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Dear Friend,

Berdrooms at the watermill in Tuscany

Phew! We made it, but only just. Yes, as ever, it was a hectic last few days getting the Watermill ready for our first guests of the season. But by the time our painting guests on Paul Talbot-Greaves’ course arrived on Saturday 27 April, the Watermillwas looking spruce, with our walls painted, our bedrooms decorated, our window boxes planted, all illuminated by a warm Tuscan sun.

When I say we made it, we have to confess that we still have a wee bit of scaffolding on part of the renovated façade overlooking the river. But it’s not our fault! We are still waiting for the tailor-made solar photovoltaic panels which are going to install on the renovated roof of the old Mill. It appears that the panels are somewhere between here and the Czech Republic, where they were specially made. Once they arrive, we will be able to put them up in a matter of days.

The mill before the work begins
An uplifting shot by Francesco Lastrucci
in the Watermill bamboozery

As we made final preparations of the mill for our guests, we were joined by the illustrious Florentine photographer Francesco Lastrucci, a stylish, charming Italian, who has taken new photographs of the Watermill bedrooms, which we are going to be using on our website. He also took some atmospheric pictures of the Watermill surroundings. Francesco has sent me a sneak preview of half a dozen photographs and it is these that are gracing the introduction to this newsletter.

The mill before the work begins
The sun bursts through the early morning mist
in the Watermill walled garden

Bookings for our creative courses have never been more buoyant and we are looking forward to one of the most brilliant seasons at the Watermill, with many new innovations for our guests to enjoy, such as the wonderful banqueting table in the communal dining room. Our total capacity is around 260 guests, and we already have 248 people booked in our creative courses so you can see we only have room for a dozen or so more.

As in previous newsletters, the latest availability is detailed below and, as we have also said before, don’t be too disappointed if you find that a course you really want to come on is fully booked: there are often cancellations. Let us know when you would like to come and we’ll put you on a waiting list.

In this month’s newsletter there are stories on:

  • more charming paintings of the Watermill by Robert Christopher
  • lack of time can mean better paintings, says Mike Willdridge
  • Why Lou makes two
  • A smart way to transport your oil paintings
  • A glimpse of Debbie and Marie’s marvellous knitting designs
  • A strategy for successful writing: the cat sat on the mat
  • Making holes in Italian doughnuts!
  • Availability on all our 2019 Watermill creative courses

Happy reading...

The picture top left is the elegant Bronzino bedroom, while top right are the cooler colours of the Ghiberti bedroom. At bottom left is the Ghirlandaio bedroom in the renovated 17th century mill, and at bottom right, the bedroom in the Vasari Suite, overlooking the mill cascades.

Bedrooms at the mill in Italy

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
‘‘Now we are no longer Moonlighting, Maddie,
let’s investigate a week at the Watermill. ’’
Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd
in Moonlighting

Bring a partner: there’s plenty for them to do

Why not bring your friend or partner? They don’t have to participate in the course, but they will be able to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the mill and, whenever they want, to come out with you to our beautiful locations.

We also offer a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

More charming watercolours from Watermill guest, Robert Christopher

Paintings by Robert Christopher

Watermill painting course guest Robert Christopher, who came on Andrew Geeson’s week last June, has just sent me another couple of charming pen and watercolour sketches. The one on the left is of the millstream cascades flowing from the 17th century mill back into the River Rosaro. And the painting on the right is of the pathway leading down to the ancient workings of the 17th century mill. Robert says that he continues to be inspired by the Watermill and is looking forward to joining us again in October, for Charles Sluga’s course. Thank you for sharing those memories with us, Robert, and we look forward to watching you create more this autumn.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Lack of time helps you make better paintings, says Mike Willdridge

Sketch by Mike Willdridge

Our Watermill painting tutor and friend Mike Willdridge has just returned from seeing his family in Australia and touring in the Far East, notably in Vietnam and Cambodia. He says: “The painting [right] was one of the last I made before returning home from Cambodia a couple of weeks ago. As with many other sketchbook paintings made on my tour, it was made under some pressure!

“The afternoon was very hot and humid, and our tour guide had stopped briefly for the driver to buy some water. I left the vehicle, sketched the image and returned to paint the picture whilst travelling to our next location.

