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Activities for partners

We have had an increasing number of ‘non-participating partners’, husbands, wives, partners, friends of people who have come on one of our fun-filled, sun-filled painting , creative writing, language and knitting courses and our yoga and meditation retreat. We look after them very well and make sure they have as good a time as the course participants. In addition, they enjoy a £200 GBP discount off the cost of the course when they share a bedroom with their participating partner.

First of all, we’re going to feed both of you delicious meals, at the watermill and at lovely, traditional local restaurants. Then we are going to take you on an excursion on Wednesday to the Cinque Terre or to Lucca.

Then, if your partner wants to, he/she can accompany you and the painting group on trips we have each day to fascinating and beautiful locations: a Medieval castle, the weekly market in a walled down, the tranquil cloisters of a nearby monastery, a hilltop village, with a gourmet restaurant... (* The itinerary will be slightly different for other groups and it can be found in our creative writing, knitting and language sections.)

But we’ve also a number of special trips for ‘non-participating partners’ , but remember, like Italian traffic lights, the list of activities is only advisory, not obligatory! Just let us know if any of them takes your fancy and we’ll fix it for you.

The extra activities on offer include visits to:

  • a local vineyard, with wine tasting
  • underground caverns and the sulphurous spa of Equi Terme
  • the Bronze Age statue stele at Pontremoli
  • walks in and around Posara, in the surrounding hills and valleys and in the high Appennines
  • the marble quarries of Carrara
  • the quintessential walled Italian city of Lucca (if you didn’t go there with your partner)
  • the unforgettable seaside village of the Cinque Terre (if you didn’t go there with your partner)

We can also organise:

  • fishing in the River Rosaro or local lakes
  • tennis in Fivizzano
  • bicycling

We also recommend:

  • reading a book in the riverside gardens
  • walking along the river and millstream
  • lying on the sun loungers in the walled garden
  • dipping your toes in the ‘plunge pool’ of the old olive press reservoir (the water, fresh from the mountains, is very cold.)
  • watching the figs & tomatoes ripen, and the zucchini sprout!

... more recommended activities

For more information, select the activity that interests you below.

Pontremoli is a quaint Medieval town on the road to Parma. The small cathedral has recently been beautifully redecorated and there's a fine Piazza della Repubblica (seek out the marvellous art nouveau café) and narrow old streets in which to stroll.

One of them leads up to the 16th Century castle where there is an intriguing and well-worth-seeing exhibition of the enigmatic Etruscan statue-stele: strange ancient carved stone figures. For more information, visit their website here or to download a PDF Brochure click here

(In 2014 the museum was being renovated and the exhibition was in the Town Hall, but the castle museum should re-open in 2015)

If you fancy seeing these enigmatic statues and the charming town of Pontremoli, we’ll fix a taxi to take you to Aulla station for the short (20 mins) train journey to Pontremoli and advise on return train times and how to get a taxi back to the mill. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill.

As we said above, Wednesday is excursion day and you partner can choose either to go to the Cinque Terre or to Lucca and you will probably want to accompany her/him on that day. So if you’ve gone to Lucca on Wednesday, how about the Cinque Terre on Thursday?

The Cinque Terre, the Five Lands, are five Ligurian fishing villages nestling in vertiginous valleys terraced with vines, orange and lemon trees. Amazing views, colourfully painted houses, tiny harbours, fishing boats, wonderful cliff-top walks. It’s a National Park and a World Heritage Site. You can visit their official website at www.cinqueterre.it

BUT, a note of caution: there are a lot of steps up and down on the paths between most of the villages, from boat to village and to and from the train stations so, if you are not too steady on your pins, it’s probably not for you.

If you fancy seeing the wonderful seaside villages of the Cinque Terre, we’ll fix a taxi to take you to Aulla station for the (45 mins) train journey to Monterosso (or Riomaggiore) and advise on return train times and how to get a taxi back to the mill. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill.

As we said above, Wednesday is excursion day and you partner can choose either to go to the Cinque Terre or to Lucca and you will probably want to accompany her/him on that day. So if you’ve gone to the Cinque Terre on Wednesday, how about Lucca on Thursday?

Lucca is our favourite Italian city, imposing dark red brick walls, wide enough to walk (or cycle: hire a bike) all the way round. The centre is wonderful with superb architecture, notably the San Michele church, the Cathedral, the medieval Piazza del Anfiteatro echoing the shape of the old Roman amphitheatre, the classical splendour of the Piazza Napoleone. And there are shops where you’ll find great shoes and leather goods, and there’s an elegant pedestrian shopping street, the Via Filungo. You can visit their official tourist website by www.luccatourist.it/welcome.php?cambialingua=en

We highly recommend hiring a bike and cycling all around the top of the city walls: it only takes about 20 minutes for one circuit and it’s a wonderful way to get the sense of the city, before swooping down to negotiate the narrow streets and lanes.

