Archives for January 2017

A homage to Vincent from Maggie

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.Our lovely Californian painting tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann has just sent us some stunning paintings with a Van Gogh theme.  The oil above is called Café a la Van Gogh, while I don’t have to tell you the subject of the one below. HELLMANNSunflowerMorning (002)

And how about this Venetian scene, also an homage to the incomparable Vincent:HELLMANNVanGoghVenetian (002)

Maggie will be joining us next June for her week teaching in oils, acrylics, pastels and drawing mediums – you can choose your medium(s). There are more details below. You won’t have to paint like Van Gogh, but you will share his exhilaration of capturing the bright colours of the countryside. We already have 12 painters booked in to this course, but have room for one or two more.

Maggie calls her week-long course at The Watermill a Courageous Colo(u)r Workshop and she says: “In this plein air workshop we will paint in various spectacular Tuscan locations. Our emphasis will be on learning and practicing the core elements of successful paintings – Color, composition, focal point, light source, values, positive & negative shapes, volumes, edges, brushwork & perspective, as well as how to use contrasts to give excitement and drama to your paintings and much more! All levels of experience are welcome.”

Maggie Renner Hellmann is a contemporary California painter who paints with love, passion and energy. Her work is characterized by a unique blend of loose, energetic brushwork and strong compositions of exuberant color. She says: “I love the joy of color and the poetry of brushwork.”  This is Maggie’s Summer ReflectionsPainting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.Maggie is also a knowledgeable and enthusiastic tutor. She’s been teaching for more than 15 years – and she loves it! Her years of experience in painting in many mediums have distilled her teaching to the core fundamentals that will help guide any painter toward success. She will encourage the beginner and challenge the more advanced.

Here’s some praise from some of her former students: What I liked best about the workshop was Maggie’s approachable manner and encouragement, her clear understanding about color and light, her experience in simplifying landscapes and the discipline of first studying the subject in values – and how to make poetry out of a simple landscape.”

“What I particularly like about your teaching is that you seem to be able to distil the learning into meaningful chunks that are understandable and then you demonstrate the concept and have us practice it. Your methodology is very effective. I really like getting your feedback. You give it in a very helpful and constructive way and always let us observe you painting.”

RENNER H&SPainting by Maggie Renner Hellmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.17-24 June Oils, acrylics, pastels and drawing mediums

with Maggie Renner Hellmann

To learn more about Maggie and her course at The Watermill, please click here.






Slow food – but swift service!

slow food italia logoOur Watermill gardener Flavio Terenzoni doesn’t like snails – in fact he is often in a state of war against them. But one snail he does like is the one in the logo above, the emblem of the Slow Food movement. The Watermill is a member of this grassroots organization, founded in Italy  in 1986 and since spread worldwide.The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Slow Food is simply an alternative to fast food, and the movement strives to preserve traditional and regional cooking, as well as encouraging sustainable  agriculture and the promotion of local small businesses, all of which are aims of The Watermill too. We try to use fresh, local ingredients, too, many of which are gown by Flavio, or in the vegetable garden of our cook, Mirella Musetti.

ITINERARY page Mirella in kitchen cropped

But slow food, doesn’t mean slow service: in fact, the Watermill also has a reputation for delicious home-cooked meals, served on time, with no waiting about between courses. And it’s the same in the little local restaurants we take you to, too: honest food, freshly made, delightfully served.Dinner at mill square

As one satisfied guest said last year: “I have been on at least 50 weeks of workshops in the last 12 years and I have to say that the last one with you was the best-ever in terms of the organisation and the lovely food and wine we had. The local restaurants were very memorable – the sort of places you wouldn’t go to on your own, full of character and a quality experience.”

So, come and join us and indulge in the gentle pleasures of Slow Food. Meanwhile Flavio can wage war on the rest of the snails!

panzanellaPS Come and learn the slow secret of Italian cooking on our first-ever Watermill cookery course, L’arte di mangiar bene, the art of eating well. For more delicious details, please click here.

100 castles, two natural parks – and, of course, a watermill beside the river!

Blog two natural parks 2We are so proud of the ambiance of the Watermill and its surrounding countryside and love sharing it with our creative courses guests.

If you’ve been, you’ll know that The Watermill at Posara is a complex of elegant and historic, carefully restored Tuscan buildings, surrounding a sunny courtyard with an adjoining vine verandah, rose pergola and sun-filled walled garden. More gardens lead to walks along the river and the sun-dappled millstream. The buildings are listed by the Italian government as of historic importance.Tom riverside photo Jun 13Set in a gentle valley, The Watermill stands beside the River Rosaro in the small village of Posara. Peaceful and secluded, yet part of the village, the mill is just a mile or so from the walled medieval town of Fivizzano with its cafés, restaurants and shops. This is the heart of Lunigiana, in the North-west of Tuscany, stunningly beautiful and truly unspoilt part of Italy.

