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2017 Cooking holiday programme

Guests on our Italian cooking holiday at The Watermill at Posara, Tuscany, enjoy SEVEN nights at the watermill, with full board.

We should emphasise that absolutely EVERYTHING is included in the cost of your holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals (including delicious meals with wine prepared specially for you at the mill, and at charming local restaurants) and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to Lucca or the Cinque Terre).

All you have to do is get to Pisa. We do the rest!

L’arte di mangiar bene

The Art of Eating Well


On this unique cookery course, you’ll gain hands-on experience of cooking delicious, healthy Italian meals with the freshest ingredients (you’ll harvest many of them yourself, as well as buying fresh produce in local markets). And you’ll learn from, and work with, Italians themselves, both members of The Watermill team and local producers and cooks, who have all contributed to our reputation for delicious, nutritious food. The emphasis will be on culinary techniques that will help propel the healthy Italian lifestyle into your own home.

Led by Lois Breckon, who has masterminded the Watermill menus for many years, and her friend and colleague Ingrid Fabbian, an expert on nutrition, as well on the preparation of home-made pasta and bread, the team will share their decades of culinary and horticultural experience (based on knowledge passed through the generations).

Your hands-on cooking sessions and our daily demonstrations will cover many aspects of the Italian and Tuscan cucina, from appetisers (antipasti) to after-dinner biscuits (biscottini) and much else in between, from pane and pasta, through main courses, to homemade puddings and ice cream.

Our cook Mirella Musetti has been providing delicious traditional dishes for our Watermill guests for many years. She used to work with us full-time in the season, but retired a few years ago. She can’t keep away, however, and returns regularly to cook some dinners during our creative courses in Spring, Summer and Autumn. She, too, has a large orto, and brings fresh produce for her dishes. She’ll how you how to make tasty pasta sauces (including a mouth-watering one with porcini mushrooms), crispy zucchini bites, melt-in-the-mouth pies (crostata), and creamy pannacotta.

Our housekeeper Federica La Sala also runs, with her partner, a small organic farm and she’ll show you how to make a delectable picnic of spelt (farrò) salad and golden stuffed omelette (frittata). We’ll also taste some of Federica’s olive oil. And local chef Angelina Benedetti will share the secrets of some of her favourite crostini and bruschetta toppings, and pasta sauces.

Our gardener Flavio Terenzoni will be showing us which flowers and plants are edible in the mill gardens and woodland and taking us to his own nearby orto (vegetable garden) to select the best seasonal vegetables. His wife, Marida Tognini will show us how she bottles Summer crops, such as aubergines, zucchini and peppers to enjoy during the Winter months.

In the evening, over pre-dinner drinks, we’ll be visited by local producers of, among other things, the famous Lunigiana honey and sheep’s cheese (pecorino).

Panigacci at the Watermill in Tuscany

On top of all that there will be trips by air-conditioned mini-bus to (among other places) the market in the nearby walled Medici town of Fivizzano, a visit to a vineyard beside 1000-year-old hilltop village of Monte dei Bianchi, followed by lunch at a gourmet restaurant beneath the towering mountains, an excursion to the walled city of Lucca, lunch in a typical trattoria nestling beneath the imposing castle of Verrucola, an evening out in Fivizzano to watch the preparation and enjoy the taste of panigacci, rounds of unleavened bread brought hot to your table and served with local hams and cheeses. So as well as learning l’arte di mangiar bene you’ll also sample the vita bella italiana.

And there’s an important ‘take-home’ bonus, too. We’ll provide you with a spiral-bound folder and we’ll provide you with handouts for all the dishes we’ll be preparing together. These, along with your own notes from our demonstrations and discussions, will allow you to begin your very own handbook on L’Arte di mangiar bene.

August is an exceptional time of year to visit the watermill. Where lower-lying towns and villages are sweltering in the Summer heat, Posara enjoys a much fresher climate from lying in the foothills of the Apennines. In any event, when you are not occupied with eating and drinking there will be plenty of opportunity to dip your feet in the cooling flow of the River Rosaro which sweeps beside the mill, or to lie in the leafy shade of the walnut trees.

Member of the Slow Food organisation

Part of the Slow Food revolution

The watermill is proud to be a member of Slow Food®, a grassroots organisation founded in Italy in 1986 and now spread worldwide. As an alternative to fast food, we strive to rediscover and preserve the rich varieties and aromas of traditional and regional local cuisines. Slow Food® encourages the farming of plants and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Panigacci at the Watermill in Tuscany

*A note on L’Arte di mangiar bene by Pellegrino Artusi:

Pellegrino Artusi's La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene was first published in 1891 and soon established itself as an Italian bestseller. As well as its culinary merits, it also has cultural significance: written in Italian rather than any local dialect, it helped to make the citizens of the Kingdom of Italy (created in 1861) feel part of a united nation.

It is unlikely that Artusi himself, a member of the upper classes, ever wielded a kitchen knife, lit a stove or stirred a bubbling pot. But he wrote his book directly for middle-class housewives and those who helped them cook family meals, and not for professional chefs, as was the contemporary custom. The tone is friendly and humorous and the 790 recipes abound with historical anecdotes and personal reminiscences.

You can learn more about Pellegrino Artusi and his book on The Watermill blog.