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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 113 / November 2019

Dear Friend,

Painting at the watermill in Tuscany

A large and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone who came on one of our creative courses this year. We had a very successful season, with more than 250 guests enjoying the inspiring teaching of our creative tutors, and the hospitality and ambience of the Watermill.

Many of our guests have had complimentary things to say about their weeks with us, so thank you, too, for your kind words! Just a few examples:

  • Best holiday I've had in years! A wonderful week spent painting watercolour landscapes with inspirational guidance and teaching.

  • The Watermill is an idyllic setting for a knitting course - beautifully situated on the river, you are lulled to sleep in your comfortable room by the sound of the millstream. Bill and Lois are perfect hosts and your every need is catered for.

  • It was just wonderful. The setting magnificent, food sublime, and our hosts charming. The attention to detail and beauty are a sure recipe for a wonderful stay.

  • I had an absolutely wonderful time at the Watermill. I haven’t had such a stimulating time for years! I very much appreciated the fact that everything about the holiday had been so well thought out. It meant that I could relax and enjoy myself, in beautiful and friendly surroundings, doing what I had come for: painting.

  • I have achieved my dream of painting in Tuscany and it was everything I hoped for and much more. The locations have been stunning, the attention to detail in all aspects of the holiday have been incredible, including amazingly supportive and considerate staff, the beautiful setting of The Watermill, the attentive tutor and even the food has been ‘Art on a plate’! I’ve had the most amazing time.

There are many more comments like this, but why not come and enjoy unique atmosphere of the Watermill for yourself? Bookings for next season are flowing in and already more than 160 people have reserved their places for a 2020 creative course.

So, as we always say at this time of year, now really is the time to book, to be sure of the tutor and bedroom of your choice. Booking now also enables you to take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer, of £75 (English pounds) off for every participant in our 2020 creative courses, if you book by the end of 2019. But, as you can see from the figures above, our courses are filling fast, so don’t wait too long to make your reservation.

Renée Callahan

We are also delighted to introduce a new knitting tutor for 2020: Renée Callahan, who is already working on two exclusively designed projects for her course with us next August.

We have hardly opened the course, but five people have already booked! So don’t miss out! More details below.

In this month’s newsletter there are stories on:

  • Does artistic culture seep into Italian children by osmosis?
  • Gorgonzola soufflés, a mouth-watering starter by Lois on Friday nights at the Watermill
  • Introducing two of more of our new painting tutors for 2020: Brienne Brown and Chris Hughes
  • Why writing guest, Caroline Rixon, is not a blockhead
  • Why Bill yelled 'fatty bacon' at a pickpocket!

Happy reading....

The pictures above and below this introductory section show people enjoying themselves on Watermill creative courses. Top left: Jumping for joy while painting in the riverside gardens; Top right: Concentration in the courtyard; Bottom Left: Convivial company in the walled garden; Bottom Right: Learning Italian in the shade of the vine verandah.

Creativity at the watermill in Italy

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
Elizabeth, my love,
let us to Italy
and a week at the Watermill

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

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.

Children in the Uffizi Gallery

Cultural osmosis in progress?

This picture of young children tripping through the Uffizi gallery in Florence in their school smocks proved to be one of our most popular blogs last month.

Isn’t it a wonderful picture? We like the idea that these young kids are surrounded by creativity hundreds of years old and we hope that, by some process of cultural osmosis, the ideas and emotions of the previous centuries seep into their young minds and add beauty and inspiration to their lives. But blow the philosophy: it’s just such a great picture. Thanks to The Florentine, Florence’s English-language newspaper, for publishing it.

Dish of the month: gorgonzola soufflés

gorgonzola soufflés

After our farewell prosecco (on the vine verandah or during an impromptu exhibition in the studio during painting courses Lois serves these twice-baked soufflés, to universal acclaim. They are an Italianised (Italianate?) version of a Delia Smith recipe (Delia uses Roquefort instead of gorgonzola). They taste delicately delicious and look very impressive!

Ingredients (for four servings):

  • 110g gorgonzola ‘piccante’ (more salty than ‘dolce’), crumbled
  • 225ml milk
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Grating of fresh nutmeg
  • A few whole black peppercorns
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 25g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs, separated

To serve:

  • 100 ml single cream
  • A handful of cut chives (ours come fresh from the watermill walled garden)

You will also need four ramekins, well buttered, and a roasting tin.


