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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 118 / April 2020

Dear Friend,

Pictures at the mill by Flavio

Here we are, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, yet nature continues in its marvellous way, totally disinterested in the affairs of humans. While we all struggle to come to terms with the viral attack and the best way of overcoming it, Spring is beginning to, er, spring. And, as you can see from the pictures above and below this introductory section, the gardens and grounds surrounding the Watermill are looking as beautiful as ever. Flavio Terenzoni, our gardener, took the pictures just before he was locked down at home, and you can see a little Facebook slideshow of them, and more, by clicking here.

Alls quite in Florence
Florence is quiet, but as beautiful as ever.
Picture: the Florentine

Lois and Bill are ‘confined to barracks’ in Florence during the Italian lockdown, which has been going on for three weeks now and which, we hope, will soon be over. The Italians have been very good at observing all the stringent quarantine conditions, even though, like us, they are missing their evening passeggiata, the communal convivial stroll through their town or city followed by an aperitivo to prepare the tastebuds for supper. But life, although certainly very different from the normal, has not been too hard and we have found plenty of exhilarating things to occupy ourselves. (See below.)

Meanwhile our friend and Watermill manager Karsten Müller is confined to the mill (not the worst of prisons!) and has steadily been ensuring that everything will be ready to welcome our guests, whenever they are able to arrive for another season of creative courses. The major building works in the frantoio have been completed (See the story, Pointing the way, below.} and all the air conditioning units, in the bedrooms and public rooms, including the studio, have been neatly installed.

As you know, everything is now powered by our hidden array of photovoltaic cells, using the sun to generate electricity. So even in the summer months you will be Cool and Green during your Watermill creative weeks. This month we will be celebrating another milestone. Our photovoltaic system has now produced no fewer than 10,000 kWh of electricity and we saved seven tons of carbon dioxide emission. See A photovoltaic milestone below.

But there’s no getting away from it, the coronavirus has wrought havoc on the Watermill’s 2020 season. We have taken decisive action, postponing many of our earlier courses to later in the year and even to 2021. We have reason to believe that in a few months much will be resolved and hopefully will be able to run creative courses later in the season, but we are constantly monitoring the situation and will keep everyone informed as things progress. You can see our Coronavirus response in the story below.

Meanwhile, enjoy Flavio’s spring pictures above and below this introductory section. They are: Top Left: Primroses blossoming along the Millstream; Top Right: Trees beginning to blossom beside the riverside. Bottom Left: The millstream ambles towards the river; Bottom Right: The sun shines on the primroses in the mill garden.

In this newsletter there are also stories on:
  • pointing the way to Summer
  • an electricity generating milestone
  • things we do during lockdown: Mascagni and Marathon
  • beauty in simplicity with Mike Willdridge
  • another lovely painting from a Watermill guest
  • Chic and Stormy for Renée’s knitting course
  • Who Dares Wins Better Writing
  • Andrà tutto bene. All will be well.

Happy reading....

Pictures taken at the watermill in Tuscany by Flavio

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
When we’ve slain this coronadragon,
let’s go to the Watermill:
Paolo Uccello - National Gallery, London

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.

The coronavirus and the Watermill

Hope in difficult times

We hope you are well and in good heart in these difficult times for all of us.

In view of the coronavirus pandemic, which seems to change daily if not hourly, we have postponed our 2020 early courses, pushing them back to later in the year when, hopefully, the situation will have been resolved. Some courses have been postponed until 2021. We have been in touch with everyone involved. The painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language weeks that we are now planning to run are outlined in the appropriate sections below.

Your well-being is our concern and we are constantly reviewing the situation, so please rest assured that if travel restrictions in your own country or in Italy mean that the course cannot run on these new dates, or that appropriate flights are not available, we will postpone your course again to later in the year or even until 2021.

Our coronavirus cancellation policy is as follows:

  • If a workshop is postponed and you cannot make the new dates for the tutor you have chosen, we will offer you alternative courses with others of our inspiring tutors, either this year or next.
  • If you still want to cancel despite those offers, our normal cancellation policy will apply. You can see these on our website under FAQs in each of the appropriate sections: Painting holidays, Creative Writing holidays, Knitting holidays and Italian Language holidays.
Waiting for you at the watermill in Italy

If you would like to support us and our business in this difficult period, we would be grateful if you would use any payments you have made as a credit for a future creative course, rather than requesting a refund. Your help in this way would be much appreciated.

