Archives for August 2019

Come and be creative in Tuscany

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

It’s time to plan your creative holiday at the Watermill in 2020 – and we’ve just launched our new website to help you do so.

You can access the introductory page, a snapshot of which is shown above, by clicking here.

***Please note that this is a new-style secure site and does not contain www in its title. You can also access the website simply by typing watermill.net into your search engine. Please note also that if you want to view the new site you may have to get rid of all the old caches on your computer, which may take you to the old, non-updated site.

In 2020, we are 17 running painting courses, two creative writing courses, two knitting weeks and one Italian language week, details of all of which you can find by clicking here and then going to the appropriate section.

We have many wonderful painting courses lined up for 2020, with a handful of new, exciting tutors, plus the return of many of our popular, established painting teachers.

The screenshot above shows what the new painting courses programme web page looks like. You can access it simply by clicking here.

For creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks, please click here and go to the appropriate section.

And if you’d like to see lots of shots of our beautiful bedrooms, to decide where you might like to stay, you can go to the page below by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

For creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks, please click here https://watermill.net/ and go to the appropriate section.

Already more than 100 people have booked their places on a 2020 creative course. Since we only have a total capacity of some 250 or so, you can see that if you want to come with a particular tutor, or at a particular time of year, or there is a specific medium that you want to try, now is the time to reserve your place.

And, to tempt you further, there is an Early Bird discount offer of £75 (75 English pounds) off every 2020 creative course if you book before the end of 2019.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Please come and join us. We are sure you will have a tremendous, sun-filled, fun filled, inspiring week. But hurry to ensure that you can come with the tutor you want, in the bedroom of your choice. Places are filling fast!

Time for an aperitivo – and a selfie!

holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Here is our ‘Man Friday’, Nathaniel (‘Nate’) Szekely and my daughter Lara Breckon preparing the evening aperitivi for our guests in the communal kitchen. We are obviously not working hard enough, since they not only seem to be enjoying themselves but have time to break off to take a selfie!

Aperitivi on the vine verandah are a feature of all our creative courses, where we enjoy the Watermill cocktail (Aperol, white wine, tonic water) or whatever other tipple takes our fancy, before heading to the dining room for another delicious home-cooked Italian meal.

We are now taking bookings for our 2020 creative courses and already more than 100 people have booked their places. We would love you to join them and if you reserve a place by making a deposit of £250 in the next day or two, you will be able to take advantage of our ‘2020 creative courses at 2019 prices’, special offer making a saving of some £100.

You can find out more by clicking here.

There is always a sunny welcome at the Watermill

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Here is Lois with a smile as sunny as the flowers she is taking to arrange to welcome guests on one of our Watermill creative courses.

The sunflowers were grown by our gardener Flavio Terenzoni in his nearby orto, where he has a long line of these wonderful girasole, dutifully turning their heads as the sun makes its passage across the sky. So, at this time of year we have plenty of supplies.

But whatever the season you will find the Watermill gardens and our rooms enlivened with floral colour. And the welcome will be as sunny as the flowers.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Roses in the Watermill garden.

We are already taking bookings for our 2020 creative courses and already more than 100 people have booked their places. We would love you to join them and if you reserve a place by making a deposit of £250 in the next couple of days, you will be able to take advantage of our ‘2020 creative courses at 2019 prices’, special offer making a saving of some £100.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, sculpting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language, personal development and yoga holidays/vacations/retreats, Tuscany, Italy.

Details of all the courses are to be found by clicking here. Book now! You know it makes sense!

Painting by Maggie Renner Hoffmann, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A wonderful sunflower painting by Watermill tutor Maggie Renner Hellmann.

