We have organised a brilliant new Epicurean Retreat on the Amalfi Peninsula in Campania, the country around Naples.
The Romans called this country Campania Felix: Happy Land. We’ll be relaxing in a sixteenth-century villa on the Sorrento Peninsula overlooking the bay of Naples and learning about the food, wine and philosophy of the area. We’ll take a trip to Herculaneum where decadent Romans practised Epicureanism. We’ll see Roman Villa Oplontis perfectly preserved. There will be optional trips into the bustle of Naples and we’ll swim in idyllic bays and walk through olive and lemon groves along the Amalfi coast – so beautiful it has been called ‘the pathway of the Gods’ . We’ll provide reading lists and there will be plenty of time to read by the pool or in the garden.
We have collaborated with Sophia Seymour of tour company Looking For Lila to create this programme. Sophia has three years’ experience in showing visitors around the Naples made famous by Elena Ferrante’s novels.
We will be staying on the outskirts of the village of Sant’ Agata dei due Golfi on the edge of the Monti Lattari national park. The village is known for for its Mediterranean views across to Amalfi on one side and Capri, Ischia and Naples to the other.
Places are £1,795 per person plus £300 single supplement, including room, board, wine, excursions, tutors and tour guides. Secure your place now with a £500 deposit.
Optional extras include a trip with Sophia to discover Naples, yoga in the villa’s own yoga studio, cooking lessons, massages and treatments. Let us know if you are interested.
Glorious Food and Wine
Campania is home to Buffalo Mozzarella, Limoncello, Gragnano Pasta and San Marzano tomatoes. Our in-house chef will be Lorenzo Salvatore, a member of the Epicurean Society of Naples. He’ll be using local ingredients and recipes, and we’ll be drinking wine from his own farm in the Irpina mountains
Lorenzo is also a dancer and musician of traditional Neapolitan music so we’re hoping he might teach us some La Tarantella in the evenings. All food and wine is included except one lunch and dinner on our night off.
Epicurean Retreat Itinerary
Please note this itinerary is subject to change but gives you a good idea of what we’ll be doing.
Tuesday 21st May
– Arrive at Villa Aragona
– Welcome and introductions with Tom, Victoria and Sophia.
– Local walk into Sant’ Agata dei Due Golfi along the pathway where the ladies in the village used to wash their clothes in the wells.
– Sundowner Talk: Tom Hodgkinson on The Story of the Epicureans. Tom outlines the central messages of the Epicureans, the materialists of their day. Invented in ancient Athens, the Epicurean cult thrived for many centuries in the Mediterranean, especially in Naples.
Wednesday 22nd May
– Morning talk: Sophia Seymour on Campania and Naples and what we’ll be seeing.
– Walk and Picnic at Baia d’Ieranto: We’ll walk down a steep valley through lemon and olive groves to picnic in this beautiful cove. The bay is directly across from the sea stacks of Capri and so beautiful that the sirens themselves chose to sing on the tiny islands opposite the bay: according to Pliny the Elder it was precisely here that Ulysses encountered them on his way back to Ithaca. Norman Douglas loved the bay and wrote much of his work here.
Thursday 23rd May
– Day trip to Herculaneum and Villa Oplontis with our own private guide.
Herculaneum was the playground for rich Romans who built luxurious villas here. It was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD and perfectly preserved by the ash that covered it. On the way back we’ll visit Villa Oplontis which belonged to Nero’s abused wife. The villa’s incredible frescoes were perfectly preserved. We’ll stop at local favourite restaurant Viva Lo Re for lunch.
– Light supper and film screening
Friday 24th May
– Morning Lecture with Tom Hodgkinson: The Birth of Philosophy. Tom takes us through Plato’s Symposium, the book which invented philosophy. It is an account of a drunken gathering of the wits of Ancient Athens, including Socrates, Alciabades and Aristophanes. The subject for discussion is love.
– Lunch on the pebbly beach of Marina di Cantone at the restaurant Maria Grazia famous for seafood antipasti and Spaghetti alla Nerano which is named after the nearby village.
– Evening off: wander into Sant’ Agata for passeggiata and pizza
Saturday 25th May
– Optional day trip to Naples with Sophia Seymour of Looking For Lila.
Sophia Seymour will introduce you to Naples whilst she leads you through the backstreets of Naples, through doorways and into hidden courtyards and gardens as she tell you about the history, mafia, myths, food and daily life. You’ll stop for coffees, pastries and tasters and then finish with a big lunch in a local trattoria where Sophia will talk you through some of the local dishes. The tour will take four hours and you’ll have time afterwards to explore the city for yourself. Please let us know if you would like to take this trip. Estimated €80pp including minibus taxi depending on numbers.