Snow on the Apuan Alps

Snow on the Apuan Alps

The comune (administrative district) of Fivizzano which, as well as a hundred ancient castles within its boundaries, contains not one, but two environmentally protected areas: the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Appennines, the backbone of Italy, and the Regional Park of the Apuan Alps, home of the marble mountains of Carrara. Because of this protected status the air and the water are pure and unpolluted and the area abounds in wildlife.

The Appennines near the Watermill

The Appennines near the Watermill

Come and join us and savour La Bella Vita Italiana. This year’s course are filling fast, but we still have places on our unique painting, Italian language, knitting, yoga and cooking weeks. More about everything at

As they say around here: Non vediamo l’ora di incontrarvi. We can’t wait to meet you!

Painters by the River Rosaro which flows beside the mill

Painters by the River Rosaro which flows beside the mill

Change the scenery to suit your composition, says Tim Wilmot

BardellinoWatermill painting tutor Tim Wilmot, who will be joining us for a course in watercolours this Autumn, has been telling us about a little mental exercise he does before he begins to paint a landscape. He likes to ask himself a few questions:

  • Is the scene suitable for watercolour? Some scenes lend themselves more for photography, oil painting, and sometimes not watercolour
  • How can the scene be simplified? In my mind, I mentally paint the picture and think what details to leave out
  • Can the scene be changed in any way? For example, can a tree be moved or removed from the composition?  Can you add in some people to give it some scale and interest? Can lampposts, fencing etc. be moved?

Tim says: “I am looking forward to my first visit to The Watermill and painting the wonderful Tuscan scenery that surrounds it. But before I get there, I thought I’d try a little exercise based on a photograph Bill sent me of a chapel in a nearby vineyard, with the Apuan Alps in the background.” (See above — and you’ll see this view when we drive to the Watermill for our courses.)

Tim says: At first glance, it’s a lovely subject to paint and great for watercolour – plenty of tonal contrast with the light building against the dark background and the cool mountains contrasting with the warm earth of the foreground.  But I was uneasy about two things here – the vineyard rows going across side to side and the telephone/electric post and cable.

“I wanted something that would lead you into the picture – perhaps a lane to the house, or figures placed in some way.  Apologies to the vineyard owner, but I decided to have the rows of vines leading up to the house and a sense of a slight rise.

In a similar way, the aerial cable going across the scene does nothing for the composition, so that was left out.

“So, here’s my sketch with those changes…”

Painting by Tim Wilmot, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.“Notice I kept in those small background buildings on the left, to balance with the main building on the right.  Some small trees on the right were left out, so I could just have the vineyard sweeping from side to side without a break. 

“As regards other options, I could have put in a small lane leading up to the house, perhaps a few figures in between the vines and may some of those tall iconic pencil thin Italian cypress trees.  Something like that could also have joined the foreground to the background to help with the connection of the key areas together – another thing I try to do in all my paintings (or the danger is you have three stark and separate areas, back, middle and foreground, all unconnected).

Tim Wilmot, from England, specialises in watercolours, exploiting the medium with tone and light in a loose impressionistic style. He says: “I seem to have an affinity with painting landscapes, although I have dabbled with portraits and still life in the past, but always come back to landscapes.” 

Tim adds: “For many years I’ve taken a sketchbook on my travels and I quickly scribble scenes in a shorthand sort of way. Then, returning home, I recreate those memories with paint and brush. Watercolour is also an ideal medium for capturing those quick impressions.” 

As well as an exciting artist, Tim is also an inspiring teacher and on his course, suitable for all levels, he’ll help you to improve your drawing skills, loosen up your style, learn how to incorporate figures in a landscape as well as nurturing you own artistic ambitions. As one student of Tim’s says: “I can’t help being inspired by the careful and wonderfully measured strokes of a genius.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA October 2017 Watercolours

with Tim Wilmot

To learn more about Tim and his course at The Watermill, please click here.


Painting by Tim Wilmot, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Tim’s painting of a city gate in Ancona, Italy

Do you know your sugo from your salsa? Pellegrino did – and so will you on our unique Italian cookery course

Dinner at the watermill..Great tastes, good company.

Dinner at the watermill..Great tastes, good company.

Browsing through that quintessential Italian cookery book La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene, the inspiration for the Watermill’s first-ever cooking course, L’Arte di mangiar bene, I was struck by the difficulties there can be in translation.

