The Vasari suite: a self-contained apartment in the restored 17th-centurymill, with an elegant sitting room and views over the Watermill cascades and the river

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

Today we reach the end of our tour of the Watermill bedrooms, with the second of our self-contained apartment suites, The Vasari Suite. As usual, I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows, which you can see by clicking here.

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

Giorgio Vasari, who lived and worked in Florence in the 16th century, was another of those great multitalented Renaissance men: painter, architect and town planner, as well as writer and historian. His most famous for his book, The Lives of the Artists, the first book on art history, in which he lauded Michelangelo as the apotheosis of artistic development.

He painted (with others) the inside of the dome of Florence cathedral, wonderful frescoes in the palazzo vecchio; he built the uffizi and in particular the loggia of the uffizi, creating a unique Renaissance street with unified architecture, the first regularised streetscape in Europe. Oh, and the Vasari corridor, linking above street level the palazzo vecchio with the Pitti place, so his Grand Duke, Cosimo 1 de’ Medici, wouldn’t have to mix with the hoi polloi on his way home.

And he built the Fish Loggia, one of my (many) favourite buildings in Florence.

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

The Vasari Suite at the Watermill has an elegant sitting room and a double bedroom, with views over the mill cascades and the River Rosaro. It is ideal for a couple, or two friends sharing. (We can make a bed in the sitting room for two friends sharing the apartment.)

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’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

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

The Lippi suite: a self-contained apartment with an elegant sitting room and views over the Riverside gardens and the river

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

Continuing our tour of the Watermill bedrooms we move today to the first of our self-contained apartment suites, the Lippi suite. As usual I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows, which you can see by clicking here.

The suite is named after Filippo Lippi and his son Filipino Lippi, painters in the mid-15th century. Filippo, a monk with a scandalous private life, was a sublime painter and, incidentally, taught Botticelli. Filippo’s Madonna and Child with two Angels (below) is one of my favourite paintings. I particularly love the smile of the angel of the right.

Filippo’s son, Filipino, was, among other things, responsible for some wonderful frescoes depicting the life of St Peter in the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.

The suite has an elegant sitting room and two bedrooms: a larger double one and a smaller single. There are views over the Riverside gardens the public River Rosaro. It is ideal for a couple, or two friends sharing.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

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

The Donatello bedroom: cosy and bright and with a terrace with wonderful views over the garden and mountains

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

The Donatello bedroom, appropriately enough, is next to the Brunelleschi, for Donatello was for many years his apprentice and accompanied Brunelleschi on their celebrated trip to Rome, where they rediscovered the secrets of classical architecture and sculpture.

Habakkuk: almost alive

Donatello’s sculptures, in both marble and bronze, were revolutionary, notably his St George for the Orsanmichele in Florence and his irrepressible bronze David, commissioned by Cosimo the Elder. Both can be seen in the Bargello museum and herald the rebirth of classical sculpture. My favourite Donatello sculpture is the grizzled Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, who Donatello nicknamed ‘pumpkin head’ and talked to it as if it were alive while he was carving it.

I have made one of those short Facebook slideshows with pictures of this bedroom, which you can see by clicking here.

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

We’d be delighted to welcome you here for one of our caring and inspiring creative holiday weeks – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Come and join us and choose your favourite bedroom.

You can find out more about all our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring creative courses by clicking here.

Not by Donatello, but Rinaldi’s sleeping Chatsworth Lion will keep you company in the Donatello bedroom

In the fresh air or in jail? Be careful when you tell the Italians you’d like to be al fresco

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy
Enjoying lunch in the fresh air at the Al Vecchio Tino restaurant during one of our painting courses

It’s commonplace or us expats to use the phrase al fresco when we want to eat or enjoy an aperitivo at tables outdoors. Since fresco means fresh, it seems to make sense that we’re asking to dine or drink outside in the fresh air. But be warned, fresco as an adjective usually means ‘chilly’ or ‘cool’, and as a noun it is used to describe a cool place: Metti il vino bianco al fresco, put the white wine somewhere cool. And the phrase al fresco is used colloquially to mean ‘in prison’.

So, potremmo essere al fresco? might just be translated as ‘Could we be cool?’ but is more likely to be understood as ‘Could we be in jail?’

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy
Enjoying lunch inside at the Locana al Castello in Verrucola, where we go to lunch on Mondays during our courses

I’m indebted to a recent article in the The Local, an English-language Italian newspaper, which tells me that phrase stare fresco literally translates as ‘stay cool’, but in Italian it has negative rather than laid-back connotations: getting into trouble, or waiting in vain. Se continui così, stai fresco, ‘If you carry on like that, you’re in trouble’. Or Se ti aspetti che quello ti aiuti, stai fresco, ‘If you expect me to help you, you’ll be disappointed.’

If you want to be outside, it’s best to say a fuori, or perhaps all’aria aperta, ‘in the open air’.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Learning the language, a fuori, under the shade of the vine verandah-
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

You be able to distinguish between eating outside and languishing in jail, and much more beside, if you join us on our unique Italian Language course at the Watermill this summer. With the Florentine language school Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala, we’ve designed a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever, meeting Italian people and interacting with their everyday lives. it will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. Not only will there be formal lessons  a fuori under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.

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

Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are. You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

This exciting language course is suitable for all levels of ability, because of the special approach of the Langues Services language school. Its philosophy and method are inspired Professor Bertrand Schwartz of Paris University, who overturned the concept of teaching to adults, with an approach that develops not only theoretical knowledge but practical know-how as well.

The aim is to enhance the personal qualities of each student, tailoring the teaching to their needs and ambitions and establishing mutual, active and confident relationships, where the student is the true protagonist in the course. The motto is ‘action first, knowledge after.’

One previous course participant said: “A super language week: well organised, giving us a taste of the ‘real Italy.’ Despite the disparity in ability our tutor managed to help all of us towards a better understanding and production of the Italian language. The lessons were fun, interactive and helped me enormously.” Another added: “Our tutor was fantastic and designed a course that we could all follow at our own level.” 

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.

You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest!

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

To recap, our Italian Language week will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday, 29 August 2020 and you can find out more by clicking here.

We already have eight people booked into this course, so we only have room for four or so more. If you’d like to join us for this unique course, to be sure of your place now is the time to book especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (English pounds) per person discount.

And here’s another fine piece of Italian, seen on the wall of the trattoria where we go for lunch on Mondays during our creative courses. The translation? ‘In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water, bacteria!’

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

The November 2019 Watermill newsletter is just out

You can read all our latest news, and details of our 2020 creative courses by clicking here. https://watermill.net/mill-news/millnews113/millnews113.php

  • There are stories on our newly launched knitting week with Renée Callahan
  • a recipe for gorgonzola soufflés
  • how to catch an Italian thief. (Forget the fatty bacon!)
  • and Italian infants soaking up culture

Eclectic, or what? Happy reading

The November 19 Watermill newsletter is just out

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

You can read all our latest news and details of our 2020 creative courses by clicking here.

  • There are stories on our newly launched knitting week with Renée Callahan
  • a recipe for gorgonzola soufflés
  • how to catch an Italian thief. (Forget the fatty bacon!)
  • and Italian infants soaking up culture

Eclectic, or what? Happy reading

A slideshow of our painting guests’ pictures

The painting above, of the Watermill from the walled garden by painting course guest Toni Stefaniuk, proved to be one of the most popular of our Facebook posts this week, gaining more than 250 likes in a couple of days.

Since our fans and followers seem to like this sort of thing, I thought I’d make another of those snappy little Facebook slideshows, featuring paintings some of our other guests have made during their stay with us. You can see it by clicking here.

As well as Toni’s lovely watercolour, there are pictures by Anne-Marie Furze, Grace McGee, Robert Christopher, Chris Franklin, Joanna Capelle and Pam Smart. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for a wonderful gallery.

Bookings for our 2020 painting courses are flowing in, so why not come to the Watermill and capture its unique ambience yourself? Here’s Robert Christopher’s sketch of the sunny Watermill courtyard to whet your appetite. You can learn more by clicking here.

Maybe (just maybe) we will go for a Lavinia Fontana bedroom

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

Lois commented some time back that in the naming of our Watermill bedrooms I’d failed to take account of the contributions of female artists in the Renaissance and Early Modern period in Italy. I succumbed when we created a new guest bedroom a couple of years ago, which we named the Gentileschi, after Artemisia Gentileschi, currently the feminist’s favourite female Florentine.

But I drew the line at Nellie, or to be precise, Plautilla Nelli, an earlier Florentine painter (she was active in the 1500s) “No guest of ours is going to sleep in a Nellie bedroom,” I said.

I have, however, just read a fascinating article on the online Hyperallergic website (https://hyperallergic.com), which might persuade me that any new bedroom we create could be called the Fontana, after Lavinia Fontana. She was Bolognese, not Florentine, as are our other bedroom artists, but I do like her work. That is her lively portrait of the Maselli family, above.

The Hyperallergic article tells me that in the late Renaissance, Bologna boomed with professional women artists, primarily painters. Of the 300 active painters in the city during the 1600s, around 25 were women — more than in any other Italian city. And Lavinia was the most prominent.

Self-portrait in tondo by Lavinia Fontana – Web Gallery of Art

The article says: Lavinia Fontana asked her fiancée to sign an unusual marriage contract before they exchanged rings in 1577. Fontana wouldn’t be providing a dowry, as was customary in her native Italy. Instead, the Bolognese artist committed to financially supporting her husband, as long as they agreed to live under her father’s roof and she could continue painting in her family’s workshop. Her husband agreed. And with good reason: Fontana was a phenomenal success”. 

Lavinia is considered the first professional female artist active in any European city. She competed with male contemporaries on the open art market, and her career helped pave the way for others. You can read more about her by clicking below:

This Self-portrait at the clavichord with a servant is considered her masterpiece:

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

We have no plans at the moment to create a new bedroom, but when we do Fontana’s name will be in the frame! In the meantime, our guests can continue to enjoy the Gentileschi bedroom, along with the Brunelleschi, Donatello, Bronzino, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio and Uccello bedrooms, and the Lippi and Vasari suites.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
The Gentileschi bedroom. Picture: Francesco Lastrucci

A dramatic evening picture from a Watermill guest

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

Rose Diamond, who was on Charles Sluga’s painting week recently, has just sent me this lovely and unusual picture of the Watermill courtyard with a dramatic evening sky behind it. Thank you very much for that, Rose.

Rose also comments: “I want you to know how special it was to experience the Watermill at Posara. Last week was magical on so many levels…magnificent setting, accommodations and meals, day trips, and painting instructor.”

We reckon we are in the happiness business and we are delighted if we can make our guests happy. Come and share the Watermill experience yourself: our 2020 creative courses are filling fast. You can find out more by clicking here.

Natural beauty in the palm of a hand

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

This lively little chap is a member of the Hemidactylus turcicus clan, a Mediterranean house gecko. Ain’t he cute? He looks more like a jewelled brooch than a cold-blooded insect hunter. He’s held in the palm of the hand of our ‘Man Friday’, Nathaniel (‘Nate’) Szekely (who took the picture with his other hand).

Geckos are just part of the fascinating wildlife you can see around the mill buildings and gardens: there are lizards galore and, in the season, amazing hummingbird moths and elegant swallowtail butterflies. And along the river and millstream, damselflies and pond skaters… all part of the abundance of nature in this ecologically protected area.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
An amazing hummingbird moth. Picture by Watermill guest Ron Ploeg.

Come and see for yourself when you join us on one of our sun-filled, fun-filled, caring and inspiring creative courses – painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. You can find out more details of all our activities by clicking here. Places for 2020 are filling fast so if you’d like enjoy creativity and nature, now really is the time to book, especially as you can take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (English pounds) off any of our creative courses if you book before the end of this year. But to be sure of the course you want, it is probably wisest to book now.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
A swallowtail butterfly, photograph: Lara Breckon
A damselfly beside the millstream. Picture by Trevor Sanderson.