The famous Watermill Sunday lunch

As well as its reputation for inspiring creative courses, the Watermill is also becoming well-known for the quality and variety of its food, prepared by Lois and our local cooks, Arianna and Mirella, using the freshest local ingredients. Our aim is to serve Italian cooking at its best, not just traditional dishes, but modern ‘takes’ on la cucina italiana. We plan to give you some of our recipes in our blogs and newsletters over the coming months, but today we thought we would tell you about the famous Watermill Sunday lunch.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Lois prepares the Watermill panzanella,

Here’s the menu:

  • Finocchio al forno (fennel braised in a white wine, cream and cheese sauce)
  • Bresaola (air-cured beef)with parmesan shavings, olive oil and rucola (rocket);
  • Panzanella (the watermill’s own version of a classic Florentine recipe);
  • Uova ubriache (drunken eggs: hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise and capers);
  • Insalata verde (green salad, from the Watermill garden in season) with edible borage or nasturtium flowers and a mustard and honey vinaigrette dressing.

Add to that fresh fruit in season and soft almond biscuits with your tea or coffee and it’s a meal to remember.

Sizzling baked fennel, ready to eat!

Why not come and taste our cooking for yourself? For more about our 2020 creative courses, please click here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Time to tuck in…

When a Watermill writing tutor was a Watermill writing student!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy

It’s not every day of the week that you get a Watermill tutor praising another tutor as a student! But that is just what has happened with Jo Parfitt and Laurence Marks.

Some years ago, in 2012, to be precise, Laurence was a student on one of Jo’s Writing Your Life Stories courses at the Watermill and above is a rather battered old photograph to prove it.

Laurence, who with his partner Maurice Gran, is one of Britain’s most successful scriptwriters (Goodnight Sweetheart, Birds of a Feather, The New Statesman, etc., etc.) has warm memories of Jo’s course. He says: “For a week I became an honorary woman. Eleven women and me, all intent on learning the rudiments of how to write a memoir.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy

“I went home with my manhood intact, but I also left the Watermill knowing considerably more about the shortcuts and methods of chronicling my life. Under the careful, learned and sympathetic supervision of Jo Parfitt, I am now well into my magnum opus and not a morning passes when I don’t refer to the notes and advice Jo passed on to me.” 

Now Jo has returned the compliment. She wrote recently: Laurence is up there in my ‘Top Ten Favouritest Students Ever’ list. He is a great writer, a funny writer and a showman while retaining his humility. Thank you, Laurence, Student of the Year 2012.”

We are always pleased when our students enjoy our courses and doubly pleased when a tutor/student, with professional insights, appreciates the endeavours of another.

You, too, could enjoy the teaching of Jo and/or Laurence, for both of them are coming back (separately!) to take creative writing courses at the Watermill next year. We love you to join us on either of those inspiring weeks (or both, come to that!)

Laurence, and his writing partner Maurice Gran, will be with us from 2-9 May 2020 and Jo’s course is the week after, 9-16 May 2020. You can find out more by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

With decades of success in TV, film, radio and theatre, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran are the ideal people to help you hone your scriptwriting skills. Their week-long residential course will show you how to craft your work from the original idea through structure, character, plot and finally, script.

They will lead you slowly through the techniques of creating a successful script, using one-to-one tutorials, team-writing sessions, and most enlightening of all, studying films and TV series that have become ‘classics’.

While the course will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre.

Jo Parfitt, author, speaker, writer, mentor and teacher, will give you the tools to write the stories of your life in a vivid and engaging way. She’ll explain how to find your writer’s ‘voice’, about writing in themes; developing your characters so your readers can ‘meet’ them, too; and how to let your writing flow, particularly when looking back and writing about things that may have happened a long time ago.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Faces from Jo’s latest course, compiled by Sue Reed.

Among other things, you’ll discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories and put this into practice right away. There’ll also be lots of time for writing exercises and feedback.

There are details of these weeks on our 2020 creative courses preview which you can find by clicking here. Already the bookings are beginning to flow in and if you would like to reserve your place on these unique courses, now is the time to book, especially as we have a ‘2020 courses at 2019 prices’, which will only run for another few weeks until 1 September.

Why not grab the chance as our marvellous tutors say, to leave the mill a considerably better writer than when you arrived.