“One of the best ways to learn to paint in a ‘loose’ style is to put yourself under some pressure and the best self-imposed pressure is lack of TIME. Force yourself to come out of your comfort zone and reduce significantly the time you allow yourself to make a painting. What you achieve by doing this is a focus on putting down on paper what is most important and, in the process, simplify your image.

“In this painting I wanted to respond to the intense heat, light and colour of the scene. So, it was important that I focused on the dramatic contrast between the lights and darks (shadows) and the vibrancy of the clashing complementary colours – the reds (roof and foreground) set against the cooler greens of the trees.”

Sketch by Mike Willdridge

Here’s another painting which demonstrates how lack of time can help you to concentrate on the essentials. It is of Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia.

In 2017 Mike walked around it just as the sun was rising. He says: “At the end of the walk our guide prepared a breakfast and as he was doing that, I painted this – focusing on the important visual elements of the scene and my experience of the walk. The intense red colour and heat of the rock is emphasised by its contrast with the cool blue of the sky and vibrancy between the cool greens set against the red of the rock. It didn’t take long to paint this because, after a very early start and a 10K walk – breakfast smelled wonderful.”

It will not be humid when Mike comes back to the Watermill this June/July, though it should be lovely and warm. And we won’t rush you to finish your paintings, even though it might help to loosen up your brushstrokes!

Mike’s course in watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics), is from Saturday 29 June to Saturday 6 July 2019. At present his week is fully booked, but we often have cancellations and if you’re keen to come and paint and sketch with Mike, please contact us to find out more.

Mike will also be with us again for another week in 2020 can find out more by clicking here.

It’s like having two tutors for the price of one, says Maggie

Painting by Lou Renner

This vibrant picture of the old demijohns in the Watermill courtyard is by Lou Renner, the husband of our Watermill painting tutor and good friend, Maggie Renner Hellmann. It is made in mixed media and oil pastels.

As well as being an intrepid mountaineer, Lou is also, as you can see, see a talented artist in his own right. He says: “There is something organic and very special about the gardens of ‘the Watermill. Maggie’s classes here are inspirational, fun, and full of helpful information. For me, her colour suggestions allow me to explore. As for the demijohn’s... perhaps a bit more wine would have allowed me to use even more colour!”

Painting by Maggie Renner Hellmann

Lou always accompanies Maggie when she comes to teach at the mill and he, like her, is wonderful company. Maggie says: “I believe students are getting 'two for one' with Lou helping to inspire and tutor too!”

Here (left) is Maggie’s atmospheric demonstration watercolour of another corner of the Watermill courtyard: a sunny bench with comfortable cushions where you can take a few moments to enjoy the ambience of the place and perhaps listen to the swifts as they screech above you, forever on the wing.

Maggie is fully booked for her course in 2019, but she and Lou will both be back with us for not one, but two, colourful and inspiring weeks next year. You can find a preview of Maggie’s and our other 2020 courses by clicking here. If you want to make sure of your place, you can even make an advance booking and enjoy one of (or both!) Maggie’s 2020 courses at 2019 prices. Can you resist?

A smart way to transport your oil paintings after a Watermill holiday

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
‘‘A wonderful oil painting of Posara in September,
by Vicki Norman

Some of our painting guests that have told us that they are a little chary of trying oil painting on a Watermill holiday, because they are concerned about how they’re going to get their wet paintings home.

Our oil painting tutor Vicki Norman has sent us some very useful tips on how to safely transport wet oil paintings in your luggage and we thought it would be very useful to pass them on to you in case you were thinking of joining some of our inspiring tutors who teach in oils as well as other mediums.

Here are Vicki’s tips: you will need some map pins (or panel pins) and a roll of masking tape. Don’t worry if you forget to bring them, we can provide them at the Watermill.

Transport step 1


The first step is to lay your wet painting on a stable flat surface and carefully, but firmly, push a pin into each corner. Then, balance another wet painting of the same size face down onto the plastic caps of the panel pins to make a pair. See left. Note: you only need pins in one painting from each pair!