Bring your milk to a simmer with the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and nutmeg. Strain and throw away the soggy onions and seasoning. Melt butter in saucepan and blend in flour. Add the warm milk, stirring all the time to make a thick, smooth sauce. Then leave on a very low heat for five minutes to let the flour cook through. Remove from heat and add egg yolks and 3/4 of the cheese.

Whisk egg whites separately and fold in. Fill ramekins with the mixture, and put in bain marie (roasting tin filled with 1cm boiling water) for 15 minutes, at 180 degrees C. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Turn out individual soufflés onto greaseproof paper and, when you’re almost ready to eat, sprinkle with remaining gorgonzola and bake for a further 15 minutes at 200 degrees C. (Just enough time for an aperitivo!)

Serve straightaway, garnished with cut chives and a splurge of cream. Sophisticated or what?

Our Man Friday and Watermill creatures

Our erstwhile Man Friday, Nate Szekely, who did a great job looking after our guests in the second half of the 2019 season, was intrigued by the wildlife, large and small, around the mill – and in particular the small. At one time, he seemed to be posting a picture of a new bug every day on social media!

The mills insects

Here’s Nate’s picture of a mantis he saw one day. I love the colour but I’m not so sure I would like to meet a human-size version on a dark night. I don’t like the look of those front limbs!

Far more to my liking is the cute little guy next to him (her?), in the palm of Nate’s hand: a baby Mediterranean house gecko. He looks more like a jewelled brooch than a cold-blooded insect hunter.

Geckos are just part of the fascinating wildlife you can see around the mill buildings and gardens: there are lizards galore and, in the season, amazing humming-bird moths and elegant swallow-tail butterflies. And along the river and millstream, damselflies and pond skaters… all part of the abundance of nature in this ecologically protected area. And that’s saying nothing about the deer, the wild boar, the beech martens, the badgers, the porcupines...

Night Sky at the watermill in Italy

It was a dark and stormy night...

Rose Diamond, who was on Charles Sluga’s painting week recently, sent us this lovely and unusual picture of the Watermill courtyard with a dramatic evening sky behind it.

Thank you very much for that, Rose, and for these kind words: “I want you to know how special it was to experience the Watermill at Posara. Last week was magical on so many levels...magnificent setting, accommodations and meals, day trips, and painting instructor.

Why not come and share the Watermill experience yourself? You can find out more by clicking here.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Painters of the month: introducing Brienne Brown and Chris Hughes

Painting by Brienne Brown

In our next few newsletters we would like to introduce you to the inspiring painting tutors coming to the Watermill for the first time in 2020. The next one up, in strictly chronological order, is Brienne M Brown, who will be tutoring in watercolours from Saturday 16 May to Saturday 23 May 2020.

Her atmospheric watercolour above rightis called Commerce Corner.

Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown, from Pennsylvania in the USA, is passionate about watercolour and plein air painting. She says: “I find beauty in everyday life. Each painting reminds me of where I was, the experiences I had, the sounds, smells, and the people I met... and I enjoy sharing how I see the world.”  Brienne adds: “Painting in Italy is just a dream come true.” 

Brienne has won numerous awards for her work and is a signature member of the US National Watercolor Society. During her week, she will demonstrate and explain her painting process for en plein air painting, sharing some great exercises and practices that will help you become a better artist. Using strong value sketches, bold washes, and quick energetic strokes, Brienne will show you how to bring excitement into your paintings.

No experience in watercolour painting is necessary, but some drawing experience is recommended.

Here’s another nostalgic Brienne watercolour (right), this one called On the Porch.

You can find out more Brienne’s course by clicking here.

That’s the good news; the bad news for would-be bookers is that, at present, at least, Brienne’s 2020 course is fully booked. There are, however, always cancellations and if you really fancy coming on her inspiring week, please let us know and we’ll put you on the waiting list.

Our second Painting Tutor of the Month is Chris Hughes, whose watercolours en plein air painting week will run from Saturday 27 June to Saturday 4 July 2020.

Paintings by Chris Hughes

On the left is his charming Sunflowers and shadows and on the right a loverly watercolour of a Tuscan hilltop village.

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes, from England, has been a professional artist for the best part of 40 years and he’s keen to show you the watercolour and drawing techniques that he has developed in that time: “By simplifying the stages of producing a painting, I’ll encourage you to develop your own style and create your very best work.” 

Both beginners and experienced painters will benefit from Chris’ course, through watching demonstrations and by painting together. He says: “I believe in a laid-back, non-pressurised approach -- and being in the beautiful Tuscan countryside will make the creative experience even better.”