If you fancy seeing the quintessential Italian city of Lucca, we’ll fix a taxi to take you to Aulla station for the (90 mins) train journey to the city, give you a map, advice on sightseeing and on return train times. We’ll tell you how to get a taxi back to the mill. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill.

The little spa town of Equi Terme, about half-an-hour by road from the mill (or 25 minutes by train from Aulla), boasts thermal, sulphur-smelling springs, which feed an open-air swimming pool as well as the spa buildings. The Romans took the waters here and they are still used to treat skin complaints, respiratory and osteo-articular conditions and even heart disease. You can swim in the pool, which is fun. For more, please visit their website at www.turismo.intoscana.it

You can also visit the grottoes and the archaeological museum at the edge of the village, which nestles under the Apuan Alps and the impressive peak of Pizzo d’Uccello. It’s an enjoyable underground tour. You can find out more by visiting their website at www.turismo.intoscana.it

You may want to go to Equi on Friday, when the group go to the hill-top village of Monte dei Bianchi to paint of have lessons in the garden of the gourmet Al Vecchio Tino restaurant – you don’t want to miss that! So it may be easier either just to join tem, take a stroll in the hills, or visit the nearby vineyard of Monastero Frati Bianchi (see next section.)

If you fancy swimming in the sulphurous spa waters of Equi Terme or dodging the stalactites in the grottoes, we’ll drop you at a train station near the mill for the short (10/15 mins) journey to Equi and advise on opening times and trains back to Aulla. We’ll tell you how to get a taxi back to the mill. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill.

When your partner goes to paint (or write or knit of speak italian) in the hilltop village of Monte dei Bianchi on Fridays, you can join him or her in the hilltop village, or just relax in the peacfiul surroundings of the Al Vecchio Tino gourmet restaurant where we’ll all have lunch.

Or we can drop you off at the nearby vineyard of Monastero Frati Bianchi to see how they make their wine and even try a drop or two. This small, family-run vineyard produces some 12,000 bottles a year, from three or four varieties of grapes. You can find out more by visiting their website at www.monasterofratibianchi.it

If you fancy seeing a real family-run vineyard at work and sample the products, we’ll drop you off when we take the course participants to Monte dei Bianchi. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill.

Carrara marble is famous throughout the world, and a visit to one of the quarries above the town is an unforgettable experience

Marble has been taken from here at least from Roman times: The Emperor Augustus boasted that he found Rome built in wood and brick and left it built in marble: the marble came from Carrara. Michelangelo carved the famous David in Florence from Carrara marble (the quarry is still working), as did many other famous sculptors. The stone is still in great demand for public sculptures and private buildings such as corporate headquarters of global companies.

The techniques (ancient and modern) of quarrying and transporting the stone are fascinating and the views from the white-fronted mountains are stunning

We’ve arranged with Cave di Marmo Tours that they will pick up our guests at Carrara Avenza station. The cost of the tour depends on how many people go, but if you let us know early, we’ll talk to the tour company and get the best deal for you: you’ll need to be flexible about date and time. There’s more about the tours on their website at www.cavedimarmotours.com/en/

We’ll fix a taxi for you to go to Aulla to get the train to Carrara Avenza station (about 25 minutes). Cave di Marmo Tours will pick you up and drop you back there. We’ll advise on trains back to Aulla. We’ll tell you how to get a taxi back to the mill. You can let us know beforehand or when you have settled in during you week at the mill. The cost will depend on being flexible on time and day and on how many guests want to go; we’ll do our best to get a bargain for you!

There is a public hard tennis court in Fivizzano, run by the town, with its own changing rooms and showers. You can find it beyond the car park and the new town gardens above the bus station (to the right of the Via Roma). The system is that one of the town cafés holds the key and the booking sheet. You pay in advance and collect the key before you play. The key-holding café changes from year to year, but Bill or Lois will know. (Or you may have to drink in each to find out!)

We have tennis racquets and balls at the mill to borrow. We’ll fix the court for you!

There are trout in the River Rosaro, which flows past the mill. You can fish for them with a permit which is obtainable at the Dominicelli hardware store in the Via Roma (on the left just below the fish shop!), which is then stamped at the post office. (The delights of Italian bureaucracy!)

There are other rivers and lakes nearby you can try. Fishing tackle is also available at Dominicelli’s.

If you are interested, we’ll fix the permit for you.

We have a bicycle at the mill you can borrow.

We can also fix bicycle hire for you at a specialist bicycle store nearby.

The roads are steep and windy, but if you are a keen cyclist, very rewarding. We’ll lend you a map.

We’ve collected together all sorts of walks for you, from strolls around the mill grounds, the river, the millstream and the village, to walks through vineyards and olive groves, to treks in the High Appennines.

There’s a book at the mill with details and we’ll tell you more when you are here.

We’ll lend you maps as appropriate.