Saturday, July 10, 2010

September in Tuscany.....come and join me!!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

I'm teaching a workshop in Tuscany, September 4 - 11, 2010.   There is still space for a few more students, so I'm going to do my best to talk you into joining me. But this blog entry is also for students who have signed up and would like to know a little more about where to go and what to pack.    At the end of this post, I'll talk about airfares/airlines and the best deals that I've found.  

I'm teaching the workshop with Joe Garcia.  We'll demo and teach in both oil and watercolor, so you can work in either medium or paint in watercolor in the morning and oil in the afternoon.   The workshop will be held at the Villa Fattoria Bacio (where we've taught before)  in the Tuscan town of Certaldo.  There is a large studio on the villa grounds next to the beautiful family chapel.   We'll spend time painting in the studio and on the villa grounds, weather permitting.  Each morning, Joe or I will do a demo in watercolor...then students paint until lunchtime while we give individual instruction.  Lunch is followed with another demo, this time in oil, then individual painting time again.  As this is a painting workshop, most of what we teach will apply to either medium.

Certaldo (pronounced Chair-tal-do) is located in Tuscany about 31 miles southwest of Florence, 25 miles north of Siena and about 150 miles north of Rome.  We can see the hilltop town of San Gimignano from the Villa.  The average daytime temp for Certaldo in early September is 80 with the average low of 59.   

We all stay together at the villa, which is a working farm surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.  We'll enjoy the villa's wine during the week.   Patricia, the villa's owner, prepares fabulous Tuscan cuisine that we share in the Villa's dining room every evening.   

View from the Villa

If you sign up for our workshop,  you must turn the trip into an adventure and see other parts of Italy.   On my last trip, Joe & Anne Garcia and I flew British Air to London then on to Pisa.  From there we took a train to Cinque Terre, a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera where we spent a week in Riomaggiore, one of the five towns in Cinque Terre.  (I'd love to spend a month there)    From there we took the train back to Siena where we rented a car and headed for the historic hilltop town of Montalcino where we (appropriately) rented an apartment over a wine shop.  Driving in Italy is easy as you drive on the same side of the road as the U.S.   Travel expert, Rick Steves,  suggests a rental car if you'd like to see the hilltowns of Tuscany, however you don't need a car to get to Certaldo as it is on the train line - and someone from the Villa will meet your train.    If you have a portable GPS, you can download maps of Italy in English.

I painted my way across Italy.  I took loose sheets of 300 lb Arches watercolor paper, cut to 11.5" x 7.5" to use as sketchbook pages.  When I got home, I took the paintings to Kinkos and had them bound into a sketch book.  This eliminates the fear that you might have to tear a bad painting out of a ready-made book.  I did this watercolor while sitting on steep stone steps on a street corner at the top of Montalcino.   I think of this place as 'Pee Corner' as I'm sure every tom-cat in Montalcino had marked it as his territory.  Funny that you don't notice these things until you spend an hour or two painting in one spot.  Unlike photos, where you pause and click - you must study the landscape in order to paint after painting on location, the motif is forever etched in my memory.    The sounds stay in my memory too - I can't think of Tuscany without hearing church bells.


On days when there is no time to paint, I keep a diary of sorts.   This is a page from a small moleskin sketchbook on my last trip to Italy.   Flipping through the pages brings back such great memories.  

What to bring?  I travel with a very small suitcase for clothes (19" x 14" x 8")  and a slightly larger one for my Soltek Easel and painting supplies.  I check the suitcase with painting supplies and carry my clothing bag on board my flight.  I don't bring any more than I can carry in one load - a bag in each hand and a little backpack instead of a purse.  In cities, you can carry the backpack in front where you can keep an eye on it.  Important papers; passport, cash and credit card are hidden away in a passport holder under my clothing.   I  make a photocopy of the main page of my passport and my plane ticket and either give them to a traveling companion to carry, or put them elsewhere in my luggage.  

How many times have you come home from a trip and realized you didn't wear half of what you took?    All I need for three weeks in Italy is a black skirt, black cotton slacks, four tops, a belt, pj's, undies and one pair of lightweight pants and shirt to paint in.  Shoes?  A pair of walking shoes and one pair of flip-flops.   I'll wear an additional outfit on the plane including a lightweight jacket.   I bring light clothing that I can rinse in the bathroom sink and hang to dry overnight.   Shampoo makes great laundry soap.  If a cold wave sweeps through Italy, I can always buy a sweatshirt while there.   Bring a hat, sunscreen and bug repellent.  Italian coffee cups are a little puny, so if you'd like a large cup of java at the Villa, bring your own cup.  I bring a bar of soap (you never know when you might need it) and a couple of lightweight wash clothes.  Not all hotels have them.  

Debbie at Sedona Arts Center will send you a supply list once you have signed up for the workshop.  Do NOT bring any flammable solvents/turpenoids, etc. with you.  We'll provide turpenoid at the Villa.

This is a great time to travel to Europe - I don't remember the U.S Dollar/Euro exchange rate ever being so low!  As I write this, one U.S. dollar  = 1.26 Euro.  WOW!    Airfare prices have dropped a bit too.    USAir has the lowest fares, but if you book through  Expedia, USAir is even cheaper.   As of yesterday, Phoenix to Florence round trip is $1242 including taxes and fees.     Of course, if you have plenty of frequent flier or VISA miles, you don't have to worry about airfare!    

When Joe, Anne and I travel together we prefer to rent an apartment rather than staying in hotels.  Ann has celiac disease and I'm allergic to peanuts so eating in restaurants is difficult.  But we've found that we prefer apartment living to hotels anyway as they're usually cheaper - you get much more space and you get to live as the locals live....buying local produce, wines, cheeses, etc.  It's easy to find apartments online but if you want some tips, email me!  

This isn't just a workshop, it's an experience that you'll never forget!  We paint, we laugh, we enjoy the local wines and food - and we leave much richer by the experience.   Come and join us. 


  1. Wish I could come along! From all that I've seen/heard, it sounds like a blast. Anyone want to buy three children? Cheap!