You can find out more about Chris and his course at the Watermill by clicking here. We still have spaces on Chris’ 2020 course, but as bookings are flowing in fast now, it is time to reserve your place.

Our sympathetic, caring, inspiring 2020 painting tutors

We have exciting new tutors, as well as old friends, for our 2020 painting courses. Choose a tutor, a medium or a date that suits you best – but hurry, places are filling fast. And don’t forget: if you book as a participant on any one of our 2020 creative courses before 31 December 2019, you can enjoy our Early Bird discount of £75 GBP (seventy-five British pounds).

Carl March

Carl March
18 - 25 April 2020- still a few places
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth
25 April - 2 May 2020 - still a couple of places
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown - fully booked, waiting list open
16 - 23 May 2020
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
30 May - 6 June 2020 - still a couple of places
6 - 13 June 2020 - still one or two places
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Randy Hale

Randy Hale
13 - 20 June 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
20 - 27 June 2020 - still plenty of places
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes
27 June – 4 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Chris and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner
11 - 18 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Colourful Acrylics, Drawing, Pen & Wash
To learn more about Mark and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
29 August – 5 September 2020 - still a few places
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça
5 - 12 September 2020 - still a few places
Pastels and Mixed media
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 - 19 September 2020 - still plenty of places
19 - 26 September 2020 - still plenty of places
Courageous Color Workshop’ in oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn more about Maggie and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Mary Padgett

Mary Padgett
26 September - 3 October 2020 - still plenty of places
Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Milind Mulick

Milind Mulick
3 - 10 October 2020 - still a few places
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
10 – 17 October 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

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.

Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

Renée is working on exclusive knitting projects for you

Designed by Renée Callahan

We are delighted to welcome Renée Callahan to the Watermill knitting tutors' team. Renée is a prolific knitwear designer from London in England, who loves to combine texture and colour to create hand-knit patterns that are enjoyable to knit and remain wearable for years to come.

She has always loved textiles and the technical challenge of knitting: she finds a real joy in producing something both useful and beautiful. Renée studied Fashion Design with Knitwear at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College in London.

Renée Callahan

Renée will be with us for another of our famous Knitting and la Bella Vita Italiana weeks, from Saturday 15 August to Saturday 22 August 2020. And she says: “I am already planning some wonderful exclusive projects for the students, which will give us the opportunity to try out new techniques, such as brioche and slipped stitch patterns.”

As ever, your knitting week will combine expert tuition, like-minded company, wonderful food, the delightful ambience of the Watermill and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana.

We only announced Renée’s knitting holiday fortnight or so ago, but already five people are booked in so, to be sure of your place, please get in touch with us now.

Early Bird bdiscount at the watermill

And don’t forget our Early Bird Discount Offer: If you book as a participant before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 GBP (British pounds) per person discount on this fabulous 2020 knitting holiday. (Everything is included in the cost of your holiday: tuition, accommodation, all meals and wines (including outings to charming local restaurants) and all local transportation. You get to Pisa, Italy, we do the rest!)

To find out more about Renée and her inspiring week at the Watermill, please click here.

Our other two knitting weeks next year have proved so popular we are almost completely sold out. The first week is with the celebrated cashmere designer and yarn producer Louisa Harding. We have 11 knitters and for non-knitting partners booked into Louisa’s week at the end of May, so we are full up. But there are often cancellations, so if you’re interested, please get in touch and we will put you on a waiting list.

For our first ever knitting retreat, where you enjoy the convivial company of like-minded people and the renowned hospitality of the Watermill, but on which there is no tutor, we already have 11 bookings, one of whom is a non-knitting partner (but is coming to use the painting studio), and we have just one bedroom left. Thus, there is room for one more knitter, with or without their non-knitting partners. Here are the dates and links.....
Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
23 - 30 May 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Knitting retreat

Knitting Retreat
4 - 11 July 2020 - two knitting places left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about this retreat, please visit our 2020 Retreat Overview Page.

Renée Callahan

Renée Callahan
15 - 22 August 2020 - still a few spaces
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Renée and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 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 or writing.

We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2020 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

Caroline is no blockhead:she's coming back to learn more scriptwiting secrets

Samuel Johnson

 Samuel Johnson, writer, compiler of dictionaries, man about town and intellectual punch-up expert, once wrote: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”. Watermill scriptwriting course participant Caroline Rixon is no blockhead (far from it), but she made it clear she was not writing for money when she made the comments below about her week-long course here earlier this year with scriptwriting guru Laurence Marks.

