The sun also rises…

… and has made us self-sufficient in electricity generation!

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

The picture above, from our handy little photovoltaic monitoring app, shows that that today we have produced our first 10,000 kilowatt hours (10 MWh) of electricity from the sun. And we’ve also saved some seven tons of carbon dioxide production.

Our arrays of photovoltaic panels, hidden away on our south-facing roofs overlooking the river, make us self-sufficient in electricity generation, even powering the new air-conditioning units installed in all our bedrooms and public rooms.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Solar power to keep you cool. Some of our panel embedded in the roof of the 19th century Mill 2.

As you know, the Watermill is renowned for its inspiring teaching, its beautiful setting, its delicious food and wine, and its warm and welcoming hospitality. Now, whatever the weather, you will be Cool and Green with us.

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

Lockdown musings continued: a larger-than-life character who brought opera to the world

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
He ate the spaghetti and signed the photo. Luciano Pavarotti enjoying life. Picture: Getty Images

Continuing my occasional musings on art and music during quarantine in Florence, I’ve been thinking about Luciano Pavarotti, the larger-than-life character (in all senses of the word) who helped popularise opera, or at least bring to a larger audience many of the wonderful melodies of the great composers like Verdi and Puccini.

It was said that in Verdi’s day, Italian grocery delivery boys whistled the tunes of the latest arias as they peddled their bicycles, but in the last 50 years or so opera has become something of a cult, enjoyed by the few but spurned by the masses. I think that was particularly true in Britain.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Nessun dorma : Let no-one sleep!

There is one tune, however, that just about everybody knows, even in Britain, and that’s Nessun Dorma. Pavarotti’s version of this rousing Puccini aria was adopted by the BBC as the theme tune for its coverage of the 1990 World Cup (held in Italy) and became so popular that it reached number two in the hit parade. And the eve of the World Cup final saw the first of the Three Tenors concerts, which became the biggest selling classical record of all time. But it was Pavarotti’s smiling personality and captivating voice which really appealed to non-opera lovers and which frequently filled concert halls and open-air venues alike.

I was reminded of Pavarotti’s genius by watching a short YouTube video in which Antonio Pappano celebrates the tenor’s skills and explains why he is so good. You can see it by clicking here. Pappano’s knowledgeable comments add to the spine-tingling enjoyment.

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

Nessun Dorma comes from Puccini’s Turandot, the composer’s last, and unfinished, opera. There is a rickety plot with fantastic characters, but the opera enables Puccini, my favourite composer, to heighten our emotions and tug at our heartstrings. And heartstrings were definitely pulled at the opera’s debut performance in 1926, at La Scala in Milan, conducted by the incomparable Arturo Toscanini. In the middle of the last act, the orchestra paused, Toscanini put down his baton and turned to the audience. His precise words are now disputed, but I find this version the most satisfying. Toscanini said: “Here the opera ends, because at this point the Maestro laid down his pen.”  The curtain was lowered slowly.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The Japanese have a word for it: Shibusa, everyday beauty

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

In his enforced quarantine, our friend and Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge has been exploring the concept of Shibusa, the Japanese word for ‘beauty in everydayness. Mike says: “I plan on exploring this concept in my now limited horizons – and to post a new drawing every day.”

Mike has been doing this for the past week or so now. Above you can see his effort on Day 8, when a single vapour trail in the morning sky above Maiden Castle, Dorset, England, caught his eye: “Well, Shibusa is about simple beauty.”

Earlier, on Day 3, he was still able to visit his allotment: Small stirrings of activity as winter slowly turns to Spring. This simple drawing, I think, sits nicely under the Shibusa banner.”

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

You will be able to enjoy the simple beauty of the Watermill, its buildings and grounds, and the stunning surrounding countryside of Lunigiana, with its rivers and valleys, ancient villages slumbering under the Tuscan sun, castles and convents, vineyards and olive groves – and much more besides.

Painting by Mike Willdridge, a tutor at The Watermill at Posara painting holidays/vacations, Tuscany Italy.
Mike’s picture of the River Rosaro, which runs beside the Watermill.