Transport step 2


Next: Insert pins into the front of your third wet painting and place it back to back with the uppermost painting of the first pair, then carefully balance another wet painting face-to-face and so on until you have created a stack of pairs of wet paintings:


Transport step 3

Vicki says: “Then, use the masking tape to secure all the way around the outside edge of the stack, repeat this on each of the four edges until you have a nicely secured block of paintings. Place the paintings inside a plastic bag or wrap them in some way so that no other item in your luggage can slip between the wet surfaces of the paintings.”


Vicki says: “I have transported up to 20 paintings in this manner in my suitcase checked into the hold on many occasions. If you are concerned you can carry them in your hand luggage where you can keep an eye on them.”

Vicki’s course with us this year is completely booked, but she will be with us in 2020 as well and you can find out more by looking at the 2020 courses preview on our website. Please just click here. If you want to make sure of your place, you can even make an advance booking and enjoy Vicki’s 2020 course at 2019 prices. And carry your masterpieces home safely.

Our enticing 2019 painting holidays

We still have a few spaces left on some of our inspiring painting courses. Others are currently fully booked, but if you would particularly like to come on one of them please let us know and we’ll put you on the waiting list. We do sometimes have cancellations. On the other hand, to be sure of a place on a Watermill painting course, why not choose one of our other inspiring tutors on whose courses there are still places?

Keiko Tanabe

Keiko Tanabe
18 - 25 May 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Keiko and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
1 - 8 June 2019- fully booked, waiting list open
8 - 15 June 2019
- due to cancellation, one or two places left
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
22 - 29 June 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Oils en plein air
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please see our 2019 Courses Preview page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
29 June - 6 July 2019 fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics with an emphasis on sketching and drawing on location)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2019 Profile Page.

Sue Ford

Sue Ford
13 - 20 July 2019 - still one or two places
Watercolours, pastels, collage and mixed media plus acrylics
To learn more about Sue and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Jude Scott

Jude Scott
17 - 24 August 2019 - two or three places left
24 - 31 August 2019
- one place left
Watercolours (plus acrylics and oils)
To learn more about Jude and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Varvara Neiman

Varvara Neiman
31 August - 7 September 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Water-based oils, acrylics and watercolours
To learn more about Varvara and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Claire Warner

Claire Warner
14 - 21 September 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours, oils and acrylics
To learn more about Claire and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
21 - 28 September 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Courageous Color Workshop' in oils, acrylics, pastels and watercolors
To learn more about Maggie and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Charles Sluga

Charles Sluga
28 September - 5 October 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Watercolours, acrylics and oils
To learn more about Charles and his course at the mill, please visit his 2019 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
5 - 12 October 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2019 Profile Page.

David Taylor

David Taylor
12 - 19 October 2019 - one or two places left
To learn more about David and his course at the mill, please visit his 2019 Profile Page.

Summer Resident Tutor - Sandra Strohschein
Our Summer painter in residence,
Sandra Strohschein

Come and join us and enjoy the magic at the mill!

*** Why not bring your non-painting partner as well?

There’s a generous £250 discount for him/her if they share a room with you - and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities Page for suggestions.

Use the 2019 painting programme link below to view the list of our inspiring 2019 painting tutors.

Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

Looking forward to our inspiring 2019 knitting courses

Summer Resident Tutor - Sandra Strohschein
A stylish poncho
designed by
Carol Meldrum

As we go to press, we are hosting the talented Scottish textile designer Carol Meldrum, who is leading a group in our first knitting week of the year. Carol kindly stepped into the breach when our original knitting tutor Sarah Hazell had to pull out due to a family illness. On Facebook, we’ll keep you up to date on progress during Carol’s week.

Our other two knitting courses this year, with Debbie Abrahams and Marie Wallin, are currently fully booked, but as with all our creative courses, there are often cancellations and so if you care to join us on one of these weeks, please let us know and we’ll put you on a waiting list and let you know when, and if, a place becomes available.

Knitting projects by Debbie and MMarie

Both Debbie and Marie produce wonderfully individualistic designs and we thought we would share two of them with you. On the left is one of the squares of Debbie’s latest Mystery Blanket, called Still Glistening – a striped pattern with slip-stitch beads, so characteristic of Debbie’s work, while on the right are the marvellous interrelated and complimentary colours of one of Marie’s designs for her Fairisle Club, a traditional blanket made up of 10 individual fairisle sections worked off each other. Both Debbie and Marie will be bringing special projects their students to try for their Watermill weeks and we are looking forward to a plethora of beautiful knitted artefacts.

