He’d done a few health and fitness retreats around the world. Each time he would return to Positano and gaze up at the mountains above his Amalfi Coast hometown, criss-crossed with a network of ancient footpaths, where he and his wife Carla would often go hiking. “It suddenly occurred to me”, Antonio reveals, “that I had not seen anywhere quite so well suited to hosting a retreat. Positano is incredibly beautiful, immersed in pristine nature – and we have a series of amazing trekking routes right on our doorstep”.
The result, launched in March 2019, was Dolce Vitality. A twice-yearly fitness retreat based at Antonio’s family hotel, Le Sirenuse, its two annual editions happen in the week before the hotel opens in spring, and the week after it closes in the fall.
Actually, there was one other “big idea” behind Dolce Vitality. The long-running Sirenland Writer’s Workshop, which takes place pre-season each March, had shown Antonio and Carla just how much a small group of like-minded people enjoy having one of Italy’s most celebrated seaside resorts all to themselves for a week.
Dolce Vitality was only one year old when the pandemic reared its head and put the retreat on hold for a couple of years. But now it’s back, with a series of small but important upgrades aimed at helping it live up to its name more than ever before.
The ‘vitality’ part centres on a series of morning mountain hikes that are – let’s be honest – tough. Before the coast road was completed in the 19th century, the only way in and out of Positano was either by boat, or on foot or muleback across the high ridge of the Monte Lattari to Sorrento and Naples. Over the centuries, stone footpaths were built which, given the near vertical terrain, consisted largely of long flights of steps. Walking up steps for an hour or more is challenging, even for those with high levels of fitness. But the rewards are immense. From the higher reaches you see the whole of the Amalfi Coast laid out like a diorama, the Bay of Naples dominated by the puffing cone of Vesuvius, Capri rising in jagged majesty from the azure sea.
Led by a group of expert local guides, these treks are the heart and soul of Dolce Vitality. If any temptation to make them easier, shorter, flatter ever crossed his mind, Antonio soon chased it away. But from the fall 2022 edition of the retreat, which runs from 30 October to 5 November, he and the team are introducing a few small changes to help guests prepare for them, power through them and recover from them. Morning yoga sessions help to wake up and stretch the muscle groups that participants rely on during the hikes. Afternoon massages are ever more focused on draining lactic acid and dealing with problem areas. And each morning, guests are given personalized boxes of homemade, heathy snacks to keep up energy levels during the day, based on the results of their initial body composition analysis.
The lunch and dinner menu at Dolce Vitality is still based on Antonio’s conviction – fully shared by Le Sirenuse’s executive chef, Gennaro Russo – that healthy food doesn’t need to mean boring food. The fresh, seasonal produce of the Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Naples continues to be the cornerstone of a menu which is low-calorie, gluten free, and rich in vegetables, fruit and pulses. But from November 2022, some fresh, locally sourced fish and seafood will be added to provide extra protein and Omega-3. And as organic wine from small producers is part of Positano culture, it will also be available for those who want it.
Finally, the daily programme has been modified to allow guests more free time in the afternoons to kick back and relax in the hotel or explore the town. This is Dolce Vitality, after all…
For more information on Dolce Vitality as well as the hotel’s Spa, Gym and Pool offerings, we invite you to consult the new Wellness section of Le Sirenuse’s website.
Photos © Roberto Salomone
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