In these difficult times, why not give yourself something to look forward to and join Mike here? His course will run from Saturday 29 August to Saturday 5 September and there are more details below. We think things will be back to normal by then, but don’t forget the Watermill’s coronavirus promise:

  • Rest assured that if travel restrictions in your own country or in Italy mean that the course cannot run on these dates, or that appropriate flights are not available, we will postpone your course again to later in the year or even until 2021.
  • If a workshop is cancelled, rather than just being postponed, we will refund any payment in full.
  • If a workshop is postponed and you cannot make the new dates for the tutor you have chosen, we will offer you alternative courses with others inspiring tutors, either this year or next.

Below is Mike’s drawing (more detailed than Shibusa, but just as beautiful) of the millstream as it bubbles beneath one of our sinuous bridges. Come and see for yourself. We would love to welcome you here.

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


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


Our 2020 creative courses: waiting to welcome you! Summer and autumn availability

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

Updated 30 March 2020

We hope this report finds you well and in good heart in these difficult times for all of us.

In view of the coronavirus situation, which seems to change daily if not hourly, we have postponed our early courses, pushing them back to later in the year when, hopefully, the situation will have been resolved.

We do hope you will be able to plan ahead for when we are through this difficult time and you are ready for a relaxing and inspiring break away from it all. Please come and join us.

Please rest assured that if travel restrictions in your own country or in Italy mean that the course cannot run on these dates, or that appropriate flights are not available, we will postpone your course to later in the year or even until 2021. You can find out all about our coronavirus strategy by clicking here.

Below you will first find details of our rearranged inspiring painting courses, followed by information on our creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks.

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

*** By the way, the Watermill is renowned for its inspiring teaching, its beautiful setting, its delicious food and wine, and its warm and welcoming hospitality. We are also Cool and Green, even in the summer: 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. So you will enjoy Tuscan sun and a cool watermill!

Our inspiring 2020 painting courses


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

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


Carl March
18 – 25 July 2020 – three or four 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


Mike Willdridge
29 August – 5 September 2020 – three or four places left
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike 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.

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


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

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


Mary Padgett
26 September – 3 October 2020  – one place left
Pastels en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course , please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


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

Milind Mulick
3 – 10 October 2020 –  fully booked, waiting list open
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind 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.

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


Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Jo Parfitt
11– 18 July 2020 – one or two places left
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


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

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
8 – 15 August 2020 – two or three places left
Scriptwriting
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.


Our enticing knitting holidays

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


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

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


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

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


Our elevating Italian course

Langues Service and Francesca La Sala
22 – 29 August 2020 – still a few places
Italian from the Italians
To learn more about Federica and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


We do hope that you will be able to join us, taking a well earned rest from the troubles of the world and enjoying our inspiring teaching, our beautiful setting, our delicious food and wine, and our warm and welcoming hospitality. And be Cool and Green.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Away from it all: the Watermill riverside

A symbol of better times to come?

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

In this period of enforced incarceration, Lois and I are in our apartment in Florence, while Karsten is in solitary splendour of the Watermill, making sure everything is looking spruce and ready for our guests when our season eventually starts.

From time to time our gardener Flavio Terenzoni pops by to ensure that the millstream is behaving itself and the gardens are not getting unruly. Yesterday he gave the lawn a trim for the first time this year.

While he was checking the millstream, he took the picture above of the primroses blossoming there. We hope they are a symbol of better times to come.

I made one of those fun Facebook slideshows of these pictures and more, which you can see by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Daffodils in the Watermill walled garden. Picture Flavio Terenzoni
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
First trim of the season. Picture Flavio Terenzoni.
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Spring is springing along the river. Picture Flavio Terenzoni

Heroes all

Italian health workers bruised from wearing their protective masks for long periods of time. Tweet from travelito.it

“Nearly 8,000 doctors volunteered to help out on the front lines of Italy’s coronavirus crisis, more than 25 times the number the authorities had sought,” The Local-Italy online newspaper reports.

