Archives for February 2020

The coronavirus: Italy is NOT a no-go area; the Watermill IS open for business. We are monitoring the position daily.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
We are waiting to welcome you!

Some of our guests have expressed concern about the effects of coronavirus in Italy. Lois and I are monitoring the position daily, but currently there is absolutely no reason why you should not come to enjoy your creative week with us. Italy is NOT a no-go area; the Watermill IS open for business.

The Watermill is in Tuscany, the historic Italian region whose capital is Florence. Here is the very latest advice from Visit Tuscany, the official Tuscany tourism agency, based on the latest official Italian government findings and pronouncements. We produce the whole of their advice below and you can read it for yourself by clicking here.

Many of the reports in the press and TV and on social media are highly inaccurate and distorted, so it is important now to view the situation calmly. The statement below gives you the true facts. We will keep in touch about any significant subsequent developments.

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

Meanwhile we are preparing the Watermill for another season of sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring creative courses. We are looking forward to welcoming you here for our inspiring teaching, our beautiful setting, our delicious food and wine, and our warm and welcoming hospitality.

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

Here is the Visit Tuscany report in full:

Information on Coronavirus in Tuscany

Answers to the most important questions for anyone travelling or planning to travel in Tuscany 

Is it a risk to take a vacation in Tuscany?

Tuscany is not currently classified as an area at risk.
Tuscany and Italy have one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world.

The exceptional controls and measures that Italy adopted at the start of the outbreak in China now means that we are able to trace all cases extremely quickly, more efficiently and precisely than is possible in other parts of the world.

What is the situation at the moment in Tuscany?

There are no contagion hotspots in Tuscany. At the moment, the number of cases verified and in the process of being verified by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Institute of Health) are very few.

All the patients are in good health, a stable condition and have been isolated according to procedure. All of them can be linked, directly or indirectly, to high-risk zones.

Is the region accessible?

Ports, airports, stations and motorways are open and operational as normal. Transit into and out of Tuscany is as normal.

Up until the present, airports have operated as standard and no flights have been registered as being cancelled or suspended. On advice from the Ministry of Health, a policy of body temperature checks on all arriving passengers has been in force since 7 February.

Arrival and departure of public transport

Public transport is currently running as normal. For up-to-date information we recommend that you get in direct contact with airlines, maritime, bus and train companies.

Are Tuscany’s museums and attractions closed?

No. All tourist attractions are open as normal.

What precautions has the Tuscany health system taken to protect residents and visitors?

Tuscany Region guarantees its constant collaboration with the national health authorities and with the regional health offices, who are on the alert and continuously kept informed with regards to operational updates and guidelines codified at national level.

The situation is being constantly monitored by the local health authorities, who can guarantee the sanitary control of Tuscany via the adoption of actions and measures specifically geared towards prevention. Daily disinfection of regional trains and all local public transport has been intensified. In Tuscany’s airports, public spaces are being sanitised on a regular basis and handwash dispensers are available across the terminals.

Will I have any problems in Tuscany if I’m coming from Lombardy or Veneto?

No, none. Any restrictions will be posted on the informational websites of the regions in question.

Regione Lombardia website: regione.lombardia.it

Regione Veneto website: regione.veneto.it

Should I cancel a trip?

As Tuscany is not currently classed as a risk area, there is no reason to cancel your holiday. In the event that cancellation is necessary, the general cancellation policy of the companies in question will apply. For detailed information, we recommend that you contact the hotel or accommodation that you have booked, and possibly your insurance company, if you have stipulated a cancellation policy for the trip.

If, however, you do decide to cancel your trip to Tuscany, we still suggest that you check with the accommodation or tour operator if it is possible to change the booking to another date.

Once I’m in Tuscany, who can I contact in case of emergency?

In Tuscany you can get in contact with the health agencies by calling 150024/7 public freephone number set up by the Ministry of Health.

Please use correct information on Covid-19: the Region has made a freephone number available to citizens at the regional helplines, which will be answered by highly informed operators. The service is designed to provide clarification and advice about the measures and initiatives taken by the Tuscany Region on Coronavirus. The freephone number that you can call is 800.556060, option 1, open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.