I am reading an excellent English translation*, but I can see the problem we have from almost the beginning. Recipe 4, for example, is for Sugo di Carne, which translates as ‘meat sauce’, but the translators make the point: The meat sauce described here is not what we have come to understand by that name, i.e. the ‘ragù’ or ‘Bolognese’ sauce often served with pasta. It is, in fact, more like a ‘dark broth’ and is often used as a base or flavouring for many other dishes.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.In fact, the cookbook’s author, the immortal Pellegrino Artusi, makes the point in his typically humorous introduction to the recipe: In Romagna, which is a stone’s throw from Tuscany, they do not much care for dictionaries, and so they call meat sauce ‘brown stock’, perhaps because of its brown colour.”

Soon Pellegrino moves on to sugo di pomodoro, which can be translated as ‘tomato sauce’, but which should not be confused with salsa di pomodoro, a more complex concoction, but which also is translated as ‘tomato sauce’.

Pellegrino insists: “Sugo must be simple and therefore composed of cooked, puréed tomatoes. At the most you can add a few chunks of celery or some parsley or basil leaves, when you think these flavours will suit your needs.”

As for salsa di pomodoro, first you must prepare a battuto, a flavour-base of  chopped ingredients, using a quarter of an onion, clove of garlic, a finger-length stalk of celery, a few basil leaves and “a sufficient amount of parsley.” Season with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, mash in seven or eight tomatoes and put everything in a saucepan on the stove, stirring continuously. “Once you see the sauce thickening to the consistency of runny cream, pass it through a sieve and it is ready to use.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Tomatoes fresh from the Watermill garden

Pellegrino being Pellegrino, this essential recipe is accompanied by a humorous anecdote: “There once was a priest in Romagna who stuck is nose into everything and busy-bodied his way into families, trying to interfere in every domestic matter. Still, he was an honest fellow, and since more good than ill came of his zeal, people let him carry on in his usual style. But popular wit dubbed him Don Pomodoro (Father Tomato) since tomatoes are also ubiquitous. And therefore, it is very helpful to know how to make a good tomato sauce.”  You’ll certainly do that on the Watermill’s L’Arte di mangiar bene cookery course — and much else besides – and we’ll pick our tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden. Click the link below to savour more.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italypanzanella19-26 August – L’arte di mangiar bene 

with Lois Breckon, Ingrid Fabbian and The Watermill team

To learn more about this delicious cookery course, please click here


*Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi, translated by Murtha Baca and Stephen Sartarelli, University of Toronto Press

Learn Italian from Italians in the New Year

Tom riverside photo Jun 13Have you made your New Year’s resolution? How about learning Italian, the language of music and love?

And where better to learn it than in a romantic Watermill is rural Tuscany, beside which the river sings it’s way to the sea?

This year’s Italian language course runs from Saturday 29 April to Saturday 6 May 2017.

langprog-head3This really is ‘a course with a difference.’ Not only are there formal lessons on the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we also make trips and excursions to savour the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speak Italian, and practise what we’ve learned.

We’ve teamed up again with the prestigious language school in Florence Langues Services and their delightful tutor Francesca La Sala, to design a week in which people can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever.

You’ll meet Italian people and interact with their daily lives. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.

You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

Here are some comments from guests on previous language courses at the mill:

“A super language week: well organised giving us a taste of  the ‘real Italy.’ Francesca was amazing. Despite the disparity in ability she managed to help all of us towards a better understanding and production of the Italian language. The lessons were fun, interactive and helped me enormously. 

“For a teacher to be ‘on duty’ from 8.30am until bedtime – teaching us in each situation – must have been exhausting yet she kept her sense of fun throughout. The accommodation was great and the camaraderie which evolved was, I’m sure, due to your relaxed and welcoming approach to your guests.”  

Langiage Castello

“I had a wonderful time on the language course and laughed so much!  Francesca was fantastic and designed a course that we could all follow at our own level, complete beginners to slightly more than complete beginners.  There was lots of role play and games in Italian, like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Battleships’.  We had plenty of opportunity to talk to local Italians in cafes and the market in Fivizzano.  We learned how to buy things in the market, order food and drink and ask directions.  I feel confident to travel round Italy and know that I could find accommodation, buy food, drink and other items, travel on trains or hire bikes. My confidence and knowledge has improved immensely over the week and Francesca has even sent us exercises to do at home to keep our learning going.  She was tireless and gave us so much.”

Blog italian words ROCAMBOLESOCFor more information, please visit our 2017 Italian Language Programme page for more details. We would love you to join us for this rocambolesco course!






Language Francesca

Saturday 29 April to Saturday 6 May 2017

Francesca La Sala Italian Language course

Please click here to learn more about out Italian Language course at the mill, including the itinerary for the week.