Posts Tagged ‘gay men’s retreat’

Events: COME BACK TO YOUR SENSES, a summer retreat in Tuscany for gay men

January 14, 2016

Have you ever been to Italy? If not, maybe it’s time. If so, do you miss it? I do. That’s why I’m going back this summer with my friend and colleague John Ballew to host

COME BACK TO YOUR SENSES – Cultivating Sensuality in Tuscany
A workshop for gay men
June 11-18, 2016


About the Program:

In today’s fast-paced world, hard-working people spend their days harnessed to computers and electronic devices. We believe it’s spiritually rewarding to take time to nourish yourself, to explore and refine simple pleasures. We invite you to come back to your senses.

Presented under the auspices of our friends at Il Chiostro, this retreat offers more than simply the opportunity to get away from ordinary life. We are inspired by the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism. Dating from the 4th century BC, Epicureanism taught that the pleasures of the senses offer a verifiable standard of truth and therefore can serve to cultivate wisdom, justice, and happiness.

During the week-long retreat, we will spend time cultivating all of the senses. You will be invited to really see what you see, taste what you taste, smell what you smell, hear what you hear, and touch what you touch – really slow down, savor your sensory impressions and replenish your skills of discernment.

In a setting that is both safe and inviting to gay men, we will help you remember the joy of life in a body!

pool and gazebo

“Come Back to Your Senses” is a rich but gently structured adventure. Our days together will alternate between two different kinds of activity:

1) interactive group exercises designed to help us slow down, engage our sensual mechanisms, recalibrate our awareness of what’s important in our lives, activate our creativity, and cultivate deeper intimacy with ourselves and others; and

2) expeditions to nearby towns such as Montalcino and Pienza or destinations such as the Abbey at Sant’Antimo or the spa Bagno Vignoni.

There will be time to relax and enjoy the beautiful Tuscan setting, and every evening we will sit down for a leisurely delicious multi-course dinner prepared just for us. There’s something really special about sharing these activities in Italy with a soulful group of open-hearted gay men. The size of the group is limited to 10 participants.

perfect moment dievole

Accommodations: The program will take place at Il Chiostro’s favorite new location, San Giovanni d’Asso in Tuscany, 40 km southeast of Siena. We will stay in an ancient farmhouse called “Il Tribbio,” which was completely refurbished in 2005. This large house has five double bedrooms, each of which has a private bathroom and air-conditioning. Outside there is a loggia with panoramic views of the surrounding area known as the Val d’Orcia. a swimming pool, and large outdoor spaces for gathering or relaxing. In front of the house there is a large, beautiful garden with olive and pomegranate trees and a wide grassland, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the rolling Sienese hills.


Il Tribbio is located in a peaceful countryside 10 minutes by foot (1 km) from the romantic village of San Giovanni d’Asso, which has a beautiful 14th century castle, a charming tiny 11th century Romanesque church, a crazy botanical garden called Il Bosco della Ragnaia (curated and owned by an American painter), and a truffle museum (most of the truffles that come from Italy originate here).

Price: $2,595 p/p


  • Double room with ensuite bathroom and shower
  • Daily breakfast and dinner, including wine
  • Workshop tuition, daily experiences facilitated by the instructors
  • Selected excursions with the group

Price does not include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

To register:  A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made online here with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by May 1st.

Contact us for more information: or speak to the registration staff live at 800-990-3506. If you have any questions, feel free to contact either me or John Ballew directly.

Workshop: THAT’S AMORE! Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Renewal

January 13, 2013

THAT’S AMORE! – Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Renewal

A retreat for gay male couples in rural Tuscany facilitated by Don Shewey

June 8-15, 2013

For busy, active adults in committed relationships, it’s often amazingly difficult to make time to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed and intimate way. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, and housekeeping get the attention they demand – but what about exploring and growing together, erotic play, Quality Time For Us? In this week-long retreat, couples will gain instruction and practice in creating simple, elegant, and fun intentional ceremonies in order to revitalize and celebrate loving partnerships.

Two men holding hands
I’ve been leading programs for Il Chiostro since the year 2000, some of them in rural Tuscany and some of them in urban centers (Venice, Florence, Rome, Bologna). One of the cool things about these adventures is that we’ve been going to Italy long enough that we have developed great contacts in every location so that participants are guaranteed to have an off-the-beaten-path experience. We get to interact with the local people and the landscape in a way that goes beyond typical guidebook-driven tourism.

“That’s Amore!” will take place at a new venue for Il Chiostro called Terzo di Danciano, an 18th century villa overlooking a valley between Tuscany and Umbria. (The website proudly boasts, “Are you the type of person who can appreciate the added value of a location where love and respect for nature dwell? You simply want to sleep, dream and make love in one of our super romantic rooms! They all have wonderful views.” It’s that kind of place.) The grounds, with its luscious lawns, hiking paths, and swimming pool, will provide a lovely setting for the retreat. You can find out more about the venue here.

terza danciano 3
My vision for “That’s Amore!” is to use the sheer beauty and the cultural richness of the Italian setting to inspire creativity in the way that we nourish and replenish our relationships. One thing I have learned from my own experience and from working with couples in my therapy practice is that relationships are like gardens – they don’t thrive unattended but require a certain amount of attention and renewal. It’s important to take time off from business as usual, to set aside the time and space to keep the lines of communication clear and to sustain a robust physical connection.

Easier said than done, though, right? At home you may tend to develop efficient routines and personal habits; in Italy, with “That’s Amore!” you will have an opportunity to go beyond the status quo and try on some artistic ways of expressing romance, tenderness, and joy with your partner.

We’ll begin the week with some practical instructions on the rudiments of creating ritual space: using sacred objects, formulating intentions, making time commitments. “Ritual” may sound like something only encountered in church — so what is a ritual where a relationship is concerned? Does it require candles, a liturgy, funny hats? Or can it be something as basic as, say, a massage exchange? Rituals can be simple outlines for intentional actions, devised on the spur of the moment, that employ whatever is at hand and finish up in 10 minutes – or they can involve elaborate preparation and go on for hours. We’ll experiment with many variations over the course of a week. We’ll spend part of each day exploring a different kind of ceremony using music, words, photography, movement, touch, meditation, food, and the natural environment.

The retreat is limited to six couples, each of whom will have a spacious room with a private bathroom. Although “That’s Amore!” will include exercises designed to enhance verbal communication and understanding between intimate partners, this will not be a week-long couples therapy session. The program is intended for gay male couples who would enjoy spending a week in a structured environment that supports renewing and replenishing the love you share. My intention is for each participant to leave with not only a deeper connection to your partner but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.

terza danciano pool
I think one thing that participants have always appreciated about the programs I’ve done with Il Chiostro is the balance we strike between structured activities with the group and free time on your own. Each day there will be stuff we do together as a group, usually in the morning, sometimes involving expeditions to neighboring towns (Cortona, Perugia, and Assisi are all nearby). There will be some free time in the afternoon to have lunch on your own, wander around, lounge by the pool, or nap. And then we will come back together to share our findings for the day and to have dinner prepared by our private chef. Plus, there’s something nice about being in Italy with a group of gay men; gay life in Italy is so elusive it’s sometimes hard to find. Gay travelers, even today, can find themselves in awkward circumstances, like at hotels where it becomes a hassle for a male couple to organize sleeping in the same bed; with Il Chiostro, we create an atmosphere where it’s easy to be yourself.

The price for the week-long retreat is $2,195 per person, which includes seven nights’ lodging, breakfast and dinner each day, and local transportation.  Registration details and other information can be found online here.

If you have any questions at all about “That’s Amore!” please don’t hesitate to contact me.



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