If you’ve downloaded the Headspace app, tried your hand at mindfulness, or pursued the calmness of breath, forest bathing is the next natural step in your pursuit of zen.
Shaded by majestic trees and a canopy of cascading green, the art of forest bathing simply requires you to walk mindfully amongst woodland and allow nature to nurture your inner calm. If you’re in need of some peace of mind, join us as we find out more about the power of the forest with Marco Nieri, a TED Talk speaker and co-author of The Secret Therapy of Trees.
Fall in step with this Italian tree whisperer and discover sacred forests just beyond the city of Florence. Substituting water for an immersion in sun-dappled woods, Marco explains that forest bathing is about finding stillness, surrounding yourself with a network of trees. “Taking a mindful approach to your woodland walk,” says Marco, “you awaken your senses to the sounds, sights and feelings in nature.”
To reconnect with the natural world, we need to first disconnect from the digital one. Switch off your phone and venture along gently curving country roads into the ancient and vast Vallombrosa forest, an hour's drive from Hotel Savoy. The inspiration for Milton’s fallen angels in Paradise Lost, Italy’s famous forest includes fir trees cultivated by Benedictine monks since the 11th century. To fully immerse yourself, ask our Concierge Ruggero Vannini to arrange guided walking tours in the natural spirituality of the forest.
“The beauty of having a guide,” explains Marco, who is also a trainer at the Forest Therapy Hub, “is that it can facilitate a more effective and engaging experience with nature. Activities based on scientific research, adapted to the location and type of participants, aim to achieve a fluid state of well-being, where it is nature itself that reveals its regenerative potential for the body and psyche.”
The concept of forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, is a surprisingly recent discovery. First mentioned in the 1980’s in Japan, doctors and scientists found that the stresses of an increasingly urban, indoor lifestyle can be markedly improved by just a few hours of slow walking and relaxing in a dense forest, where you are surrounded by nature and literally bathing in its serene splendour.
“you awaken your senses to the sounds, sights and feelings in nature.”
Marco is one of the revolutionaries re-evaluating our scientific understanding of trees. His real passion lies in the bio-electromagnetic energy that trees emit to communicate with one another and with other living beings. After three decades of research, he’s developed his own method of converting a ‘feeling’ that trees are good for us into the knowledge to prove it.
To illustrate the phenomenon, he says, the electromagnetic energy of trees can extend up to several metres away, just as a drop of ink colours the water of a clear mountain stream but with one difference - the tree’s energy never wears out.
Full of essential oils, individual tree species also offer a medicine cabinet’s supply of treatments. Picture the purifying properties of fir, eucalyptus and sandalwood, or the calming effects of cypress, cedarwood and the rich earthy scent of sandalwood. For this reason, Marco recommends spending some conscientious time in forests rich in 'monoterpenes' – the main volatile components of essential oils – emitted by the foliage of different tree species to improve your immune system, calm your nervous system, lower the heart rate and even boost your body’s disease-fighting cells.
The good news is that you don’t, strictly speaking, need a vast arboretum or ancient woodland to practise forest bathing. Even the leafy rooftop of a hotel, pocket-sized park or an urban forest will be a restoring experience. Just one visit to a forest can have a positive effect and even a mindful walk through a semi-natural park can alleviate physical and psychological stress.