Write your life stories itinerary

This exciting itinerary starts and ends at Pisa airport, because that is where most of our international guests arrive. We’ll discuss with you the best times to arrive there.

Pre-work

Before the course it is advised that you read some books on writing. The following are recommended:

  • Naked, Drunk and Writing by Adair Lara
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Bonuses

All students receive a copy of Jo's Just Write notebook, valued at £5 on Amazon and a copy of her Write Your Life Stories workbook, sold at £47. All students will also receive a 30-minute personal session with Jo by phone or Skype after the course is finished. Students also receive a critique of up to 2,000 words of their writing after the course finishes and sent by email.

A note about the feedback sessions

You will notice how group feedback has been incorporated into the lessons. Past students claim that being able to share their work in a safe environment is the best part of the course. No one will be forced to share their work, however, if you do not want to.

First Saturday:

  • Pick-up at Pisa airport between 11:00 hrs and 13:00 hrs (1pm). Transport by mini-bus or car to the watermill.
  • Light lunch in the watermill courtyard dining room.
  • Afternoon: settling in; exploring the mill, the gardens and the river.
  • Early evening: aperitivi on the vine verandah; brief welcome from The Watermill and Jo Parfitt. Discussion of the week’s activities. - Sharing our writing dreams.
  • Transport by mini-bus to the nearby walled Medieval town of Fivizzano (about 5 minutes’ drive).
  • Dinner: an introduction to Tuscan cuisine at the Caffé Elvetico in the Piazza Medicea Fivizzano: locally made antipasti, including hams, salumi, crostini, bruschetta, caprese, torte locale varie; ‘patriotic pasta’ (three different pastas, with red (ragú), white (salsa di noci) and green (pesto) sauces, the colours of the Italian tricolore; local pecorino, fresco and semistagionato, served with insalata verde; locally made dolci. Local red wine and white wine; acqua minerale, coffee/teas. - Continuing to share our writing dreams.

Sunday

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • 10:00 onward: First writing/discussion session, on the vine verandah, the studio (overlooking the gardens and the river) or the main salotto, as appropriate. - Discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories -- and put this into practice right away.
  • Lunch in the watermill courtyard dining room: finocchio al forno (in a white wine, cream and cheese sauce; bresaola, with parmesan shavings, olive oil and rucola; panzanella (the watermill’s own recipe); hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise and caperi; insalata verde (from the watermill garden in season) with borage or nasturtium flowers according to the season and a mustard vinaigrette dressing.
  • Afternoon: - Homework to be completed
  • 17:30-19:00: - Feedback on the vine verandah
  • 19:00: aperitivi on the vine verandah.
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill: Dinner in the Watermill courtyard dining room. Sample menu: gorgonzola soufflé, Tuscan lentils and Tuscan sausage (there will be a vegetarian option) with fresh vegetables and garden potatoes; home-made torta della nonna (made by our own Italian grandmother!)
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto

Monday

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Morning session (say 10:00 to 12:15), on the vine verandah, the studio or the main salotto, as appropriate. - Learn how to let your writing flow and how to look back and write about things that happened a long time ago.
  • Transport to Verrucola (around 12:15; about 10 minutes’ drive): impressive castle with village nestling around; walk around the village. Short talk on its history.
  • Lunch at Il Castello restaurant at Verrucola (13:00): pasta; Roman beef stew (Stufatino Alla Romana); fresh fruit; wines; coffee/tea.
  • Transport to the Watermill
  • Afternoon: - Homework to be completed
  • 17:30-19:00: - Feedback on the vine verandah
  • 19:00: aperitivi on the vine verandah
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill. Sample menu: risotto con funghi porcini (with the ‘king of mushrooms’); scallopine di tachino alla Milanese (turkey escalopes Milanese style; there will be a vegetarian option); fresh seasonal vegetables from our gardens; pannacotta. Wines.
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto.

Tuesday

Today is market day. To accommodate those who would rather visit the market, the day has been adjusted.