She writes: “It is so good I don’t want to share it! What a wonderful place to go and visit. This is my second writing trip and once again the team at the Watermill have made it a unique holiday. It is truly a magical experience. Lois and Bill have creatively combined the rustic charm of the mill with the sumptuous mod cons we all like to enjoy. And no, they have not paid me commission to say all this – I speak as I find and I for one, will most certainly be going back...”

Writing at the watermill
Members of this year’s scriptwriting course enjoy something sparkling
in the Watermill courtyard with Laurence

Well, Caroline has already booked up for our Scriptwriting course next May, as have five others who attended Laurence’s week this year.

Laurence Marks

A comment from another of them, Carmen Gould: “You must consider coming on this course if you wish to write in any form, whether you are a beginner or whether you have already put pen to paper. It is certainly not easy: expect to have your work put through the ringer, but what comes out the other side takes you on a journey to producing something that means something... and it may well be produced.” As for Laurence: “BAFTA judge, connoisseur extraordinaire of the business, an entertaining and incisive raconteur. The best of the best.”

Why not join our returnees and learn the secrets of successful (both artistic and financial) writing for screen, TV, radio and stage?

This year there is an additional bonus: Laurence will by joined by his writing partner Maurice Gran, so you will enjoy not one but two ‘living legends’ (British Comedy Society). They will be with us from Saturday 2 May to Saturday 9 May 2020.

Laurence and Maurice

Laurence and Maurice 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. And it’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well. They are currently engaged in writing a series, with Michael Dobbs, (the creator of House of Cards) on Winston Churchill’s secret and mysterious wartime valet!

Their unique course at the Watermill will give you insights into writing comedy and drama, and it will help you to craft your work from original idea to final script. While the course will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre. Laurence and Maurice promise you will leave a much better writer than when you came!

But if you want to bag your place, you’d better get your skates on: not only do we have those six re-bookers, but we are also expecting an article in the UK Sunday Times very soon, which is also likely to engender a great deal of interest.

So if you would like to learn the secrets of Scriptwriting from the masters, now is the time to book your place, especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer for participants: £75 (British pounds) off this inspiring creative writing course if you book before 31 December 2019. (But as we said, it is probably wisest to book now, since we are expecting heavy demand.)

Writing at the watermill
Sharing your life’s stories
Jo Parfitt’s unique memoir writing course

As Carmen said above, the process is by no means easy, so let’s leave the last quote to the estimable Dr Johnson again: “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”

Also on the writing front, don’t forget Jo Parfitt’s highly successful Writing Your Life Stories course, which we will be the week afterwards (Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May 2020). There are links to both these courses below. We will tell you more about Jo's in next month’s newsletter.

Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
2 – 9 May 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
2 – 9 May 2020 - still a few places
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.



Adventures in Italian: why Bill shouted ‘lardo’ to a pickpocket

Writing at the watermill
Pickpocket on a bus.
Picture: Getty Images

Some years back, Lois and Bill were on a bus in Florence. (We were going to see Langues Services, the Florentine language school, to set up our unique Italian language courses at the Watermill.) As the bus was crowded, we had to stand, and suddenly Lois felt someone fiddling with her handbag. In impeccable English, she remonstrated: “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” Bill, thinking more action and more Italian was required in this situation, grabbed the man by the collar and shouted loudly: “Lardo, lardo, lardo.”

Our fellow travellers looked bemused and as the bus came to the next stop, the driver opened the door and the man wriggled free and escaped. The other passengers continued to look at Bill strangely. He wondered why they hadn’t reacted when he called out “Thief, thief, thief.” It wasn’t until later that he realised that the Italian for thief is ladro.


No wonder those on the bus pulled back as he cried “Fatty bacon, fatty bacon, fatty bacon.”

You will be able to distinguish your pickpockets from your bacon, and much else beside, when you join our Italian language course next year.


We are teamed up again with Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala for a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever, meeting Italian people and interacting with their everyday lives. The course will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. Not only will there be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.

Language Events

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. You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills… and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine.

Writing at the watermill
learning Italian
under the shade of the vine Verandah

To recap, our Italian Language week will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. You can find out more by clicking here. We already have eight people booked into this course, so we only have room for four or so more.

If you’d like to join us and be sure of your place, now is the time to book especially as we have an Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book as a participant before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (British pounds) per person discount.

Francesca la SalaLangues Services and Francesca la Sala
22 - 29 August 2020 - still a few places
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Francesca and her
2020 course at the mill, please click here.

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, writing, 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