening three of the Tarant team came to our villa to take us to dinner. They are dressed in Grecian style jersey dresses that gave them the air of celestial beings. They explained the Tarant retreat was based on the old Puglian tradition of pulling on female solidarity to help heal the souls of women suffering from depression, malaise or angst. We were shown a video of Puglian women in past times suffering from varying degrees of madness.

In a somewhat fragile mental state myself, I could have done without the video.

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The first night we ate in one of the many restaurants. The food was delicious. And personalized to us. Think beautifully prepped vegetables oozing with home grown flavor. Meals continued in the same vein for the whole of the visit. Bar one slightly basic dinner, it was all heavenly, satiating and healthy.
Everyday our alarm call was a tambourine banging man, calling us down to a daily session with our personal trainer.

Every night Maria, our housekeeper brushed our hair before bed.

We had two spa treatments each day. The therapists were all experienced and adapted their massage to suit your stresses and desires. And every night Maria, our housekeeper brushed our hair before bed.
Negatives? I could have done without the two hour long massage and stretching session with an Italian man. Being practically spooned whilst on mattress on the floor in a room lit by candles and was a bit too much for this English prude. The best bit? On the last day, after we graduated the programme, we were treated to hair, make up and nails services. (N.B. We did have to fight off the therapists who wanted to give us the trademark ‘Tarant look’ of wild, crazy curly hair and bright red lipstick).

Did I feel better when I left? Undoubtedly. Whilst I could take or leave the tambourine bashing – the food, the villa and the great lengths the team took to care of me allowed me to finally feel the sunshine on my face. I had gained valuable perspective . And, crucially, that tan.

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