It adds: “Italy’s Civil Protection department was aiming to create a task force of 300 doctors from all over Italy to help treat patients in the worst-hit regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. Within 24 hours of putting out the call, they had received 7,923 applications, the department announced. The department had said it was first and foremost seeking anaesthetists, but would welcome applications from doctors in any field. “This is about creating a rapid response team,” said the head of the Civil Protection, Angelo Borrelli. “The doctors selected will work alongside regional health service staff and volunteers who are already assisting in hospitals treating coronavirus patients.”

Picture: La Stampa

The newspaper also reported: “On Monday another two Italian doctors were confirmed to have died since contracting the virus, making a total of 22 health workers who have lost their lives.

“Around 4,800 medical staff have contracted the virus since the outbreak began, according to data from the Italian Higher Health Institute, representing around 9 percent of the total in Italy.”

Heroes all. We salute you.

Raising a glass (or two) in virtual aperitivi

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Aperitivi and a Negroni: the real thing!

What we miss most in our enforced incarceration in our adopted home city of Florence is the evening passeggiata and aperitivo. We used to enjoy a Negroni and prosecco in our favourite bar and, of course, ‘laughter and the love of friends’.

We have made up for that loss in some way by having ‘virtual aperitivi’ on our computers. We set up Zoom or WhatsApp (or rather the young and technically savvy Lois does; it’s rather beyond Bill these days) and sit in front of our computer where we can see our friends raising a glass, and they can see us too. Then we have a chat for 40 minutes or so, trying to avoid the topic of the dratted c*****v****s, not always successfully, but there is much bonhomie and laughter. Ain’t it amazing, this international communications on what Bill calls the interweb?

On Friday we were talking to two friends, Nick and Vivienne, who live near the Watermill in Lunigiana. During our conversation, Nick’s phone rang and it was his daughter Lucy, calling from the West Coast of North America. So we had a five-way intercontinental conversation! In the picture below (sorry about the quality), Nick holds up his mobile phone showing Lucy, while in the small screen in the top right-hand corner Lois and Bill look on.

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

On Saturday night there was a three-way get-together, with two pairs of Florentine friends. It’s not quite as perfect as Negronis and prosecchi in the 19:26 bar, but is not a bad second-best.

I’m thinking of walking an apartment Marathon (or not)

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

Locked-down and inspired by the man who was just run the Marathon on his 7-metre balcony in a suburb of Toulouse, France (above), I have just walked a thousand steps around our apartment in Florence, in and out of the balconies and round the sitting room, kitchen and bedrooms, five times.

And I’ve been doing some mathematics. My course, including Balcony Corner, Bathroom Bend and Sitting Room Straight, tots up to some 200 steps and, at half a metre a step, that equals 100 metres. Since the Marathon is a mere 42.195 kilometres, I could complete the distance in 421 laps or so.

Suppose I was to do my lap 20 times a day, then the daily total would be a a couple of kilometres, and I would have completed my Marathon in 21.1 days! The way things are going here, we could still be in lockdown. I might just give it a try.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Rounding Balcony Corner and into Sitting Room Straight!

On the other hand, I also attempted some stretching to an online programme that Lois is following, but it turned out to be more like contortion than extension, and I felt that if I manipulated my limbs in the ways that the chirpy Chinese-American girl suggested, I might never be able to return them to their proper position. Instead, I made myself a cup of coffee and sat for 10 minutes soaking up the rays on one of our sunlit balconies, working hard producing vitamin D…

Anyway, my salutations to Elisha Nochomovitz, the French balconiste marathonaire, whose main worry, it seems, was not annoying the neighbours (“They were very understanding.”) He completed his task in six hours 48 minutes and had crucial support in his challenge: “I had my girlfriend here who was giving me drinks and M&Ms.”