Our exciting knitting holidays: the 2019 line-up

Debbie Abrahams

Debbie Abrahams
25 May - 1 June 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Dolce Vita
To learn more about Debbie and her knitting week at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Marie Wallin

Marie Wallin
6 - 13 July 2019 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Dolce Vita
To learn more about Marie and her knitting week at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Knitting group at the watermill in Italy

Don't forget your partner!

And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language, writing or yoga.

We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2019 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Creative writing News at the watermill in ItalyCREATIVE WRITING NEWS

A strategy for successful writing: the cat sat on the mat and that’s that!

What next !
What happens next?
Image: fanpop

We are grateful to Nicole Bianchi for this tip/strategy on how famous writers overcome writer’s block and reawaken their creativity. Her work is published on, part of the online publishing platform. Nicole, from Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, says: “Some writers argue that ‘writer’s block’ isn’t real. It’s just an excuse to use when we’d rather procrastinate than get to work on our writing projects. There’s a quote attributed to William Faulkner: ‘I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.’

 “Similarly, in Jack London’s 1905 essay on how to become a published writer, London observed, 'Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; go right out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.’" Nicole says: “London believed that writing daily was the best way to rouse the sleeping Muse. He advised: ‘Set yourself a ‘stint,’ and see that you do that ‘stint’ each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.’

Writers Three
Left: Nicoli Bianchi, Centre: Jack London, Right: Franz Kafka

Sounds fairly straightforward doesn’t it? And yet many other famous authors found that it wasn’t as simple as that, and there were often times when they were stuck. Here’s Franz Kafka, for example: ‘How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing. It doesn’t come off. A page now and then is successful, but I can’t keep it up, the next day I am powerless.’

Nicole adds: “Maybe you’re like me and sometimes feel more like Kafka than Faulkner and London. You sit down at your computer to begin writing, but instead you find yourself having a stare-down with the blank screen. You may type a few lines, but after several minutes you delete everything. You just can’t seem to find the right words to continue. It’s as if your inspiration inkwell has suddenly dried up. What can you do? How can you get back in your creative flow?

“Thankfully, many famous writers have shared their methods for how they overcame dry periods and became successful writers.”

Here is one of them:

The cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat

Many writers, even though they will avoid the cliché, believe that ‘practice makes perfect’, and that you need to write something each day. Nicole says: “The trick is not to overthink it. Write nonsense if you have to. But keep writing, no matter if you’re pleased with the final result or not.”

She quotes Maya Angelou in her book Writers Dreaming: “I suppose I do get ‘blocked’ sometimes, but I don’t like to call it that. That seems to give it more power than I want it to have. What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’you know. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

And here’s another strategy for successful writing: join us on Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s uniquely inspiring Scriptwriting course at the Watermill this September.We can offer you an extraordinary week, ‘away from it all’, so you can concentrate on learning how to write scripts for TV, films and theatre, and at the same time enjoy beautiful scenery, first-class accommodation, wonderful food and good conversation with like-minded people.We will guarantee to unblock you, inspire you and above all enjoying your writing.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran are famous for such TV hits as Birds of a Feather,Goodnight Sweetheart,The New Statesman and Shine on Harvey Moon. And in a new incarnation, they’ve written hit stage musicals, such as Dreamboats and Petticoats and Save the Last Dance for Me,as well as film scripts and award-winning stage, TV and radio plays. It’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well.

Laurence's watermill writing group in Tuscany

Laurence and Maurice’s course will show you how to craft your work from your original idea through structure, character, plot and finally, script.

They will lead you slowly through what makes classic television comedy, using one-to-one tutorials, team writing sessions, and most enlightening of all, studying films and TV series that have become ‘classics’.

They cannot guarantee success, of course, but they promise that you will leave the Watermill a considerably better scriptwriter than when you arrived. It’ll be extraordinarily good fun too!

Our enriching 2019 Writing courses

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
15 – 22 June 2019 - one place left
Write Your Life Stories
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2019 Profile Page.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
7 - 14 September 2019 - four or five places left
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and to register an interest in their course at the mill, please visit their 2019 Profile Page.



