The Eremo di Ronzano Retreat

The Contemplative Group Dynamics Eremo di Ronzano Retreat provides a week-long occasion to practice mindfulness in silence complemented by periods using speech to describe in real time one’s experience. One’s description then intersects with that of other members so that attention is extended from subjective toward intersubjective experiencing, from the private to the shared.   

23-30 June 2023

The view from Eremo

The practice of both silence and speech is structured using the four foundations of mindfulness. Thus the sharing of observations serves to ground attention in presence and reduce wandering mind. The retreat will include:

A. Talks and discussion on how the following apply to contemplative group practice: the four foundations of mindfulness, affective resonance, the role of language and speech, the nature of dream, and the eight collections of consciousness.

B. Individual interviews to support and clarify participants’ practice

C. Yoga and walking meditation will be integrated into the schedule.

D. An experienced massage therapist will be available for those who may benefit (€40 cost not included)

Contemplative Group Dynamics explores, in real time, the communication exchanges among members based on the four foundations or abidings of mindfulness. Individually and as a group using speech we ground our attention and presence by starting with the basic level of body sensation. We then sequentially proceed to feeling, mental events and experience. This gradual approach helps integrate the use of speech to describe moment to moment experience whilst not getting taken by story or narrative: individual, social, or cultural. 

Contemplative Group Dynamics practice facilitates a loosening or release from self-centered attention enabling real time insight into:

  • the transient and contextually determined nature of experience 
  • how others share the same embodiment and world and hold similar aspirations 
  • how we co-create a mindful group

In this way we practice deepening our compassionate apprehension of the interdependence of self, other, and lived-world. We will inquire as to how the group serves as an immediate relational field where interdependence and compassion operate.

More information on


Criteria for entry into the retreat would be at least one day or equivalent of the training groups, and an interview. 

The setting of our retreat is Eremo di Ronzano on one of the hills commanding the city of Bologna and with a magnificent view of the Basilica of San Luca which tops another of the hills. 

Both structures date back to 12th century and both were initially female retreat centres. The church at Ronzano was built in 1209. Set within olive groves and walnut, chestnut, and cypress trees, there is also cultivation of vine, kiwis and beekeeping. The Eremo is reached along a winding road taking only 10 minutes by taxi from the city centre. It can also be reached by walking through park of Villa Ghigi, an old aristocratic stately home which is now a communal park and one can walk through the grounds to climb unto the Eremo by foot a journey taking 45- 60 minutes from the city. In the square outside the church at Eremo, on a plaque, the words of Giosuè Carducci stand out:

The hill of Ronzano, standing out from the foothills of the Apennines almost as a lookout “of the gentle plain that from Vercelli to Marcabò dichina”, seems to have been designated by nature as a meteorological observatory for inquisitive intellects or as a refuge for spirits who in the silences of ‘a great aspect of earth and sky’ seek the ideal and perhaps find rest.

The programme will include a talk and guided tour of the Eremo and its buildings and church. There will be free time to enable exploration of the hills or one’s own silent practice or reading. 

After arrival on the Friday afternoon ( 23rd ) and settling into the rooms the retreat will start Friday evening  with a welcome talk and orientation to the week. During the days that follow we will practice in silence and speech (contemplative group practice). Departure will be on the 30th after breakfast. 

 8.00  –  9.00   Breakfast 

 9.00  -12.00  Morning practice 

12.00 -15.00  Lunch and rest 

15.00 -16.30  Practice

16.30- 17.00  Tea/ coffee  break

17.00- 18.30  Practice

18.30- 20.00  Dinner break 

20.00- 21.30  Evening practice and talk 

The accommodationis at the hermitage in rooms with antique furniture on two sides of a courtyard. These were the rooms used by the brothers and now made available for community contemplative events such as ours. There are a small number of single  rooms and others have a shared bathroom between two or three. Please indicate if you have a strong preference for a private room at time of booking which will be allocated on first come first served basis. 