We do hope you will be able to plan ahead for the time when we are through this difficult period and you are ready for a relaxing and inspiring break away from it all.

Please come and join us.

Nico and Daniela at the watermill in Tuscany

Pointing the way...

A couple of weeks ago we all but completed the external restoration of the old frantoio, the olive press.

On the left are our happy builders, Nico and Daniele, enjoying the sunshine and putting the finishing touches to the pointing of the ancient stonework overlooking the river.

It looks like they’re having fun, but as far as acting is concerned, we have suggested that they do not change their day jobs! They too, are now locked down, so they can practise their smiles in front of the mirror!

A photovoltaic milestone...

10,000 kw hours

The picture to the left above, from our handy little photovoltaic monitoring app, shows that that on 28 March we had produced 10,000 kW of electricity from the sun. And we also saved more than seven tons of carbon dioxide production. To the right you can see some of our photovoltaic panels on the south-facing roofs of the 19th century mill, looking out towards the river.

As we said, we’ve now installed air-conditioning units in all our bedrooms and public rooms (the dining room, the sitting room and the studio) and we will be self-sufficient in electricity generation. You will definitely be Cool and Green with us.

Tranquil and beautiful memories help in difficult times

Enjoy the watermill gardens in Tuscany, Italy

We had this wonderful email, just a week or so ago, from Lesley Pendlebury, who came on Jo Parfitt’s Writing Your Life Stories course in 2018.

She says: “I have just read Bill’s blog [about the reaction of the Italians to their enforced quarantine] and am so glad to have done so. It is a measure of our humanity that we can reach to others and keep going in such ways.

 “The Watermill is such a special place and means so much, I’m sure, to its many guests. It is comforting to think that, in the middle of our panic and concern, it is still there – and one day we may visit it again.

“Here in London we are only just beginning to understand what may lie ahead. The spirit of carry on and keep calm is there – but muted. The worst is separation from the ones we love.

“At times like this our minds protect us by creating images of places where our lives were happy. Thanks to its tranquillity and beauty – and the creative talent of leaders who, like Jo, you choose to run your retreats, Posara is such a place. Please continue to preserve this aura. I hope that you and your family and staff are well. Stay safe.”

Thank you, Lesley, for sharing those inspiring and uplifting comments.

Things we do during lockdown: Mascagni and Marathon

Chinese conductor

While we are ‘confined to barracks’ here in Italy, Lois and Bill have been trying to work on some creative ventures.

We are doing some research, for example, into the Italian composer Pietro Mascagni, creator of Cavalleria Rusticana, and the operatic heir to Verdi and Puccini. He is often regarded as a 'one-hit' composer, gaining international fame in his 20s, but although writing another dozen or so operas, never again achieving anything so good. Add to that he became mixed up with the fascists and Mussolini in the 1930s and ended up a petulant old man in a hotel room in Rome when it was captured by the Allies in 1944, and we think we have the makings of a fascinating novel or screenplay. So, Lois is beavering away reading all the contemporary papers and biographies of Mascagni.

But the music, as ever, is more than the man, notably the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. If you'd like to see something goosebump-creating, have a look at this Taiwanese young people's orchestra, conducted by their (older) Chinese director of music. His sigh and smile as he leads the orchestra into the main theme of the Intermezzo (about a minute and a half in), is an amazing moment. Have a look at it by clicking here.

It stirs the heart in these challenging times...

Bill's slowest marathon
Rounding Balcony Corner into Sitting Room Straight

Bill’s slowest Marathon

Locked-down and inspired by a man who recently ran the Marathon on his 7-metre balcony in a suburb of Toulouse, France, Bill counted out the steps on a walk around our Florence apartment, in and out of the balconies and round the sitting room, kitchen and bedrooms. Then he did some mathematics: the course, including Balcony Corner, Bathroom Bend and Sitting Room Straight, added up to some 200 steps and, at half a metre a step, that equals 100 metres.