Learning Italian with us is a fig and we’ll try to make holes in all our doughnuts!

Fig and doughnut in Italian

We are grateful to the Huffington Post for a recent fun article on Italian words and phrases we don’t have in English. It says: “Italy is indisputably a land of beautiful things: beautiful landscapes, cities, cuisine, fashion and people. It’s also home to a beautiful language -- a language after our own heart that celebrates adventure, the art of treating yourself and, of course, mind-blowingly delicious food. Italian is full of words and phrases that don’t have a match in English, but oh, don’t we wish they did.” Like che figata above left, and the philosophical comment on holes in doughnuts above right.

We have 10 people booked into this year’s Italian Language course, but the Lippi Suite is still available. It’s ideal for a couple, but we are more than happy to let it to a single occupant. We would be delighted if you could join us for this unique, inspiring week, where you will learn more about the delightful Italian language in an idyllic setting in the heart of rural Tuscany.

Here’s what one returning guest had to say about last year’s course: “I had another wonderful week at the Watermill, enjoyed the same friendly hospitality and delicious food again. I now feel much more confident in speaking Italian and can understand a lot better. A big thank you to all.”

Francesca la Sala

This year our old friend Francesca la Sala will be joining us again as the tutor. Francesca has been travelling all over the world in the last few years but is now back in her native Lunigiana and will be with us for another inspiring language course. You can join her, soaking up Italian and enjoying la bella vita italiana from Saturday 11 May to Saturday 18 May 2019.

This truly 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.

What next !
practising what we teach:
learn the Italian words
and then eat them!

The Watermill has teamed up again with the prestigious language school Langues Services in Florence to design a week in which people can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.

Francesca la Sala has been teaching with Langues Services since 2007. She loves meeting people of all ages and cultures. She is also a nature lover and a cognoscente of Lunigiana, the land of her forefathers, where she was raised. This beautiful area of Tuscany surrounds the Watermill. Francesca has an artistic background and has a passion for the figurative and graphic arts, particularly from the Renaissance period and from prehistory; this love adds a further dimension to her teaching.

Our engaging 2019 language course

Francesca la Sala

Langues Services and Francesca la Sala
11 - 18 May 2019 - still one or two places
Italian language
To learn more about Francesca and her course at the mill, please click here.

Preview of our 2020 courses at the watermill in Tuscany, Italy2020 CREATIVE COURSES PREVIEW

A preview of our 2020 creative courses

Because of the unprecedented demand for our courses this year, we’ve decided to open up most of our 2020 courses for bookings. There’s a preview section on the Watermill website, which you can see by clicking HERE.

And there’s a Special Offer: If you book for a 2020 creative course before 1 September 2019, you can reserve your place at 2019 prices. (After 1 September, the costs for 2020 courses will change.) Please have a look at the exciting courses for NEXT year and if you find a tutor and a course that you like, please be in touch as soon as you can, using the 2020 Preview Enquiry Form which you’ll find on the 2019 Watermill website 2020 Preview Section.

The watermill in Italy's newsletter specialsNEWSLETTER SPECIALS

Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, creative writing holiday, knitting week or Italian Language course

Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, knitting, or language holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to visit the ancient walled city of Lucca or the stunning seaside villages of the Cinque Terre).

All you have to do is to get to Pisa airport and we do the rest.

Whether you're travelling alone or with a partner you can be sure of a warm welcome, and that you'll be well looked after. We have built our reputation on the comfort of the mill and the care we provide.

Become a Friend of The Watermill at Posara

Visit our Friends Website (Link below). Just follow the instructions to Register as a Friend and then Log In to enjoy special privileges. If you become a ‘Friend’ (it will cost you nothing) you’ll enjoy many exclusive benefits, including dozens of practical and inspiring tips from our international painting and creative writing tutors and recipes from the watermill’s mouth-watering menus. And there will be exclusive offers for Friends to make our courses and holidays even more attractive.

Thank you for reading the watermill in Italy's newsletterTHANK YOU

We very much look forward to welcoming you to the mill and, for those of you who have already tasted the many delights at The Watermill at Posara, we look forward to welcoming you back.

Your hosts at the watermill, Italy

With very best wishes a tutti

Your hosts at the watermill in Tuscany

Lois and Bill Breckon