You can find out more by clicking here.

Professorial praise for Jo’s creative writing teaching

The Watermill at Posara for painting, sculpting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language and yoga, holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Jo Parfitt, an inspiring teacher

As Jo Parfitt says, she doesn’t do this very often, but when you get fabulous feedback on your performance as a teacher from a university professor, “you kinda gotta shout about it, right?”

The professor in question is Dr Corrine Glesne, Professor Emeritus at the University of Vermont in the USA, who came on Jo’s Writing Your Life Stories course earlier this year. Corrine writes “With exquisite skill, Jo creates an atmosphere where class participants feel comfortable to delve deep into their lives and to experiment with different writing techniques.

“She listens intently as participants read their work; then recaps phrases, images, or other examples from that work to provide specific meaningful and supportive feedback. Her ability to perceive the potential of a story and guide its improvement continually impressed me.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The participants on Jo’s Writing your Life Stories course this June at the bottom five of the participants are showing off the linen dresses they bought at the local market! Picture: Sue Reed

Yes, we have had wonderful feedback for Jo’s courses over the years and we are looking forward again to welcoming her here next year. Jo’s next course will run from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May 2020, and we already have four people booked in for her week. If you would like to join her and hone your writing skills, enjoying the unspoiled Tuscan countryside and the hospitality of the Watermill in the company of like-minded people, now is the time to book your place, too. We have a special offer of ‘2020 courses at 2019 prices’ which runs until 1 September, so you have a couple of weeks or so to take advantage of that. You can find out details of all our 2020 creative courses – writing, painting, knitting and Italian language – by clicking here. We would be delighted if you could join us.

 Here is another comment from a participant on Jo’s course this year, Sue Reed: “It was just wonderful. The setting magnificent, food sublime, and our hosts charming. The attention to detail and beauty are a sure recipe for a wonderful stay. This week has been an absolute delight. Your hospitality has known no bounds, and Jo has been an inspirational teacher. I am heading home with a head full of writerly plans.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Finding a quiet corner to start writing your life’s stories

Knitting and La Bella Vita: only a few places left in 2020!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language, personal development and yoga holidays/vacations/retreats, Tuscany, Italy.

Our knitting weeks at the Watermill have proved incredibly popular over the years, and it looks like 2020 is going to be no exception. We’ve only just announced the two weeks we are running next year and already 19 people have reserved their places. These include three non-knitting partners, so we only have room for another half a dozen or so knitters on the two weeks.

I know we always say it, but if you’re keen to come, now really is the time to place your booking, especially as we have a ‘2020 courses at 2019’ offer, which expires at the end of this month.

We call these courses Knitting and La Bella Vita, and the Italian Good Life is just what you’ll be savouring when you take one of our wonderfully relaxing and inspiring week-long knitting holidays in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.

In our first knitting week next year you will work on projects with top designer Louisa Harding and in the other week, in our first-ever Knitting Retreat, you’ll bring your own knitting projects and simply enjoy being pampered by the outstanding Watermill hospitality. We have nine people booked in the Louisa’s week in May, and 10 for the knitting retreat in July, including those non-knitting partners.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

As well as sessions at the Watermill, you will also be knitting at a privately owned ex-monastery and in the grounds of a fabulous hill-top restaurant. You will be treated to an all-day excursion to the delightful fishing villages of the Cinque Terre or the beautiful Italian city of Lucca and enjoy a morning’s ramblings through the market at the nearby walled medieval town of Fivizzano. Everything, literally, is included in the cost of your holiday, from the time we pick you up at Pisa airport on the first Saturday until we drop you back there again a week later.

You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning new knitting techniques and tips from our tutors… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

You can see more details of our 2020 by clicking here. We’d love you to join us: hurry now while places last!

Anne-Marie got cold feet for this painting, but it was well worth it!

This vibrant pastel, of the River Rosaro, which runs beside the Watermill, is by Anne-Marie Furze, a guest on Sue Ford’s painting course earlier this year.

