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Mural in Vidracco

After many months of preparation we have arrived in Italy.

In late May of this year Don and I decided to sell our apartment, sell or give away everything in it, sell our car, and become gypsies, living the life we really want to live. It took four months to completely turn our life around from going in one direction to going in a whole new direction, tying up every last detail and loose end we could possibly think of. It took two weeks longer than we imagined it would. We had no idea how much would have to be accomplished, or how stressful it would be. There were great lessons in presence, and patience, and letting go, and humility, and just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, until one day it was all done, all the obstacles evaporated, and we boarded a flight for Italy. There’s a lot more to come in later blogs about this change in our circumstances, but for now we wanted to connect with everyone, and share a bit of our travels.

Our first stop, mainly for logistical reasons, was a small hotel near the Torino airport, unremarkable, but adequate for our needs. Attached to it was a Chinese/Italian restaurant with an enormous menu (never a good sign) so we settled on pizza! Perfetto for our first night in Italy. We couldn’t eat it all so they boxed our left overs for us.

They don’t make pizza boxes like this in Canada!


Next morning we rented a car and drove to the village of Vidracco, and Damanhur, an intentional spiritual community north of Torino. What most drew us to visit this community are the temples they built underground, in secret, during a sixteen year period from 1978. Click on the link to the temples. No, really. Click on the link to the temples. Or cut and paste it into your browser. And then click on “virtual tour”. And also don’t forget to click on the arrows that show you the ceilings and floors of each hall. You won’t be disappointed. They are astonishing and far better than any pictures I could take, and photography is prohibited in the temples.

The Temples of Humankind

One of the main philosophies of the community is the development of the self through creativity and art. There is art everywhere, indoors and out.

We visited their outdoor temple, and the many complex labyrinths for walking meditation, their Stonehenge style circle for solstice and equinox rituals, as well as their main building housing all the artists’ studios, a gallery of paintings, meeting hall, healing centres, store, coffee shop, and restaurant.

Outdoor temple

Solstice/Equinox celebration circle. These rock columns are about twenty metres high and go as far into the ground as they are above it. I think there are about eight of them, forming a complete circle.

And of course the temples. Words cannot describe the energy and feeling in these astonishing, and astonishingly beautiful, underground hidden sacred spaces. We’d seen the virtual tour on their website but it is nothing compared to the real thing. Each of the halls is connected with narrow decorated corridors and hidden doorways. It would be easy to get lost in there. These people dug into the mountain for years, bringing out the rock and dirt bucket by bucket. It is truly a mind-blowing accomplishment. On our first day here we toured all the temples, and on our third day we were able to do a private meditation, with only one other person, in the Hall of Spheres and the Hall of Metals. Very powerful and profound. I felt blessed and privileged, and knocked into stillness. We both came back to our hotel room and immediately fell asleep for two hours.

On our second day here we attended their beautiful Fall equinox ritual in the great outdoor circle – drumming and dancing and singing to mark the change of the seasons. Everything about Damanhur feels Atlantean. Maybe they know something we don’t? Either way this small group of committed people has achieved a huge amount, and contributed a great amount of beauty to the world. I wish I could have stayed longer, and maybe one day we’ll go back for another look inside the Temples of Humankind.

Next we go back to Torino and take the train to Cinque Terre – five tiny villages clinging to the steep west coast of northern Italy for hiking and ferry rides and hanging out in cafes.

It took most of the first three days in Italy to finally feel like I’d actually arrived here. And begun this new life. Both Don and I are writing just about every day, recording the inner and outer journey. I frequently have the feeling that I have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, but that it’s okay, living in the not knowing is okay. The only thing that seems important is to do what feels right.

More Damanhur creativity:

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.