Shanti Gaia, named by our teacher Neeraja, is a farmstead with a main house and outbuildings nestled in the gentle hills of the southern reaches of Castelli Romani, a region just outside of Rome.
On a hillside in the rural area surrounding the town of Lanuvio is a little hamlet with a farmhouse and stables that once housed Maremmana cattle and other farm animals. Most of the outbuildings have been transformed into lodgings for meditators who come to stay here during meditation retreats.
The entire structure was renovated more than 15 years ago using green building techniques and materials. Solar panels produce nearly all the energy needed for the operation of the farm.
The highest point on the property offers an exceptional panoramic view that in the southwest spans from the Circeo headland and the Pontine islands all the way up to the Ostia and Fiumicino coastline; looking in that direction you can admire breathtaking sunsets with the sun dissolving into the sea. Gazing northwest, you can see the surrounding hills: on the highest one is the nearby town of Lanuvio with its distinctive medieval center, which is especially evocative when illuminated at night. From north to east you can see the Alban Hills, a dormant volcanic complex dominated by Mount Cavo and Mount Artemisio, and then the Anti-Appenine range with the Lepini Mountains, often snowcapped in the winter months.
The farm is mainly dedicated to the cultivation of olive trees, more than 2,000, most of them young and a few of them centuries old. The variety is predominantly local, producing excellent organic oil valued for its fragrant aroma and delicate yet rich taste.
Down in the valley is a spring-fed stream that usually runs dry in the hot summer months. As an organic farmstead, a multitude of birds and animals are welcomed and respected here, and many edible and medicinal native plants can be found.
The main building has been renovated and adapted to accommodate meditation retreats and courses focusing on inner exploration.
The presence of olive trees, noted for their symbolic connection to peace, is a perfect backdrop for the inner journeys that take place here.
The accommodations in shared rooms are simple and comfortable. Some are reserved for women, and others for men, and there is also a space dedicated to children.
In the main kitchen, the meals prepared for meditators are simple and strictly vegetarian, cooked with love and attention. The menus and ingredients are carefully selected, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal, and organic products.
Meals are eaten in a dining hall with large windows overlooking the garden.
On nice days in the spring and summer, and even on warm days in the fall, most meals are eaten outside in the garden, in the shade of beautiful linden trees that offer refreshing shade and during the flowering season also delight us with their sweet perfume.
After lunch or in the breaks, guests can take relaxing and enjoyable walks on the farm property, immersed in nature and surrounded by olive trees.
Inside the building is a large hall with a wooden floor and large windows, designed for satsang, meditation, and kirtan. The hall is isolated from the other areas to create a protected environment for meditation and introspection.