For those who have come into close contact with confirmed cases of Covid-19, and for anyone who in the last 14 days has returned to Italy from parts of China most affected by the virus or from the quarantine zones in Lombardy and Veneto, the following numbers have been made available by the health agencies:

Asl central Tuscany (Florence, Prato, Pistoia, Empoli): 055.5454777 rientrocina@uslcentro.toscana.it

Asl north-west Tuscany (Pisa, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Viareggio): 050.954444
rientrocina@uslnordovest.toscana.it

Asl south-east Tuscany (Arezzo, Grosseto, Siena): 800.579579
rientrocina@uslsudest.toscana.it

If you are a Tour Operator and would like to receive information and contacts for a particular destination, write to contact@toscanapromozione.it

What should I do to ensure I have a safe trip?

Protecting yourself against the new Coronavirus is easy: just follow some simple but effective rules.

Wash your hands frequently.

Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

Do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose with your hands.

Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough.

Do not take antiviral or antibiotic medicines unless they have been prescribed by a doctor.

Clean surfaces with chlorine- or alcohol-based disinfectants.

Use a mask only if you think you might be ill or if you assist ill people.

MADE IN CHINA products and packages from China are not dangerous.

Pets do not spread the new coronavirus.

Call the freephone number 1500 for more information.

How can I stay updated as the situation develops?

Tuscany Region has activated a special section on its website where you can find all information and updates, from health ordinances to logistical changes:
https://www.regione.toscana.it/-/coronavirus

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Ready to welcome you! Picture: Francesco Lastrucci

Mermaids, knitting and science: an intriguing combination from Renée

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

Our lovely Watermill knitting tutor Renée Callaghan wants to talk to you about Mermaids and Science this month! Those are Renée’s topics in one of her latest podcasts and you can see it by clicking here.

So, if you are intrigued and feel like a pleasant quarter-of-an-hour video chat about the joys of knitting, grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee (or anything else that takes your fancy) and listen to Renée talking about her, and your, favourite subject: knitting? There are more than 70 podcasts from Renée, so who knows, this could be the beginning of some binge-viewing sessions!

And why not come and meet Renée in person on her knitting course at the Watermill this summer? We still have a few places left.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A tableful of local yarns will greet you on the Watermill’s vine verandah

Renée Callahan‘s Knitting and la Bella Vita Italiana week is running from Saturday 15 August to Saturday 22 August. A prolific knitwear designer living in London, England, Renée loves to combine texture and colour to create hand-knit patterns that are enjoyable to knit and remain wearable for years to come.

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

Renée has always loved textiles and the technical challenge of knitting: she finds a real joy in producing something both useful and beautiful. Renée studied Fashion Design with Knitwear at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College in London.

She is designing two special projects for her knitting week guests to try: one, the beautiful brioche hat shown below. The other project is in the pipeline. Renée says: “These wonderful exclusive projects will give us the opportunity to try out new techniques, such as brioche and slipped stitch patterns.”  

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

As ever, the knitting week will combine expert tuition, like-minded company, wonderful food, the delightful ambience of the Watermill and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana. The Watermill is renowned for its inspiring teaching, its beautiful setting, it’s delicious food and wine, and its warm and welcoming hospitality. We are also Cool and Green. All the bedrooms and public rooms have air conditioning, powered by our hidden array of photovoltaic panels, harnessing the sun’s energy to makes us self-sufficient in electricity generation.

Renée Callahan

Renée Callahan
15 – 22 August 2020  –  a few places still available
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Renée and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

We are monitoring the coronavirus situation very closely

Some of our guests have expressed concern over the number of cases in Italy of influenza caused by the new coronavirus. We are closely monitoring the situation and currently we see no cause for great alarm, nor any need for you to cancel your holiday with us.

No country has imposed a travel ban to Italy; its international borders remain open. There are only restrictions on international flights to and from China. In order to try to stem the spread of the virus in affected areas, the Italian authorities have blocked off a number of small towns in the province of Lombardy, well to the north of the Watermill. There are no restrictions on travel elsewhere in the country.

The present advice is to observe high standards of hygiene (which we always do at the Watermill) and that includes washing one’s hands frequently and keeping unwashed hands away from eyes, nose or mouth.

Lois and I are constantly monitoring the situation and will let our friends and customers know if there are any changes to this advice.

Another painterly evocation of the Watermill’s history

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

A week or so ago we showed you the intriguing watercolour of our restored 19th century mill, painted by our immensely talented painting tutor Tim Wilmot. It inspired one of last year’s painting guests, Catherine Robbin, to send us her own vibrant picture of the same scene. That’s it above. Thank you for sharing your lovely painting,

We really enjoy seeing paintings by our guests, as they continue to enjoy their time at the Watermill by reliving it through painting some of the scenes they have captured during the weeks with us, through sketches or photographs.

