Plenty of activities for partners while their other halves paint!

Language restuarantWe have no fewer than five non-painting partners on Keiko Tanabe’s watercolour course starting on Saturday and you can be sure will be offering them plenty of activities while their spouses and partners paint away at the Watermill and in the glorious surrounding countryside.

First of all, we’re going to feed them delicious meals, both at the watermill and at lovely, traditional local restaurants. Then we are going to take them on an excursion on Wednesday to the Cinque Terre or to Lucca.

The precise itinerary for the painters will depend on the weather and other unforeseen factors, but you are more than welcome to join them at any of their locations (all of which involve lunch!)

The stunning view from one of your lunchtime restaurants

The stunning view from one of your lunchtime restaurants

As well as painting around the mill, their partners and fellow-painters will also be exploring the nearby hamlet of Verrucola with its impressive Malaspina Castle; the walled town of Fivizzano, with its Museum of Printing, ancient convent (now a library), Medici walls, market in the piazza, shops, cafés etc.; and the gourmet Il Vecchio Tino restaurant at Monte dei Bianchi with its spectacular setting in the mountains. Non-painting partners (‘NPPs’) are more than welcome to go on any of these outings to great locations.Sue Ford Joy and Sanjana at Convento

But if ‘NPPs’ want to explore on their own, enjoy other activities and visit other attractions, here’s a suggested itinerary – none of which, of course, is obligatory.

Saturday:                Arrival day. Explore the mill, its gardens and the riverside

Sunday:                   Leisure at mill; fish in the river? Tennis in Fivizzano? Borrow our bicycle?

Monday:                  Verrucola Castle and valley walk to Pognana

Tuesday:                  Fivizzano market day; trip to Carrara, Pontremoli or Equi Terme? Walk in the Appennines?

Wednesday:           Cinque Terre or Lucca?

Thursday:               Lucca or Cinque Terre? Carrara, Pontremoli or Equi Terme?

Friday:                     Monte dei Bianchi vineyard or Equi Terme?

Saturday:                Departure day. For those with late flights: sightseeing in Pisa

One recent NPP Alastair Hunter and his wife Sheila took a trip to see the famous marble quarries of Carrara. Here’s their report: “On Wednesday we were free to roam and we knew where we wanted to go, to Carrara.  The two regular options of visiting Lucca or the Cinque Terre were not so exciting for us.  We already had a holiday planned in Lucca, and the steps at Cinque Terre would be too steep for Sheila to climb.  But, reading The Agony and the Ecstasy years ago I wanted to see the quarries where Michelangelo selected blocks of marble for his sculptures.  Here was the chance I had been waiting for.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.Taxi and train resolved the journey from The Watermill down to Carrara, where Reike our guide was there to greet us.  She is a German lady living in Italy for twenty-five years, and very accomplished in providing visitors with a comprehensive tour of the marble quarries.  For good reasons that soon became very clear we travelled by long wheelbase Land Rover.  Our party were an Austrian who was camping locally, a Scots couple, a Netherlander, and a Russian sommelier who were travelling aboard a cruise ship docked at la Spezia, and ourselves from Scotland.  We set off together for the mountains.

In the commercial town of Carrara, we passed endless marble stone companies.  Carrara provides the entire global supply of pure white marble, as it has done for over two thousand years.  In the old town we saw every single building constructed of marble including footpaths and pavements.  As we left the town and started to climb we began to witness the vast scale of operations ahead of us on the mountain.  Enormous lorries sometimes filled with only a single marble block edged past us on the road.

VISITOR PARTY AT CARRARA MARBLE QUARRY (002)Higher up as we entered the quarry areas the surface of the roads gave way to rock hardcore, slopes nosed skywards and hairpin bends took two goes for our vehicle to get around.  At each successive level, from near sea level right to the top of the mountain, the quarry floors are vast.  Looking down from the top, huge dumper trucks look like toys.  The main quarry processes have continued for centuries.  They drive the quarry faces back into the mountain, they open new quarry floors at levels higher up, and they quarry down into the floors.  There are underground quarries as well, unfortunately not for the public to see.

 Operations on the mountain are self-contained and nothing is wasted.  Marble is cut out from the quarry using endless loops of steel rope impregnated with diamond.  In earlier times the cutting medium was a slurry of water with sand.  Marble quality ranges from entire blocks of white purity, through veined blocks, cracked pieces, crushed stones, right down to marble powder, all having commercial or industrial value.  A fascinating and memorable day, with many thanks due to Bill Breckon for his organisation in advance, which all ran smoothly.”

Come and join us and bring your own NPP!

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