Archives for December 2020

“Who sent you to me? God?” Puccini on Caruso’s singing

Original La Boheme poster 1896 by Adolfo Hohenstein. Allposters

Sharing a Facebook post a couple of days ago on a remastered recording of Enrico Caruso singing Holy Night prompted me to revisit a blog I made some time ago of another extraordinary recording of the renowned tenor. It was Che gelida manina, from Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, made in 1906.

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

The story is that Puccini was reluctant to have Caruso audition for the lead role of Rodolfo in the opera. The singer was not prepossessing: “short and tubby, with an undistinguished moustache and an undesirable Neapolitan accent,” according to one report. But so remarkable was his voice, tha t immediately after hearing him Puccini gave him the part, saying: “Who has sent you to me? God?”   You can listen to a digitally remastered version by clicking here. Hearing that voice more than a hundred years later, you can see what Puccini meant.

In the same blog last spring, I also included a link to a marvellous contemporary voice, Kiri Te Kanawa, singing Puccini’s O mio babbino caro. The link also has a built-in romantic ‘Ahh’ factor (perhaps to the point of soppiness, but indulge yourself, it’s Christmas) as it is accompanied by scenes from A Room with a View, as Lucy Honeychurch falls in love. Just click here.

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

To all our Watermill friends

The Italian festive cake battle: panettone or pandoro?

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

I don’t know whether you are aware of the great Italian Christmas cake debate: the battle between panettone (left above) and pandoro (on the right)? Bills a panettone man, but Lois and Lara favour pandoro. Guess which one was purchased and graced the Breckon’s Christmas table? Bill is hoping that a gourmet friend will bring some panettone when they come visiting, though given the current rules, it is unlikely that many friends will be knocking on our door.

What’s the difference? The dome-shaped panettone is from Milan, a sourdough-type sponge with citrus peel and candied fruit embedded in it. Delicious! Pandoro originated in Verona and is rather taller and star-shaped. Eggs beaten into the batter give it its yellow colour. There is a hint of vanilla, but the real flavour comes from liberally dusting the whole thing in icing sugar.

These cakes are very much festive season specialities, so we doubt whether there will be any about during our Italian language course here in October, for you to join in the debate. We can, however, promise you delicious home-cooked Watermill Italian food as well as a chance to get your tongue around one of the world’s most delightful languages. (Did you see what I did there?)

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

Francesca La Sala

16-23 October 2021

A novel approach to learning Italian

To learn more about Francesca mill, please visit our Language Programme Page, by clicking here.

The future is rosy…

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language, yoga holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Sunshine on the rose pergola: something to look forward to..

Yesterday’s picture of a rose bravely blooming here on a chilly December day prompted me to reminisce about the pleasure that roses have brought to the Watermill over the years.

So, I thought I’d make a little gallery of rosy pictures to remind us in this gloomy greyness that colourful times will surely come again, both literally and metaphorically. We are looking forward to being back to our roseate normal next year.

Above is a picture of the rose pergola in the walled garden in full bloom in June. And here’s one of our tutors, Terry Jarvis, and some of our guests painting beneath it.

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

Tutor Vicki Norman captured the atmosphere of the rose pergola in oils:

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

While another tutor, Liz Seward, was inspired to produce this extraordinary watercolour.

Here are a pair of red roses by tutor Sandra Strohschein. Beneath them, she poses in front of the pergola in the sunshine.

Sandra Strohschein, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Why not put yourself in the picture next year and join us for one of our sun-filled, fun-filled inspiring creative courses? We already have some 215 bookings for the 250/260 places available, so now is the time, as the future brightens, to make sure of your place – and give yourself a rosy glow of anticipation through the winter months.

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

As ever, you can find out more about everything, Watermillwise by clicking here. PS: I made a slideshow so you can see these and other images a little larger. To view it, just click here.

A bright December bloom brings hope in gloomy times

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

November was a bright and sunny month in Posara (we even managed to make 500 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic electricity). But early December had it all: rain, sleet, hail, frost, snow and strong winds, to send us scurrying for indoor warmth.

The weather is calmer now, though cold, and I was heartened to see, on one of my well wrapped morning walks, the rose above blooming on a sunny wall on the southern façade of the Watermill. It was not alone: several other blooms defied the season.

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

They are bright symbols, I suppose, in these dismal and depressing times, that, as the Italians say tutto andrà bene, all will be well. Let us hope so.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Children’s reaction to the coronovirus pandemic

The olive oil team: bringing in the harvest for next year’s Watermill supplies

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

Here is Lois, with our friends Vivienne and Nick White, with a tin of ‘liquid gold’, this year’s olive oil for the Watermill: hand-picked, cold-pressed, environmentally friendly, virtually food-mile-free, ready for your delectation during our creative courses in 2021.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The view from Vivienne and Nick’s house.