Why don’t you join us and create your own ‘double memories’ of a Watermill painting holiday? We would love to welcome you here.

Here’s a photograph of the same scene:

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

And a reprise of Tim’s picture:

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

Tim’s painting course this autumn is already fully booked, but there are often cancellations so if you would like to come on his course, please let us know and we’ll put you on a waiting list and inform you the moment there is a place. Many of our other painting courses are also fully booked, but the same advice applies: let us know and we’ll put you on the list!

We still have some availability on others of our sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring courses and there are details below.

The Watermill is renowned for its inspiring teaching, its beautiful setting, it’s delicious food and wine, and its warm and welcoming hospitality. But don’t forget, we are also Cool and Green! All the bedrooms and public rooms have air conditioning, powered by our hidden array of photovoltaic panels, harnessing the sun’s energy to makes us self-sufficient in electricity generation.

Carl March

Carl March
18 – 25 April 2020 – one or two places left
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


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

Grahame Booth
25 April – 2 May 2020  – one or two places left
Watercolours
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown – fully booked, waiting list open
16 – 23 May 2020
Watercolours
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
30 May – 6 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
6 – 13 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Randy Hale

Randy Hale
13 – 20 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
20 – 27 June 2020 –  – one or two places left
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Mark Warner

Mark Warner
11 – 18 July 2020 –  a few places available
Colourful Acrylics, Drawing, Pen & Wash
To learn more about Mark and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
29 August – 5 September 2020 – still a few places
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça
5 – 12 September 2020 – 2/3 places left
Pastels and Mixed media
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 – 19 September 2020 –  a few places available  AND 19 – 26 September 2020 – a few places available
Oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn about Maggie’s courses, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Mary Padgett

Mary Padgett
26 September – 3 October 2020  – 2/3 places left
Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Milind Mulick

Milind Mulick
3 – 10 October 2020 – 1/2 places left
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
10 – 17 October 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


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

A day in the weekly life of a Maggie painting course at the Watermill

The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Our lovely American Watermill painting tutor, Maggie Renner Hellmann, is always accompanied on her painting weeks by her charming and enthusiastic husband Lou Renner. Lou, a talented painter in his own right, not only supports Maggie in her work, but also helps to ensure that all our guests get the very best from their painting holiday.

The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Greetings from Lou in the convent grounds.

Recently he published a lovely Facebook post, about one of the days everyone enjoyed on Maggie’s painting holiday with us here last year: our Thursday visit to the tranquil Convento del Carmine, a nearby 16th Century monastery, where we go to for a tranquil day’s painting after the excitements of our excursions to the Cinque Terre or Lucca.

Lou writes: “The boot of the van was jammed with easels, canvas, and paints. As we unload, the painters are brimming with excitement to explore the Monastery. Our lunch is brought into the kitchen, a tablecloth is set with an assortment of drinks, a coffee thermos, and a luncheon fit for a king.”

The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Maggie helps some of her students to set up in the convent gardens.

Lou continues: “As Maggie introduces the painters to the gardens, we all gaze upon a landscape unchanged for hundreds of years. The woodland firs, walnut trees, and chestnuts, almost too green, warm vermilion with a dab of purple near the trunks. In the distance the walled town of Fivizzano stands, the very heart of Lunigiana. To get there I imagine that one would need a to travel in the tracks of an ox cart, or by horseback.”

The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
The views take you back across the centuries.

Lou says: “This day marked my third time painting at the ancient cloisters. As I gaze out beyond the forests, I feel a sense of stillness surround me. My feet feel rooted to the earthy soil. Above the walls of the convent is a ‘once in a blue sky’. A Tuscan Sky’ unlike any other I have ever seen. Imagine Leonardo di Vinci’s painting of the ‘Virgin of the rocks’, Leonardo’s Sky could have been painted here this very day. Tuscany welcomes all who visit her, it envelopes the horizon like a cape, a cape of sacred Blue.

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

Maggie is the tutor on two ‘Courageous Colour Workshops’ at the Watermill this Autumn and we would be delighted if you were to join us on either, or both of them. The week-long courses in oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels will run from 12 September to 19 September 2020 and from 19 September to 26 September 2020. We still have a few places on either of the weeks and there are links for more details below. 

As well as leaving as a much better painter than when you came, you will also have great fun with like-minded people and enjoy the unique ambience of the Watermill. As one of our guests on last year’s painting course with Maggie said: “I just want to express my thanks and appreciation for such a wonderful experience staying at your beautiful Watermill! I loved my room and the meals were fabulous. Maggie and Lou were a delight and as the novice painter in the group, I always felt supported and encouraged by both of them, as well as the rest of the group. I left with many warm and wonderful memories.  The Watermill is a very special place that will always be a part of me now.” 