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Short morning creative writing session (say 09:30 hrs to 11:00 hrs) on the vine verandah, the studio or the main salotto, as appropriate. - This morning we explore how to evoke a sense of place and add vivid descriptions to your life stories
  • Transport to Fivizzano (around 11:15 hrs): market day: produce stalls etc.; opportunity to explore city walls. - After the market, you will need to find a quiet spot in which to do some writing practice.
  • Lunch in Fivizzano: Panino, home-made ice cream and coffee at the Gelateria Ricci.
  • Transport (say 13:30 hrs) to the watermill.
  • Afternoon: - Homework to be completed
  • 17:30-19:00: - Feedback on the vine verandah
  • 19:00: aperitivi on the vine verandah
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill: Sample menu: risotto con funghi porcini (the ‘king of mushrooms’); Arista (Tuscan-style roast pork) (there will be a vegetarian option); fresh seasonal vegetables from our gardens; fresh fruit salad with home-make amaretto mousse ice-cream. Wines.
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto.

Wednesday

(No formal teaching sessions this day)

  • Early continental breakfast (say 0800 hrs) at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Transport (say 08:30) to Aulla station for train to Cinque Terre or Lucca
  • Morning and afternoon: sightseeing in the Cinque Terre or Lucca. Packed lunch provided by the watermill (or guests can buy their own lunch or a snack at location).
  • Train back to Aulla (arrives circa 18:30).
  • Transport to watermill.
  • Early evening: aperitivi on the vine verandah
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill: Sample menu: fagiolini (warm green beans with goat’s cheese) ; baked salmon (a vegetarian option is available); fresh seasonal vegetables; Torta della Nonna speciale. Wines
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto.

Thursday

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Morning creative writing session (say 10:00 hrs to 12:30 hrs) on the vine verandah, the studio or the main salotto, as appropriate. - Today is about developing characters and writing about people you know in a way that allows the reader to 'meet' them too. In addition, learn how to craft real life into words that read just like fiction
  • Light picnic lunch at the mill.
  • Afternoon: - Homework to be completed
  • 17:30-19:00: - Feedback on the vine verandah
  • 19:00: aperitivi on the vine verandah
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill: Sample menu: an amuse gueule of endive leaves with tuna, olives and a hint of peperoncino; a special homemade lasagne with a ragú, made by our Italian grandmother Mirella (a vegetarian option is available); local pecorino sheep cheeses, served with fresh pears and drizzled with Lunigiana honey, the only honey in Italy to be DOP – denominazione di orgine controllato; green salad from the garden; Mirella’s home-made tiramisú (to die for!). Wines.
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto.

Friday

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Morning creative writing session (say 09:30 to 11:45) on the vine verandah, the studio or the main salotto, as appropriate. - Writing in themes is the topic today because sometimes it's the best way to tell your stories. Discover how to find the themes that run through your life and then turn them into compelling prose that may also contain humour.
  • Transport (say 12:00 hrs) to Monte dei Bianchi (circa 30 minutes)
  • Explore village: ancient houses and church, spectacular mountain views, valleys, hill-top villages, olive groves, etc.
  • Walk (circa 600 metres) to Vecchio Tino restaurant for special gourmet lunch: risotto con pere e gorgonzola; san martino baked in chestnut leaves, seasonal vegetables; sorbetto con limone e prosecco. Coffee, tea. Wine.
  • Transport to the watermill.
  • Afternoon: There is no time for homework today!
  • 17:30-19:00: - Feedback on the vine verandah
  • 19:00: aperitivi on the vine verandah
  • 19:30: Dinner at the mill: Sample menu: Insalata tepida di riso con pesto (warm pesto rice salad), Involtini di pollo (rolled chicken breast with cheese, ham, herbs), Torta di cioccolato di Capri (chocolate cake made with crushed almonds instead of flour) Wines.
  • After dinner: Coffee/tea and digestivi in the main salotto.

Saturday

  • Continental breakfast at the mill (cereals, fruit juices, fresh bread/toast, brioche, jams, fruit, boiled eggs, coffee, tea).
  • Transport to Pisa airport between 8:00am and 9:00am. Those with late flights may leave their bags at the airport and take a (very short) taxi ride to Pisa for sightseeing.