Vivienne and Nick have some 600 olive trees surrounding their beautiful house in the village of Canneto, high in the hills, a few kilometres from the Watermill. Lois has been helping out with the harvest and Nick and Vivienne have been overseeing the pressing of their extra virgin olive oil in the local frantoio.

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

It is certainly amongst the best olive oil in the world and 12 five-litre cans are already on order for the Watermill.

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

Come and enjoy it with us, as well as inspiring tuition, mouth-watering home-cooked Italian food, warm hospitality and the convivial company of like-minded friends.

Here’s a list of the sun-filled, fun-filled creative courses we are running in 2021. We are pretty full already: we have more than 215 bookings for next year out of a theoretical total of some 250/260. So why not beat the coronavirus blues and book your place and enjoy pleasant anticipation during the winter months?

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

Our inspiring painting weeks

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

Keiko Tanabe Places available

Saturday 17 April to Saturday 24 April 2021 

Watercolours 

To learn more about Keiko and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Mary Padgett Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 1 May to Saturday 8 May 2021 

Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air

To learn more about Mary and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Carl March  Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 15 May to Saturday 22 May 2021 

Drawing and watercolours en plein air

To learn more about Carl and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Grahame Booth  Fully booked, waiting list open

Saturday 22 May to Saturday 29 May 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Grahame and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Sandra Strohschein (1)  One or two places remaining

Saturday 5 June to Saturday 12 June 2021 

Watercolours

 To learn more about Sandra and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Sandra Strohschein (2)  One or two places remaining

Saturday 12 June to Saturday 19 June 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Sandra and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

Paul Talbot-Greaves Places available

Saturday 19 June to Saturday 26 June 2021 

Watercolours

 To learn more about Paul and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Rebecca de Mendonça  Three or four places remaining

Saturday 26 June to Saturday 3 July 2021 

Pastels and mixed media

To learn more about Rebecca and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Vicki Norman  One or two places remaining

Saturday 3 July to Saturday 10 July 2021 

Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)

To learn more about Vicki and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Sue Ford Places available

Saturday 10 July to Saturday 17 July 2021 

Watercolours, pastels, collage and mixed media plus acrylic

To learn more about Sue and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Caroline Deeble Places available

Saturday 7 August to Saturday 14 August 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Caroline and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Randy Hale Places available

Saturday 21 August to Saturday 28 August 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Randy and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Mike Willdridge  Recently opened, places available

Saturday 28 August to Saturday 4 September 2021 

Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics.)

  To learn more about Mike and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

Mike Willdridge One place available

Saturday 4 September to Saturday 11 September 2021 

Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)

To learn more about Mike and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Milind Mulick  Places available

Saturday 11 September to Saturday 18 September 2021 

‘Colourful Watercolours’

 To learn more about Milind and his week at the Watermill please click here.

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

Brienne Brown one or two places remaining

Saturday 18 September to Saturday 25 September 2021 

Watercolours

 To learn more about Brienne and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

Charles Sluga  Places available

Saturday 25 September to Saturday 2 October 2021 

Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)

To learn more about Charles and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Tim Wilmot One or two places remaining

Saturday 2 October to Saturday 9 October 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Tim and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

Ali Hargreaves, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Ali Hargreaves Two places available

Saturday 9 October to Saturday 16 October 2021 

Watercolour and mixed media

To learn more about Ali and her week at the Watermill, please please click here.


Our elevating knitting weeks

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

Norah Gaughan Places available

24 April – 1 May 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

To learn more about Norah and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Louisa Harding Fully booked, waiting list open

29 May – 5 June 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

To learn more about Louisa and her week at the Watermill, please click here.

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

Knitting retreat Three or flour places remaining

17-24 July 2021 

Knitting and la Bella Vita

To learn more about our knitting retreat week at the mill, please click here.


Our illuminating creative writing weeks

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

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran Places available

8 -15 May 2021

Scriptwriting

To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please click here.

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

Jo Parfitt Two or three places remaining

14 -21 August 2021

Writing your life stories

To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please click here.


Our impassioned Italian week

Francesca La Sala Two or three places remaining

16-23 October 2021

A novel approach to learning Italian

To learn more about Francesca an her course at the mill, please click here.



The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Painters in the Watermill walled garden. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci

‘Unlike anything else in life, I get completely lost in the process.’

That was the comment from one of the participants on Randy Hale’s first online interactive painting session with the Watermill. She says: “It was simply wonderful. It is a good challenge to myself to improve. I love seeing everyone’s work. It’s so much fun.”