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Maggie’s demonstration painting of the Watermill courtyard captures the warmth of the welcome.

Maggie Renner Hellmann is a contemporary Californian 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 colour. She is also an enthusiastic tutor who has been teaching for more than 15 years – and loves it! Her workshop will cover oils, acrylics, pastels and also drawing and sketching mediums, including wax pastels and watercolour. She will encourage the beginner and challenge the more advanced painter.

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

Maggie says: “In this plein air Courageous Colour Workshop, we will paint in various spectacular Tuscan locations. Our emphasis will be on learning and practicing the core elements of successful paintings.”  She adds: “I will be playing with and sharing these colour harmony and colour temperature ideas at the Watermill this September, where I will be doing daily demos, experimenting and explaining my own visualization techniques regarding colour and the beautiful Tuscan Landscape we get to explore.”  

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Students on one of Maggie Renner Hellman’s courses showing off some of their week’s work.

Everything is included in the cost of your holiday at the watermill: tuition, accommodation, pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and wines (including outings to charming local restaurants) and all local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport and an excursion by train to Lucca or the Cinque Terre). You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest! 

Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 – 19 September 2020 – places available places AND 19 – 26 September 2020 – places available
Oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn about Maggie’s courses, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

The latest availability on our 2020 creative courses

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

Update at 22 February 2020

Our 2020 creative courses – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language — are filling fast, so now is the time to secure your place You will see below that a fair number of our courses are already booked up, but if you are particularly interested in that specific week, please let us know. There are often cancellations and we will put you on a waiting list and let you know immediately if a place becomes available.

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

We do hope we’ll be able to welcome you here on one of our sun-filled, fun-filled, inspiring courses. And don’t forget that as well as a warm welcome, we are also Cool and Green! All our bedrooms and public rooms have air-conditioning, all powered by the sun: our hidden array of photovoltaic panels ensures that we are self-sufficient in electricity generation.

Our inspiring painting courses

Carl March

Carl March
18 – 25 April 2020 – one or two places
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth
25 April – 2 May 2020 – fully booked, waing list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown – fully booked, waiting list open
16 – 23 May 2020
Watercolours
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
30 May – 6 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
6 – 13 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Randy Hale

Randy Hale
13 – 20 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
20 – 27 June 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Mark Warner

Mark Warner
11 – 18 July 2020 – places available
Colourful Acrylics, Drawing, Pen & Wash
To learn more about Mark and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
29 August – 5 September 2020 – still a few places
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça
5 – 12 September 2020 – 2/3 places left
Pastels and Mixed media
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 – 19 September 2020 – places available places AND 19 – 26 September 2020 – places available
Oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn about Maggie’s courses, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Mary Padgett

Mary Padgett
26 September – 3 October 2020  – 2/3 places left
Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Milind Mulick

Milind Mulick
3 – 10 October 2020 – 1/2 places left
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
10 – 17 October 2020 – 1/2 places left
Watercolours
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.


Our enticing knitting courses

Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
23 – 30 May 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
NEW week 27 June – 4 July – places available
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Knitting retreat

Knitting Retreat
4 – 11 July 2020 –one knitting place left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about this retreat, please visit our 2020 Retreat Overview Page.


Renée Callahan

Renée Callahan
15 – 22 August 2020  – places available
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Renée and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
2 – 9 May 2020 – fully booked, waiting list open
Scriptwriting
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.


Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
2 – 9 May 2020 –  fully booked, waiting list open
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


Our illuminating Italian language course

Francesca la Sala

Langues Services and Francesca la Sala
22 – 29 August 2020 – still a few places
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Francesca and her
2020 course at the mill, please click here.


The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Shady and cool along the Millstream. Picture: Alistair Macfie

Knitting with Renée: the Genovese connection.

Stefania and Giulia: locally produced yarns: bred, spun and hand-dyed in Italy

Our new knitting tutor Renée Callahan has been talking to two Italian yarn producers, Stefania and Giulia, who run a company called Lanivendole, based in Genoa, Liguria. The result is that not only will they be providing yarn for Renée’s week, they will also come to visit us to talk about their work and their passions for locally produced yarns. You can find out more about these enthusiastic Italian entrepreneurs, by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Kashmir goats looked after by Guilia.