There will be three meals prepared by our cook on site. You can indicate dietary restrictions when booking.


Please let us know if you would like a massage at time of booking. The fee of 40 Euros is paid directly in cash to Inge the massage therapist. 

The Cost

Early bird fees until March 31st 2023 ( includes 7 days of accommodation and full board )

700 Euros ( 770 for single room )

760 USD  ( 835 for single room )

620 GBP ( 682 for single room )

Fees after 31 March 2023

805 Euros ( 875 for single room )

875 USD  ( 945 for single room )

715 GBP ( 785 for single room )

Refunds 100 % until 22nd May, none thereafter as we will have already committed to cover the cost of the setting. 

How to get there

Bologna airport is very well served by international flights. The Eremo is accessible by taxi from the airport in 25 minutes at a cost of around 20-25 Euros.  

Alternatively the railway station is Bologna Centrale, very well connected to other parts of Italy and Europe. The Eremo is accessible by taxi from the station. The journey takes 10 minutes and cost around 10-15 Euros. 

Please aim to arrive Friday afternoon. 


Please email [email protected] to book your place. 

History of Eremo di Ronzano

Cremonina Piatesi, a noblewoman from Bologna, took refuge in Ronzano with five companions and built a hermitage and a chapel dedicated to the SS. Trinity in 1140. Cremonina was followed in 1209 by her great-granddaughter Raimondina who enlarged the hermitage and built the church.

Loderingo d’Andalò de’ Carbonesi, bought Ronzano in 1267 together with five brothers and founded the association of the “Frati Gaudenti” or the “Militia of the B.V. Gloriosa”. It was a Chivalric Order made up of married or single men, of which it is worth remembering Loderingo d’Andalò and Catalano Catalani who were sent to Florence in 1260 with the task of restoring peace between the Guelphs and Ghibellines after the battle of Montaperti. Dante unjustly branded them of partiality (Inferno XXIII 82-108). The Gaudentis had in fact while in Bologna, distinguished themselves for their peacemaking work between the families of the Asinelli and the Scannabecchi, divided by a bloody enmity. In 1475, in a period of crisis for the Gaudentis, the last prior, Brother Ludovico Barbieri, gave Ronzano to the Dominican friars.

The Dominican friars demolished the two small churches previously built and in 1480 began the construction of the current complex: the church and the adjoining convent. In 1633 the Serbatorium nevis, the snow depot, was built. During the plague periods of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ronzano was a safe haven for the Dominicans. They also resisted Pope Innocent X who on 15 October 1652, with the text Instaurandae regularis disciplinae, decreed the suppression of small convents. However, in 1798, with the passage of Napoleon Bonaparte, the convent was suppressed and the entire complex was sold to the family of the Marquis De Lucca, who transformed the buildings for social use, selling the columns of the ancient cloister and destroying the frescoes by opening windows along the walls. They removed the  precious frescoes of the Bolognese school. 

From 1806 until 1848 Ronzano was owned by the rector of the College of Spain who did not make any significant changes to the structure. Instead, it was Count Giovanni Gozzadini, together with his wife Maria Teresa Serego Alighieri, a descendant of Dante, who restored Ronzano in order to bring it back to its original form and made it the center of the cultural and social life of that period: among the visitors we remember Marco Minghetti and Giosuè Carducci. Shortly afterwards and until 1921, the hermitage passed to the Conte Da Schio who maintained the Gozzadino tradition and hosted Guglielmo Marconi, among others. 

The Order of the Servi di Maria (Servants of Mary), are the current owners of the Hermitage of Ronzano, who have been opening it for decades to welcome groups and associations working for peace, parishes, scouts and anyone wishing to spend a moment of pause and reflection in an isolated setting, surrounded by nature. 