Since the Marathon is a mere 42,195 kilometres, Bill reckons he will complete the distance in 422 laps or so. He is doing 20 laps a day, a couple of kilometres. So, he will finish his Marathon in 21.1 days! By the end of March, he had already done 16 km.

Elisha Nochomovitz, the French balconiste marathonaire who inspired Bill’s long walk, completed his task in six hours 48 minutes. Every kilometre of Bill’s takes about 20 minutes, so his total time is going to be 13½ hours or so! Is this the world’s slowest Marathon?,?

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Beauty in everydayness, with Mike Willdridge

Paintings by Mike willdridge

Our friend and Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge has been using his lockdown time in England to explore a Japanese concept called shibusa, which can be translated as beauty in everydayness. He says: “I plan on exploring this concept in my now limited horizons - and to post a new drawing every day. I’m exploring what’s aesthetic in the ordinary.”

You can see one of his drawings on the left above, of a man relaxing in his allotment garden. Mike says: “There were only two of us when I drew this. He was doing the crossword and the red flask and mug caught my attention.” And on the right, a yellow cushion, recently purchased, which brightens everything around it.

Painting by Mike Willdridge

Mike says of this drawing in his series: “There’s some extraordinary architecture in Poundbury, Dorset where I live - ‘marmite’, some love it, some hate it! Nevertheless, the colour of the lantern on this building set against the completely clear blue sky, caught my breath today.”

The beauty of the Watermill and its surroundings, including the special blue of the Italian sky, will take your breath away if you come on Mike’s painting course here from Saturday 29 August to Saturday 5 September. Details and link below.

We would love you to join us, and please remember our pledge:

    Painting by Mike Willdridge
  • Rest assured that if travel restrictions in your own country or in Italy mean that the course cannot run on these new dates, or that appropriate flights are not available, we will postpone your course again to later in the year or even until 2021.
  • If a workshop is postponed and you cannot make the new dates for the tutor you have chosen, we will offer you alternative courses with other inspiring tutors, either this year or next.

    This (left) is one of my favourite Mike Willdridge paintings, of the millstream bubbling beneath one of Flavio Terenzoni’s famous bridges with their curvy wooden handrails. The picture hangs in the Watermill’s gallery in the communal sitting room.

    Another lovely painting sent to us by a Watermill guest

    Painting by Chris Franklin

    We are delighted when previous guests send us pictures of the Watermill that they have painted on their return home, reviving pleasant memories of their stay with us. The latest comes from Chris Franklin and shows the southern façade of the Watermill, with a River Rosaro tumbling beside it.

    Thank you very much for sharing that with this Chris. We look forward to welcoming you here again very soon.

    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. If you like the look of a course that is fully booked, don’t worry, let us know and we will put you on a waiting list. There are often cancellations and we will tell you immediately a place becomes available.

    Randy Hale

    Randy Hale
    13 - 20 June 2020 - three or four places remaining
    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 - one or two places remaining
    Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
    To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

    Mark Warner

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

    Carl March

    Carl March
    18 - 25 July 2020 - three or four places remaining
    Drawing and watercolours en plein air
    To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

    Mike Willdridge

    Mike Willdridge
    29 August – 5 September 2020 - three or four places remaining
    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 - two places remaining
    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
    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 - one place remaining
    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 - fully booked, waiting list open
    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 - fully booked, waiting list open
    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

Chic and Stormy on your knitting week with Renée

Renee's wool selection

Our delightful knitting tutor Renée Callahan has chosen two types of locally produced blended yarns, called Chic and Storm, which we will provide for our guests to use during her week with us this August. The Chic blend (above left) is 20% mohair, 20% alpaca and 60% Brogna (wool from a breed of sheep originally from Verona). Storm (above right) is a blend of 70% Abruzzese wool (from Abruzzo in Central Italy) and 30% alpaca.

Renee's colour work

Renée has been hard at work designing two new projects, which her guests will be working on during her week. She says: “These wonderful exclusive projects will give us the opportunity to try out new techniques.” She has designed a lovely brioche stitch hat and a colour work cowl “just in case the students don’t love brioche stitch, so they will have some fun stranded colour work to do.” The picture shows some of Renée’s colour experimentation for your week here with her. She will choose the best range of colours for her designs and our guests will be able to choose which they prefer before beginning of the course, so we can order them up.