– For the stay at homes: a lazy day with the chance to explore local walks, read, and lie by the pool. Plus an optional pizza making class using the wood fired oven. Let us know if you’d like to book yoga.
Sunday 26th May
– History of food in Napoli with Amedeo Colella. Amedeo takes us from the Greco-Roman era, through Bourbon, Risorgimento, the arrival of Artusi and the wide-reaching influence of his cookbook and up to the present day.
– Traditional Campanian Sunday lunch.
– Sundowner lecture: A Brief History of Idling with Tom Hodgkinson: Tom touches on the great idlers of all time, from Lao Tzu to Diogenes to Christ in the old world, and Wilde, Lennon and Lydon in the new.
Monday 27th May
– Walk to Sorrento and the natural seaside pool, Bagni di Giovana for a swim and ice cream with Tom, Victoria and Sophia.
– Wine tasting with Ferrante Di Marzo.
– Final feast, music and singalong with Tom and Lorenzo.
Tuesday 28th May
– Leave Villa Aragona.
– Either return to Naples airport for the Ryanair flight or take a tour around Naples with Sophia Seymour.
About the Tutors
Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson will lead sessions on philosophy and the meaning of the good life. Tom is the author of seven books including How to be Idle, How to be Free and a history of the ukulele. He founded the Idler in 1993.
Victoria Hull is director of the Idler Academy. She’ll be hosting the retreat along with Tom.
Sophia Seymour founded tour company Looking for Lila in Naples after receiving a first for her university thesis from UCL on grassroots social art projects in Scampia, the Gomorrah heartland of northern Naples. She now divides her time between working as a freelance journalist specialising in all things Neapolitan, giving tours, working as a fixer for filmmakers and journalists, making Naples centric documentaries, and running Nata Nyola Migrant Journal, a platform publishing writing and artwork by asylum seekers that documents their experiences in Europe.
Amedeo Colella is an author, historian, comic and food expert with a deep knowledge and passion for Naples. After working on university research for many years he decided to quit his job and dedicate his life to all things Neapolitan. He spends his time in the streets of Naples with its people, absorbing its culture, beauty and history to then share with others. He frequently appears on local and national Italian television and radio discussing Naples, he is the author of many books of Neapolitan culture, and runs his own publishing house which promotes works on Naples’ history and food.
Ferrante di Somma runs his family winery Cantine di Marzo which is the oldest winery in Campania dating back to the seventeenth century. Cantine di Marzo is the birthplace of the prized Greco di Tufo, an excellent internationally recognised white wine. The vineyard has always been the property of the Di Marzo family who have been making the wine on their estate for over 300 years. They also owned the profitable Sulfur mines nearby in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Current heir Ferrante di Somma will trace the history of this delicious wine region. We’ll find out about the occupying Lombards, the invading Normans, the Bourbons and the nineteenth-century unification of Italy and how this history shaped the wine being produced today.
Accommodation and numbers
Our headquarters Villa Aragona has a total of 9 bedrooms: seven ensuite and two with a shared bathroom between them. There are also several ensuite rooms in the family-run hotel next door. All rooms have something special to recommend them. The maximum group size will be 16.
For more information about any part of the holiday please call 0203 176 7907 or email email@example.com.
£1,795 per person if sharing a bedroom (with one other person)
£300 single supplement
A non-refundable deposit of £500 is payable now, the remainder is due on 21 February, three months before the retreat. Call us on 0203 176 7907 for more info and to pay over the phone. Or click on the button at the top of this page. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries and to tell us which type of room you would like to book.
We recommend the following flights for which we will arrange transport between Napoli Airport and Villa Aragona:
Tuesday 21st May 2019:
Ryanair flight FR1832, London Stansted 7am to Napoli. Arrival 10.45am
Tuesday 28th May 2019:
Ryanair flight FR1833, Napoli 11.10am to London Stansted. Arrival 13.10pm
Transport between Naples and Villa Aragona will cost around £20 each way per person depending on our numbers. We’ll let you know when numbers are confirmed. Your ticket fare will be collected on the bus.
Terms and Conditions:
• If your booking is cancelled less than 8 weeks before the start of your holiday 100% of the total price is forfeited. Please ensure that your travel insurance is arranged at the time of booking.
• Holiday Insurance: It is a condition of accepting your booking that you provide proof of personal travel insurance, including cancellation insurance for medical reasons, redundancy, jury service etc. for all members of your party. Please note that the use of Villa Aragona, its facilities, grounds, and swimming pool are entirely at the user’s risk.