The interiors of the church of San Vincenzo di Ronzano were restored in 2003-2004.The Servants of Mary are an order of mendicant friars founded in 1233 by seven Florentine merchants (their names are given as a curiosity, as they have gone down in history: Bonfiglio, Amadio, Bonagiunta, Manetto, Sostegno, Uguccione, Alessio) who, having retreated to religious life, they were deeply committed as peacemakers in their city. They extended their lifestyle beyond Tuscany, especially to Bologna where, in Strada Maggiore, you can admire the beautiful church dating back to the 1300s.

Modern historians of the Order believe that the seven were somehow connected to the lay movement of the “Fratres de Poenitentia”, a movement prior to St. Francis of Assisi. It is known that in Florence there was an order dedicated to the Virgin Mary which was called the Major Society of Our Lady; the seven were part of it, who had the opportunity to meet and get to know each other there. From this friendship arose the commitment to live a more fervent life, achievable both by those who had families and by those who had not married.

The community that lives at the Hermitage of Ronzano is made up of friars who carry out vocational and welcoming activities, constituting a point of reference for individuals or groups, for days of retreat and experience of community life.

Cultural activities, conferences, seminars, retreats, organized by associations or individuals are also hosted. The aim of these activities is the maturation of the human and spiritual relationship with oneself and with one’s neighbour.

The Servants of Mary perpetuate their ancient vocation as builders of peace. In fact, at Ronzano they sustain a place oriented towards the search for serenity coming from inner freedom, with the aim of creating a harmonious relationship with others and with nature. Among the various activities practiced by the friars, the production of an excellent honey stands out. In addition from a small vineyard of about two hectares, they produce D.O.C. wines including Pignoletto, Chardonnay, and an excellent red wine.

The DoMani Social Cooperative is on the site of the Hermitage of Ronzano, carrying out reception and social integration projects for asylum seekers and professional training and job placement activities for vulnerable groups. DoMani, specialised in the immigration sector, unconditionally welcomes fragile people providing social service in the Bologna area. In fact, in close collaboration with the Order of Servants of Mary and the Order of Salesians, it manages the spaces of the Hermitage of Ronzano and Castel dei Britti, dedicating them to: 

  • Six host communities for political refugees (Communities for minors, new adults, humanitarian corridors, families and fragile adults), and a social landlord co-managed with political refugees residing in Ronzano
  • An activity of social agriculture aimed at training and job placement of vulnerable groups
  • Workshops and social events for schools and the local community
  • The management of the after-school service and the female university student residence of the San Giuseppe Institute, in via Pontevecchio in Bologna.


Villa Ghigi

In 1874 the property was purchased by Callisto Ghigi, a lawyer originally from Ravenna and remained in the family until 1972. Callisto, a botany and ornithology enthusiast, was responsible for inserting some exotic trees and planting a small group of beech trees in a particularly cool corner. One of Callisto’s sons, Alessandro (1875-1970), lived in the villa almost all his life, cultivating his vocation as a naturalist from childhood. In 1922 he held the chair of Zoology at the University of Bologna, of which he was rector between 1930 and 1943. In the villa he dedicated himself in particular to the breeding of exotic pigeons and pheasants, for which he set up numerous aviaries (of which no traces remain). Founder and point of reference for associations and institutes for the study and conservation of fauna and flora, he is considered one of the forerunners of the protection of nature in Italy and, above all in the post-war period, his activity in favour of national parks and the protection of natural Italian was particularly intense. 

In 1963 Ghigi donated the easternmost portion of the estate to the municipality of Bologna, obtaining in exchange the building permit in the initial part of the property, where a number of villas and a small building were later built. In the meantime, the measures to protect the hilly area of ​​Bologna frustrated projects of new buildings and, on Ghigi’s death in 1970, the heirs sold the villa and part of the land to the municipality of Bologna and two farms to private individuals. Since then the villa has no longer been inhabited and is in a state of neglect. Inside the park it is possible to see the villa that gives its name to the park itself, no longer accessible, surrounded by some other small buildings, including the caretaker’s house, partially restored and open as a refreshment point .