‘Whistle Stop’: the subject for Randy’s first Watermill online interactive session

Randy’s online session, learning about painting negative shapes in watercolours, proved quite daunting for some of the 120 participants, but most rose manfully (or in most cases, womanfully) to the challenge. Among the other comments: “This class was wonderful. Randy is very calm and easy to listen to, and very good at teaching and explaining what he is doing and why.”  

I would like to thank everyone involved in producing these [Watermill online sessions], to say how much I am enjoying them, how much I look forward to them and how good it is to feel challenged.

“Great fun trying… a really enjoyable tutorial. I enjoy seeing everybody’s results in the gallery!”

Yes, every participant gets the opportunity to send in their picture to an online gallery, and above you can see a montage of a few of them, chosen entirely at random. I have also made a fun, 30-second Facebook slide show, so you can see these images a little larger. You can view it by clicking here.

Randy will be back with us in the New Year with more exciting interactive online sessions. The subjects have yet to be decided, but you can see the dates for your diary is on the Watermill’s Online website page, by clicking here. The page also gives details of online sessions with our other renowned tutors.

We are delighted to say that we are creating a wonderful ‘international painting club’ of like-minded people painting along in our sessions, enjoying the camaraderie of other painters from all over the world and above all, “getting lost in the process…”

But, while these Internet sessions are inspirational and fun, they’re not quite the ‘real thing’. What you really need is a week at the Watermill itself, losing yourself in the glorious Tuscan countryside, painting in stunning locations, enjoying the Watermill hospitality and wonderful food and the convivial company of other painters. Randy Hale is as part of the Watermill team. Why not join him for painting and la Bella Vita Italiana next year?

And when you have enjoyed painting along online with Randy, why not join him for his fun-filled, sun filled, inspiring week-long course at the Watermill at Posara next summer?

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

Randy Hale 

Saturday 21 August to Saturday 28 August 2021 

Watercolours

To learn more about Randy and his week at the Watermill, please click here.

***I have made one of those fun, 30-second Facebook slideshows, with more of Randy’s paintings, which you can see by clicking here.

Painting by Randy Hale, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Randy’s impression of the Watermill seen from the walled garden.

Building an online painting community in these difficult times. Our thanks to all involved

Getting ready for an online session with Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Watermill ‘virtual’ guest Ann Durloo has everything ready for an online interactive session with Mike Willdridge

We have been overwhelmed by the success of the Watermill online, interactive painting sessions, which we have been running for several months now. Every week more than a hundred painters from many different countries have joined together to paint along with our inspiring tutors.

We really do seem to have created an international community of like-minded people, who spend a couple of hours or more in each session, not only painting along and learning new skills, but also establishing a camaraderie and a sense of purpose in these difficult times. Thank you to Lois Breckon for the colossal amounts of background work and for hosting the sessions and to our tutors, but especially to Mike Willdridge, who was the original inspiration for these online sessions.

We are incredibly grateful to all our online guests, too, whose cheerful participation makes it all worthwhile. I like the picture above by one of our guests, Ann Durloo, showing how she is set up at home and raring to go as Mike begins one of the sessions.

Mike and Lois’s latest joint effort was an online, interactive ‘virtual’ painting week at the Watermill, in which some 120 people joined us each day for a week, ‘visiting’ some of the stunning locations in and around the Watermill. You can see a little slideshow of our Watermill painting locations by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Just one of the locations of your painting week.

As one of our guests said: “I can’t tell you how much I am missing being in Tuscany! It was a fabulous week and over all too quickly. It was the best thing I have done all year. Mike’s demonstrations were so clear and informative.

“I felt I learnt more in seven days than I have in seven years! You both put so much effort into the whole week and I am sure it was very much appreciated by everyone who took part.

“To have that level of tuition is amazing! I also think it is most important to help each other through this difficult time, if one can.”

After our Watermill virtual week, we are now back to running our online, interactive sessions every Thursday, not only with Mike but with other inspiring tutors like Randy Hale, Rebecca de Mendonça and Sue Ford. And we are planning another ‘virtual’ week at the Watermill with Mike in February next year. You can find out all about our online activities by clicking here.

Come and join our international painting club – and even better, as the prospects of an end to this dreary coronavirus story become brighter, why not plan to enjoy the real thing sign up for one of our renowned painting courses next year. Then you can not only paint along with us, but also enjoy the anticipation of a pleasurable week painting in unspoiled rural Tuscany, as well as the inimitable hospitality of the Watermill. You can find out about all the Watermill’s creative activities by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Just click here to learn more.

We’d love to welcome you to the Watermill, as well as joining our international online painting community. Our thanks again to everyone who is taking part.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Painters in the Watermill walled garden. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci