An even more compelling reason to visit the Watermill: Uffizi Gallery paintings are coming to the nearby town of Fivizzano (we hope!)

The Uffizi gallery. Picture: Arte.it

The Mayor of Fivizzano, the walled mediaeval town near the Watermill, where we go for an introductory dinner in the main square the first Saturday of our creative courses and to visit the weekly market on Tuesdays, has written to the director of the world-famous Uffizi gallery in Florence, saying “we are ready when you are.” (Or words to that effect.)

It is part of a new initiative by Eike Schmidt, the director of the most important Italian museum, called Uffizi diffuse. The aim is to unearth some of the hidden artworks, buried in the gallery’s basements and other storage areas, and display them in other venues throughout Tuscany.

Our mayor, Gianluigi Giannetti, has written to the Director, asking to participate in the project and we are now expecting a visit by managers from the Uffizi to inspect our local museum, in the old Augustinian monastery, just off the main piazza.

Not quite so grand: the entrance to the Fivizzano museum. Picture: ViaggiArt

I don’t think we are expecting Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, nor Leonardo’s Annunciation, but it will be fascinating to see what hidden Italian art treasures find the way to our sleepy and unspoiled market town. Yet another reason to come on one of our renowned creative courses. You can find out all about them by clicking here.

I wonder if she fancies change of scene? Picture: Uffizi gallery.

As we begin, at last, to get to grips with the coronavirus, we are confident that in a couple of months time we are going to be able to welcome guests again on our creative courses. Rest assured that, like you, we are monitoring the situation carefully and if we are still unable to run some of our earliest courses, we have contingency plans to postpone them until later in the year.

We already have many bookings for next year’s creative courses at the Watermill, in painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. Some 215 places are already taken out of a potential total of some 250/260. So now is the time

We would love to welcome you here and we have made a little slideshow to try to capture the atmosphere the Watermill. You can view it by clicking here. And below you will find details of all our painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks. Come and join us: it will be a wonderful way of celebrating a new beginning.

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.

Carl March  One or two places available

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)  Fully booked, waiting list open

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.

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, sculpting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language and yoga, holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

Are you dressed like an onion in this doggy weather? And watching out for the basins?

Tom Florence coldIn this wintry weather, in the northern hemisphere at least, this blog from 2017, which I unearthed in my clear out, is very apposite today:

The picture above was painted en plein air above Florence yesterday by our friend Tom Byrne. He says: “My head is beginning to thaw out. It’s really cold although there’s no snow. This afternoons light was perfect and the mist just like before, so finished this painting.”

We hope he was dressed like an onion! That’s what Italians do when it’s cold!

We are grateful to Catherine Edwards from the online English newspaper here in Italy, The Local, for explaining and providing some further thoughts about the Italian language.

She says you are really beginning to understand Italian when a sentence like “It was raining sinks and it was dog cold, so I had to dress like an onion” makes perfect sense to you. Yes, Piove catinelle, literally “It’s raining basins” means, as we say in English, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”  And when it’s really cold, it is dog cold: Fa un freddo cane.” The solution: wear lots of layers: “Vestirsi a cipolla,” dress like an onion.

These days one never knows how to dress. Speak for yourself-Image: italianochefatica.it

These days one never knows how to dress. Speak for yourself! Image: italianochefatica.it

Our special week-long language course, where you can soak up Italian and enjoy la bella vita iItaliana, will be running again this October. The dates are Saturday 16 October to Saturday 23 October 2021.

This really is a ‘course with a difference’. Not only are there formal lessons on the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we also make trips and excursions to savour the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area around the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speak Italian, and practise what you’ve learned.

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

The Watermill has teamed up again with the wonderful Italian language tutor Francesca La Sala, to produce a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be also be individually customised, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.

This exciting language course is suitable for all levels of ability, because of the special approach of the Langues Services language school in Florence, who initially developed the workshop at the Watermill. The philosophy and method are inspired Professor Bertrand Schwartz of Paris University, who overturned the concept of teaching to adults, with a method that not only develops 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, establishing active and confident relationships, where the student is the true protagonist in the course.

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

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: I can honestly say it was the nicest week I have had for a long time. Francesca was charming and very patient.”

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

I have made one of those fun, 30-second Facebook slideshows to try to capture some of the atmosphere of our Italian language week. You can see it by clicking here.

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!

And you will be Cool and Green: all our rooms are air-conditioned, powered by photovoltaic panels which make us self-sufficient in electricity.

Francesca La Sala

16-23 October 2021

A novel approach to learning Italian

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

Why Italian hotels don’t have a Room 17 (or a 17th floor). Mere heptadecaphobia!

SeventeenContinuing my series of Blogs Revisited, stories from the past unearthed during my recent clear out, I thought it was appropriate to republish this one today, 17 February:

Have you ever noticed that Italian hotels never have a 17th floor. (Yes, I know, most of them don’t go that high, but when they do, they don’t, if you see what I mean.) Apparently, Italians dislike the number so much that in some tall hotels the floors go from 16 to 18. And you’ll be pushed to find a Room 17 in many hotels, too. You might call it heptadecaphobia

The reason? I am grateful to an article in The Florentine, Florence’s English-language newspaper, for explaining. “When written, the 1 mimics a hanged man and the 7 a gallows. Furthermore, 17’s rearranged Latin numerals spell “VIXI.” Often engraved on headstones, the word means “He lived” and thus tempts death to make that statement true of you.” (I agree, I’d much be VIVIT, which means “He is alive” and sounds like an acronym for living in Italy. This man closed his shop on Friday the Seventeenth. The sign says “Closed for Good Luck.”)Seventeen closed for good luck While 17 sends shivers down Italian spines, they rather like 13. It’s associated with the old pagan Great Goddess and with lunar cycles and fertility. 13 will bring you life and prosperity. The Italians think that’s good news, even though 13 sat down to the Last Supper. This is Ghirlandaio’s version in the Florence cloister of Ognissanti Ghirlandaio last supper ognissanti  

Interesting blogs revisited: What Brunelleschi and Caillebotte have in common

Les Raboteurs de Parquet. A remarkable Caillebotte. Picture: Musee d’ Orsay, Paris.
A copy hangs in the Uccello bedroom at the Watermill.
The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Les Orangers, the orange trees, a tremendous oil painting by Gustave Caillebotte. Picture: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Continuing our series of old and interesting blogs discovered during my clean-up, today I’d like to re-introduce you to my contention that had Gustave Caillebotte had a more easily pronounceable name, he would have been much better known. How easy it was to remember the names of the other Impressionists like Monet, Dégas and Renoir.

I believe it is the same for another of my heroes, Filippo Brunelleschi, to my mind the towering genius of the early Renaissance.

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

Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome for Florence cathedral dominates the city

As well as designing and supervising the construction of the incomparable dome of Florence cathedral, Filippo invented linear perspective, designed the first new-classical building since Roman times, the Ospedale degli Innocenti and created the sublime space of the Pazzi chapel in the cloisters of Santa Croce. With his one-time apprentice Donatello (who re-created classical sculpture) and his patron Cosimo (Medici) the Elder (who led the re-discovery of Greek and Roman texts and promoted Humanism), Brunelleschi can truly be regarded as the father of the Renaissance.

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

The incomparable façade of the ospedale degli innocenti

Yet because his name is not straightforward to pronounce (Brew-nel-esk -i) you hear it mentioned far less often than, say, Fra Angelico or Botticelli.

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

The sublime interior space of the Pazzi chapel

Be that as it may, we have named one of the Watermill bedrooms after this wonderful Renaissance man. Not only does it have French windows opening on to the Watermill courtyard, there is also a large roof terrace outside its front door, from which you can see the magnificent Appennine mountains in the distance.

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

Interesting blogs revisited: Why is an Italian bottle a theatrical disaster?

Hope it won't be a fiasco!

Triumph or  fiasco?

Our fantastic Webmaster, Les van Jaarsveldt, is busy updating and revamping the Watermill’s blog pages and he asked me to tidy up our old blogs, eliminating those we no longer need, and also expunging lots of old pictures. In the process I came across some fascinating old blogs which I thought were too good to lose and which I would like to share again with you. Like this one about fiascoes. It goes like this:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by words and how their meaning changes over the years and between countries. Take fiasco: in English, a fiasco means a dismal failure but in Italian un fiasco is a humble bottle or flask. So how did one become the other?

Rossini: Hope it's not a big flask, Mamma

Rossini: Hope it’s not a big flask, Mamma

Well, there are lots of theories. One suggests that Murano glassblowers, famous for their artistic creations, would only use the best materials and would set aside any glass with imperfections to make bottles. But the word seems to have come into English via the French theatre, where to faire fiasco  is to have a disastrous performance. This in turn seems to have come from the Italian stage, where far fiasco was to suffer a flop. (In his letters to his mother, Rossini used to draw flasks of various sizes, reflecting the reaction to performances of his operas.)  But why is ‘to make a bottle’ linked with theatrical catastrophe? Worldwide Words on the web suggests: “There was once at Florence a celebrated harlequin by the name of Biancolelli, whose forte was the improvisation of comic harangues on any object which he might chance to hold in his hand.

“One evening he appeared on the stage with a flask (fiasco) in his hand. But, as ill-luck would have it, he failed in extracting any “funniments” out of the bottle. At last, exasperated, he thus apostrophised the flask: “It is thy fault that I am so stupid to-night. Fuori! Get out of this!” So saying, he threw the flask behind him, and shattered it into atoms. Since then, whenever an actor or singer failed to please an audience, they used to say that it was like Biancolelli’s “fiasco.”

Blog fiasco ChiantiYet another theory suggests that the Italian phrase fare il fiasco used to mean ‘to play a game where the loser will pay for the next bottle of wine’. Or maybe it’s simply those old bottles, hand-blown and with rounded bottoms might be unstable and easily upset – and spilt wine is certainly a fiasco.

No-one knows for sure. I am attracted to the romantic story of the Florentine actor Biancolelli myself, on the grounds of a lovely Italian phrase Si non é vero é ben trovato, which, in my crude translation means “If it’s not true it jolly well ought to be.”

More Italian tips for daily well-being: get out and about and change your coffee-drinking habits

From Italy with love

Today is the last in our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, based on suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. The first is rather difficult to achieve in these restricted times; and in the UK and the USA at least, the paucity of true Italian café’s makes the second quite difficult too. Starbucks ain’t quite the same!

Habit #9: Go out and about

Patrick says: “When Italians go out, they tend to move around a lot. They don’t just head to the nearest watering hole with their friends – they actively hit many venues over the course of the evening.

While the endless debate about where to go next can get tiresome, an Italian night out is great for socializing because it brings you into contact with many more people.

It also favours the group dynamic as your itinerary will tend to take you to places that different people in your group like: introverts who like quiet bars and extroverts who love crowded clubs all get a fair kick of the ball.”

Habit #10 Italianize your coffee habits

Picture: The Local

Patrick says: “Generally speaking, having a coffee is a quick affair in Italy. You drink it standing up at the bar. Coffee culture elsewhere tends to involve long, lingering sips, where you sit down for as long as you like and get endless refills.”

And then there is the dreaded cappuccino rule: “If Italy has taught us anything at all, it’s that you should NEVER drink a cappuccino after your afternoon or evening meal. Nobody is sure why, but it’s a no-no. It just is.”

I think the reason why is that Italians feel that milk is more difficult is more difficult to digest and therefore should only be taken in the morning. Italians are becoming more relaxed, though, and accept that we mad Brits or Yanks have peculiar coffee-drinking habits and they’ll serve us cappuccino in the afternoon. I cheat by having a caffe macchiato, a black coffee with a splash of cold milk.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 10 quirky tips from Italy to add to your enjoyment of life. We are off to our local café for a morning cappuccino and a nice chat!

The Orcagna, one of our favourite Florentine cafés. Spot the dog! He’s friendly too.

Touchy-feely and proud: learning more from the Italians about healthy living.

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

Continuing our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, we are looking today at two more suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. They are rather disparate topics, the first of which is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in .)these restricted times: Habit #7: Be more tactile. The second is delightful (See below.)

Patrick writes: “Italians are very touch-feely and at first it can be a bit strange, but it’s a really positive aspect of how Italians socialize. If it’s your birthday expect a hug and a kiss from everyone around and don’t offend by getting embarrassed about it.

“When you’re with Italian friends expect them to put their hands on your shoulder, ruffle your hair and stroke you – just don’t forget to reciprocate!”

Quite right too, but in these days of masks and social distancing, a good Italian bracio e abbraccio (a kiss and a hug) is just a fond memory. We will know that we are back to normal we start hugging each other again.

Picture: Signore si divernta

As Patrick says: “Science suggests that being a bit more touchy-feely could make you happier, as physical contact with other humans produces oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that is central to intimacy and bonding.”

Habit #8 is to Develop a sense of local pride. The Italians call it campanilismo, a sense of identity, a loyalty to where you grew up, within the sight and sound of your own campanile (belltower).

A painting by Charles Sluga of the belltower in the nearby walled mediaeval town of Fivizzano.

Patrick writes: “Back in the UK, at least, local pride is almost looked down upon – and many people from small towns are embarrassed about where they have their roots. Very often people just lie and tell you that they are from their nearest large city. But many Italians from small towns will tell you exactly why their hometown is the most beautiful place in the world and why you should visit.

“They will passionately talk about the great local restaurant or spot where everybody goes. Why not take their advice?”

That is certainly true about Fivizzano, the beautiful, walled mediaeval town near the Watermill, and about Florence, where we live in the winter. The sense of local pride is palpable and is just one more thing that adds to the enjoyment of living in Italy.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome for Florence cathedral: who wouldn’t be proud to live here?

An array of bruschette, colourful and tasty Italian snacks

This colourful, mouth-watering picture is of bruschette, tasty Italian snacks that can be served as aperitivi or as a first course to an evening meal. (We enjoyed some of them last night when two friends came round to dinner, keeping up the Italian tradition of eating together and enjoying convivial company, sadly curtailed in present times.)

Traditionally, a bruschetta is a slice of toasted bread, rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil, but for the gluten-free you can use roasted slices of aubergine instead. We use the olive oil made by our friends Nick and Vivienne White in the village of Canneto near the Watermill. Lois proudly points out that she helped pick the olives at this year’s harvest and that her labours are present in every drop.

She’s been preparing bruschette with our friend Clare Budini-Gattai, from whose family estate in Chianti we buy our Watermill red wine, and who also have extensive olive groves. Together they created five different bruschette with a variety of tastes. In the picture you can see

  • Fett’unta – the traditional bruschetta:  rubbed with garlic, drizzle of olive oil
  • traditional tomato bruschetta: toast rubbed with garlic, then mix of tomato, basil, thyme, parsley and peperoncino, drizzled with olive oil
  • a mixture of cannellini beans, rosemary, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and topped with walnuts and another drizzle of olive oil
  • roasted aubergine with olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, parsley and mint
  • creamy goat’s cheese, with oregano, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, then topped with pine nuts, and drizzled with honey.

Each is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

Lois has made a short video son how these delicious Italian snacks can be assembled. It is part of a series of videos we are making called Italian cooking, Watermill style, in which we show you how to prepare the delicious dishes that we serve during our creative courses at the Watermill. It is in response to the clamour by our guests for a Watermill cookbook. Lois is busy making the videos at the moment and will tell you all about this project later in the year.

In the meantime, why not try a few bruschette for yourself? One of the secrets is to use only the very best olive oil. Even better, why not come on one of our creative courses and sample ours? More details of all that can be found by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
Lois and Vivienne and Nick, the olive picking team!

Learning more from the Italians about healthy living.

Picture: AFP Foto Tiziana Fabri via The Local

Continuing our series on 10 Italian lifestyle habits that add to the quality of daily living, we are looking today at two more suggestions from Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper.

Habit #5 is Drink less alcohol. One of the striking things in life in Italy is how little the Italian drink, compared with, say, the English or the Americans. Sure, they drink wine, probably every day, and they enjoy an evening aperitivo from time to time. Their drinking habits can probably be summed up as ‘a little, quite often’. As Patrick Browne says: Italians do drink – even to excess. But what most Italians consider ‘excess’ is what some people from other cultures might consider ‘just warming up’.

“At the beginning, changing drinking habits can lead to pacing problems when you go out with your friends – but eventually drinking less is kind of a relief. The night lasts longer, you have more money in your pocket and you cringe less as you recall the previous night’s antics.”

“When you drink is important too – Italians tend to drink with meals or in the evenings. Liquid lunches and post-work pints soon slip by the wayside. Thank goodness for that.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.
You can’t beat the Italian aperitivo, but one is enough and you need nibbles and lively conversation.

Habit #3 Gesticulate: Anyone who has spent any time in Italy, or even met just one Italian, will know that this far more to the Italian language than mere words. In fact most Italians find it impossible to communicate without a wide range of gestures to emphasise their point.

Someone who had nothing better to do with their time, once estimated at some 250 gestures are in common use.

Picture: The Local

It’s been suggested that gestures were used, rather like Cockney rhyming slang in London, as a way of communicating so that the powers-that-be didn’t know what was going on. Others reckon that it was a way of competing for attention in the crowded squares of Renaissance Italy. We rather think the reason is much more simple: Italians tend to speak quite quickly and use many-syllabled words. To help the rhythm of your flow, it’s vital to move your hands.

Patrick Browne says: “One thing is for sure: the longer you live in Italy the more likely you are to throw your hands into the air when making a point. And why not?

“While it may seem strange to drill your finger into your cheek after eating something good, gesticulating is a great way to display, and add subtle inflections to, the pleasures and dramas of everyday life.”

If you would like to learn more, we recommend doing this amusing video from an Italian chef: just click here.

Picture: Vincenzo’s Plate.

Ten Italian habits that add to the quality of life

Fresh produce, local market: two of the secrets of Italian well-being. Picture: The Local.

One of the many frustrating aspects of the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic has been the way in which many of the daily habits and routines that add the sum total of human health and happiness have been put on hold,

I was reminded of this reading an article by Patrick Browne in The Local, our Italian English-language newspaper. Patrick listed 10 Italian habits that lead to benessere, well-being, and I thought I’d share a couple of them each day or so in the coming week. Some we can still enjoy, despite the curtailment of our daily lives; others will have to wait a month or so before, hopefully, we are back to some semblance of normal.

So let’s begin at the market and with food shopping. Habit #1, says Patrick, is Go to the market more. He says: “Most small towns in Italy have a market at least once or twice a week, while in the larger cities you can find a market on almost any day of the week. But why make a trip to the market part of your weekly routine?

Red chili peppers on a stall at the Campo di Fiori food market in central Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro / AFP.

“Apart from the fact that most markets offer everything you could wish for, they also get you outdoors and plunge you into natural light. The world feels like a better place when you’re not under the fluorescent glow of a supermarket bulb.

“The market can save you money too – you can buy the exact quantity of whatever item you need and even haggle over the price if you feel like it.”

A natural follow-on is Habit # 2: Eat local, eat fresh.

Fresh celery and squash (as much as you like) on sale in the Sant’Ambrogio market in Florence. Picture: Bill Breckon

“This is kind of an obvious one when you do your shopping at the market. For sure, Italy is great when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables as it offers fantastic produce all year round and lets you keep your diet interesting by eating seasonally.”

Robert adds: “The country has also managed to turn many a tomato-hater into a tomato-lover. Who can resist all that flavour?

“A diet based on fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables is normal in Italy and being a “locavore” isn’t trendy or hip, it’s just the norm.”

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, yoga, cookery holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.
Tomatoes fresh from the Watermill garden. Picture: Bill Breckon

Happily for us to market in Fivizzano, the walled mediaeval town near the Watermill, continues on Tuesdays and in Florence near our apartment we have the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, still thriving in these exacting times.

A picture of the St Ambrogio market taken before the compulsory wearing of masks and social distancing.

Tomorrow we will feature two more of Robert’s tips on La Bella Vita Italiana with the sincere hope that it won’t be long before you be able to join us and enjoy La Bella Vita Italiana on one of our renowned creative courses at the Watermill. Find out what’s on offer by clicking here.

Just click here to find out all about the Watermill’s activities.