Sports and food in harmony with the environment. The Italian experience of Forest bathing
From Alpine forests to organic apple orchards, and including glamping: these are some of the steps one can take to establish an authentic contact with nature in Italy. According to experts, it takes only four hours a day in the forest for three consecutive days, alternating hiking and stopping along the trails, to produce benefits to our health that last a long time.
The benefits of nature on the mind and body are well known, but “Forest bathing” is a recent practice: born in Japan in the early 1980s, it encourages a profound contact with the elements of nature to reduce stress.
Shinrin-yoku, literally “benefit from the atmosphere of the forests”, involves all 5 senses to foster a total connection with the environment, leading to an immediate sense of peace and relaxation.
The advantages of this immersion in nature are many: it affects the nervous and immune systems, regulates the heartbeat and improves one’s mood, reducing cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone”.
An experience in the name of taste and scents offered by Borgotufi, a historic town at Castel del Giudice (Isernia), where the peaks of the Alto Molise region meet the landscapes of Abruzzo. Borgotufi is a town within a town, a “community” hotel, which has restored the ancient houses made of local stone and wood, overlooking the forest, and adaptied them to become independent tourist residences, in a place rich in biodiversity. There is a host of trails that depart directly from the town, following the course of the Sagro and Molinaro rivers, but one can also inebriate the senses with the flowers and scents of the Melise organic apple orchard, the fruits of which become ingredients in the chef’s dishes at the restaurant “Il Tartufo”.
Forest bathing is an experience that is also offered with glamping at Laghi Nabi, the first natural oasis in the Campania region, which grew out of the environmental regeneration of the former sand quarries on the Litorale Domizio coast. It begins at awakening: here, where nature and architecture coexist harmoniously, every activity is conceived to maintain contact with the environment. Whether it be a yoga session, a walk or a horseback riding lesson, the possibilities for reconnecting with the landscape are many and for every taste.
Centuries-old oaks and turkey oaks coexist with meadows, olive groves, pine trees and weeping willows in the ample estate – 250 hectares in all – in Castello di Petroia (Perugia). Completely surrounded by nature, the majestic castle rises between Gubbio and Perugia, with trails that follow ancient rural footpaths. Over 10 km of trails that come together in the Franciscan Trail of Peace and move out into a forest that features over 6 thousand different plant species.
There are also places at higher altitudes in the mountains, among plants of hickory pine, red fir, larch and a rich underbrush of blueberries and rhododendrons. The Fanes-Sennes-Braies Natural Park is ideal for a full immersion into the landscapes of the Dolomites. For your base camp, you can choose between staying in the award-winning Excelsior Dolomites Life Resort & Lodge at San Vigilio di Marebbe (Bolzano): alpine meadows studded with lakes and streams are located literally just steps from the resort, flagged by Wanderhotels as one of the finest alpine hotels for excursions. The resort also caters to more dynamic guests, thanks to the Active Hotel Award acknowledgment it won last year in the category of “mountain sports”.
For lovers of high altitudes, there are wellness experiences in Valle Aurina as well, with over 80 peaks over three thousand meters high overlooking the valley below. Sabrina Innerhofer, an excursion guide at the Alpenplace Luxury Hideaway & Spa Retreat at San Giovanni (Bolzano), accompanies guests through special experiences of forest bathing, departing from Rio Bianco and leading them into the forests: the visitors first learn to recognize dandelions, achillea and wild thyme along the herb trail, and learn to use them for cooking and beauty treatments. Then, they begin mild physical activity, complete with breathing exercises among the essences of nature. Finally, they take off their shoes and go barefoot, in contact with the earth and the water, in an all-natural kneipp experience.
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translation by Olga Barmine