Me? If I take up the challenge, I’ll need more than M&Ms. One of our balconies overlooks the gardens of our apartments and beyond, our local café on the corner (closed), the bread and pastry shop (open for morning brioche) and the butchers. We’ve been eating largely vegetarian, if not vegan, for the past couple of weeks and I was suffering from carnivorous withdrawal symptoms. So yesterday, I asked my designated shopper (Lois) to nip across the road and buy a couple of hamburger patties, to satisfy my craving. Delicious! Now, am I raring to go? We’ll see.

More unforgettable memories for a Watermill guest: she fell in love!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
May Delory’s picture of the Watermill nestling in its Green Valley.

Following the delightful email we had last week from Lesley Pendlebury, who came on a creative writing course with Jo Parfitt a couple of years ago (click here to see more) we have had a spate of emails from other guests recollecting the fond memories they have of their time with us.

The latest comes from May DeLory, who came on another creative writing course several years ago, in 2013. She sent as a blog she made following her Writing Romance course with Sharon Kendrick. May says: “Feel the earth move you in Italy.”

Yes, while Lesley talks of the aura of peace and tranquillity which makes the Watermill such a special place, May fell in love! She says: “The fast-flowing stream beneath my bedroom window emits negative ions. I push open wider the very old window frame. I look down at the stream.  Freshly washed sheets hang to dry on a thin rope line to one side of the courtyard below. I feel tipsy with joy; or, is the high spirit due to my being in Tuscany — land of milk and honey…I love blue skies and I even love stormy skies. I love the air I breathe and the land beneath my feet.  I love learning something entirely new; and, I love learning about people and their culture.”

Thank you, May, for sharing those beautiful memories with us, and for the fascinating pictures in your blog of seven years ago. As May says, some of the pictures are out of date: we have undertaken major renovations and refurbishments since then. But they are worth looking at. Here’s the old dining room now the sitting room since we built a new dining room across the courtyard. a few years’ ago.

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

This is what it looks like here today.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Enjoy companionable evenings in the new Watermill sitting room. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci.

Here’s another atmospheric shot by May, of the surrounding countryside.

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

You can see more pictures and read May’s post by clicking here.

Why not come and savour the aura of the Watermill for yourself? And do some creative writing? We still have a few places left on Jo Parfitt’s incredible Writing Your Life Stories week and on Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s famous Scriptwriting course. Details below.

And don’t forget, everything is included in the cost of your week at the Watermill. As May said in her blog: “One thing to keep in mind when taking a course of any kind far from home: what’s included in the cost of the course? At the Watermill, accommodation, meals, snacks, wine, day trips and course instruction are included. Even return transportation from Pisa to the Watermill is included. Just pay for your flight.  Of course, the Watermill is only too happy to explain everything to you.  I hope you find your dream story at the Watermill…I know I did.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Jo Parfitt
8– 15 July 2020 – one or two places left
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.


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

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
8 – 15 August 2020 – two or three places left
Scriptwriting
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.


Come and fall in love!

Ready when you are! Enjoying pointing in the sunshine

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

As I was saying yesterday, the Watermill team has been beavering away putting the finishing touches to our preparations for our 2020 creative courses season. Like everybody, we are having to learn to live with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, but our philosophy is to continue to improve the ambience of the Watermill, so we are ready for creative guests whenever they arrive.

We have all but completed the external restoration of the old frantoio, the olive press. Above are our happy builders, Nico and Daniele, enjoying the sunshine and putting the finishing touches to the pointing of the ancient stonework overlooking the river. It looks like they’re having fun, but as far as acting is concerned, we have suggested that they do not change their day jobs! We’ll show you how the frantoio facade looks from a distance as soon as we have taken down the scaffolding next week.

We’ve now installed all our air-conditioning units, connected to our photovoltaic generating system (which makes us self-sufficient in electricity) so you can now be Cool and Green while enjoying warm hospitality and convivial company at the Watermill.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Solar power to keep you cool.

Flavio, our gardener, will soon be putting in new plants for the gardens and courtyard, as well as for the myriads of window boxes that adorn our buildings.

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.

All we are waiting for now is you, as soon as that dratted virus has gone away…