Renée Callahan‘s Knitting and la Bella Vita Italianaweek is running from Saturday 15 August to Saturday 22 August. A prolific knitwear designer from London, England, she loves to combine texture and colour to create hand-knit patterns that are enjoyable to knit and remain wearable for years to come.

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

Renée has always loved textiles and the technical challenge of knitting: she finds a real joy in producing something both useful and beautiful. Renée studied Fashion Design with Knitwear at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College in London.

She is designing two special projects for her knitting week guests to try: one, the beautiful brioche hat shown left. The other is in the pipeline. Renée says: “These wonderful exclusive projects will give us the opportunity to try out new techniques, such as brioche and slipped stitch patterns.”  

As ever, the knitting week will combine expert tuition, like-minded company, wonderful food, the delightful ambience of the Watermill and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana. To find out more about Renée and her course at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Watermill guest Otto Meth-Cohen has his own personal story about the ‘stumbling stone’ memorials

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

After my blog and Facebook post last week about the stolpersteins, (stumbling stones), small brass plaques set into the pavements of Florence, commemorating those who were taken by the Nazis and deported to concentration camps in the dreadful days of 1944, I received a moving note from Otto Meth-Cohen. Otto, with his wife Jean, was our guest on a painting course at the Watermill some years ago.

Otto tells me: “I came to England in 1939 aged 4 on the Kindertransport, while my loving mother ended up in Auschwitz sadly.
“Not too long ago I returned to Ulm on my 80th anniversary of leaving, where Gunter Demnig laid three Stolpersteins – for my mother, stepfather ….. and for me – outside where we had lived in Ulm, Germany. I think I might be the only person with a memorial while still alive!”

“Encouraged by Bill’s writing endeavours I’ve written the whole story in a short book – The nearly man – published by Amazon.”

Otto was the offspring of a doomed love affair between a Jewish girl and a Nazi young man. He arrived in England alone in June 1939. Brought up in turn by a Christian family, an orphanage (he was a Barnardo’s boy) and a Jewish hostel, he was on his own again at the age of 17, but by grit, intelligence and determination, he ended up as a research chemist, professor and author. It was a privilege to meet Otto and his wife Jean and to hear his inspiring story.

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

The big M. My 1000th blog post

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Antonio Canova’s vision of Helen of Troy. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.

Lois and I use it as a logo for our company Media Alliance. The Romans used it, of course, and it was the number of paces in the Roman mile. Helen of Troy’s face launched that number of ships. (According to some scientific wag, a millihelen is a measure of beauty: the face that launched one ship.)

It’s a capital M, of course, the Roman for 1000, and it is significant today because this is the 1000th blog post that I have made for the Watermill.

Over the years we’ve talked about many things, but mainly about painting and writing and the delights of living in Italy. It’s been a daily pleasure thinking of things to share with you about the Watermill and all its associated activities.

As my erstwhile BBC colleague, the late John Ebdon, used to say at the end of his amusing talks A Word in Edgeways: “If you have been, thanks for listening.”

It is Galileo’s birthday today

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
1636 portrait by Justus Sustermans, collection of the National Maritime Museum, London, England

It is the birthday today of the great Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, who was born on 15 February 1564. Astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher Galileo is often called ‘the father of modern science’ and was certainly one of those giants on whose shoulders Isaac Newton stood.

I like the story of ‘Eppur si muove’, the words Galileo is supposed to have uttered (muttered?) in 1633 following his forced recantation, in the face of the Inquisition, of his claims that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The phrase means ‘And yet it moves’ or ‘Nonetheless, it moves.’ I like to think of Galileo, crossing his fingers behind his back, muttering those words beneath his breath in front of those terrifying inquisitorial churchmen, but that is highly unlikely to have been the case. Stephen Hawking noted in On the Shoulders of Giants that some historians believe Galileo may have said those words while being transferred to house arrest at his home in Arcetri in the outskirts of Florence. But there is no mention of the phrase in his earliest biography nor in the documents from his trial.

I am grateful to Galileo’s well documented Wikipedia entry for another intriguing tale: “ In 1911, the words “E pur si muove” were found on a Spanish painting which had just been acquired by an art collector, Jules van Belle, of Roeselare, Belgium.  This painting was completed within a year or two of Galileo’s death, as it is dated 1643 or 1645 (the last digit is partially obscured). The painting is not historically correct, because it depicts Galileo in a dungeon, but nonetheless shows that some variant of the “Eppur si muove” anecdote was in circulation immediately after his death, when many who had known him were still alive to attest to it, and that it had been circulating for over a century before it was published.