She calls it Early Morning Light and she says: “I loved going down to the river before the Watermill was awake as it was so peaceful and the light was amazing. To capture this angle, I had to stand in the river which believe me was freezing but worth every minute.”

You don’t have to get your feet wet to enjoy a Watermill painting holiday and we are already taking bookings for our 2020 courses. And if you book a place now (before 1 September) you can enjoy any of our 2020 creative courses at 2019 prices.

ou can see a preview of all our 2020 creative courses by clicking here.

Nearly 90 people have already booked their places and as we have a total capacity of some 250 or so, you can see that, even though it’s very early days, our 2020 bookings are beginning to flow in. So, if you have a favourite tutor, a favourite medium, a particular bedroom or a specific week, it really is the time to make sure you have the holiday of your choice. We would be delighted to welcome you here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Only three weeks ago to book a 2020 creative course at 2019 prices

We haven’t really started marketing our 2020 creative courses yet, but already more than 80 people have reserved their places by sending us a £250 deposit. Thank you all very much.

If you reserve your place before 1 September 2019, you can enjoy any one of our 2020 creative courses at 2019 prices. Details of all the courses are to be found by clicking here.

I’ve just made a little Facebook slideshow of the first half a dozen or so painting courses, which you can see by clicking here.

We will tell you more about the other painting courses, as well as our creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks, as the week progresses. Watch this space!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

For water boatman, read pond skater! And come and tell us more about the Watermill wildlife, please.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

A sharp-eyed reader of our Watermill newsletter, Joanne Hobbs, has corrected me for describing the creature above as a water boatman. She tells me it is a pond skater and adds: “Water boatmen hang under the water and pierce their pray from below, which is much more exciting and gory.”

Thank you, Joanne, I stand corrected and my apologies to you and to anyone whose entomological sensitivities were disturbed by my inaccuracy. A pond skater it is, and from my quick foray on Google, they seem as gory as their insect cousins, the water boatmen. Their long legs and water-repellent feet allow pond skaters to walk on water, using the phenomenon of surface tension. They eat other insects, stabbing them with their beaks. Nature truly is, red in tooth and claw.

The wonderful picture above, of a pond skater resting on the surface of the water at the top of the millstream, was taken by Trevor Sanderson, a non-painting partner on a recent creative course at the mill, whose stunning photographs were a feature of a recent Watermill blog which you can see by clicking here (for water boatman, read pond skater!)

The Watermill is surrounded by two environmentally protected areas, the National Park of the Apennines, the backbone of Italy, and the Regional Park of the Apuan Alps, the marble mountains of Carrara, and although I revel in the teeming wildlife, my knowledge of natural history clearly leaves something to be desired.

I used to describe the ephemeral creature below has a dragonfly, until a guest also corrected me: it’s a damselfly, but no less beautiful for that. Our damselflies seem to come in two varieties, deep purple and a turquoise blue. The one below was photographed by our friend Jamie Martin.

And here’s another one, again photographed by Trevor Sanderson.

And this, if I am not much mistaken, is a lizard!

Picture: Jamie Martin

And here is one of my favourite creatures one occasionally sees around the Watermill: a hummingbird moth, photographed by another guest Ron Ploeg

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

I’ll continue to enjoy the Watermill wildlife, even if I don’t know their names. We’d love you to come for a walk in our grounds and along the millstream and river and enjoy them too. And I’m happy to be corrected!

You can see our wildlife for yourself on one of our Watermill creative courses next year – painting, writing, knitting and Italian language.

We haven’t really begun marketing our 2020 courses yet, but already more than 80 people booked in. There are preliminary details of all our 2020 courses on our website, by clicking here. Now is a time to get your booking in, particularly as we have what we call our Early Early Bird offer. If you book before 1 September 2019, you can enjoy any one of our 2020 creative courses at 2019 prices. You will save £100 or so! Time to be a busy bee!

Picture: Ron Ploeg