Renee Callahan

Renée Callahan‘s Knitting and la Bella Vita Italiana week is running from Saturday 15 August to Saturday 22 August. A prolific knitwear designer from London, England, Renée loves to combine texture and colour to create hand-knit patterns that are enjoyable to knit and remain wearable for years to come.

As ever, the 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 have two other Knitting and la Bella Vita weeks next year, one two with Louisa Harding and our first-ever knitting retreat.

Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
27 June - 4 July 2020 - two places remaining
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 places remaining
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 places
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

Who Dares Wins Better Writing


Who Dares Wins is the motto of Britain’s Special Air Service, whose derring-do activities include covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action, and hostage rescue. All of which may seem a far cry writing your life stories in a memoir or blog!

But says, Jo Parfitt, the inspiring mentor of our Watermill Writing Your Life Stories week at the Watermill says that daring, or rather, daring to share, may be the best thing you ever did when writing about your experiences.

Jo says: “Many students are understandably nervous about sharing true stories about some of the bad things that have happened to them.They fear they may be judged negatively. They worry they might be accused of over-sharing or too self-pitying.They wonder if there is even any point to digging over old ground and bringing up negative subjects. They believe that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness.”

Come to the watermill's creative writing course in Tuscany
Sharing your deepest feelings during Jo’s writing course at the Watermill

Jo doesn’t agree. “When I’m teaching, I do my best to soothe the worries of my students and encourage them to put pen to paper and even go so far as to press the terrifying Post button on their blog or social media platform.”

Among the reasons to Dare to Share:

  • Writing about tough stuff helps you to make sense of what has happened and, in some cases, can even provide closure.
  • If you have been through something that happens to other people too then your story will resonate with them. They will feel less alone.
  • Readers are much more interested in seeing how your story relates to theirs than focusing on you and your frailties. Instead they only see themselves.
  • Writing about tough stuff reduces the negative emotions connected with it.
  • This same study discovered that sharing those stories in written or verbal form lessens those negative emotions still further.
  • If you have found a way to overcome your bad time, then sharing how you did so will be helpful to those who read it.
  • When your story is constructed in such a way that its goal is to give readers hope and to be supportive then it is not narcissistic.

Jo says : “When you start daring to share your stories, perhaps in a safe environment... you will begin to feel heard and supported yourself, while maybe giving someone who reads or hears it permission to share their own story and be helped too.”

And what better safe environment in which to Dare and Share than Jo’s inspiring week at the Watermill? Her Writing Your Life Stories course will run from Saturday 11 July to Saturday 18 July. Details and links below.

You can read more of Jo’s thoughts on Daring to Share by going to her Monthly Inspirer. Just click here.

And don’t forget our other creative writing course next year: Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, described by the British Comedy Society as ‘living legends,’ are the inspiring tutors for our Scriptwriting course at the Watermill this Summer.

Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
11 – 18 July 2020 - one or two places remaining
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
8 – 15 August 2020 - three or four places remaining
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.



Andrà tutto bene: the reassuring phrase in widespread use in Italy today

Andra tutto bene

The English-language newspaper The Local - Italy has been doing a marvellous job keeping us up-to-date with all the statistics and advice about how to live our lives during this coronavirus prices. They also have an Italian Word of the Day to help us expats speak the language better. One of the latest words is actually a phrase and it is on the lips of many of us: Andrà tutto bene.

Here’s the report from The Local:

As Italy adjusts to life under emergency quarantine measures, there's a feeling of calm and solidarity between people around the country which is best summed up by this Italian phrase.

Pictures bearing the slogan andrà tutto bene – everything will be alright – are all over Italian social media today as people seek to reassure each other and brighten up days spent at home under quarantine.

It's roughly equivalent to the encouraging Cantonese phrase jiayou, meaning “don’t give up” or “hang on in there”, which has become a slogan seen on streets across China since the outbreak first began there.

Italian parents began sharing images on social media today of artwork created by their children – all off school at the moment until 3 April – bearing the hopeful message.

Andra tuto bene

We are sure andrà tutto bene on this year’s Italian language course at the Watermill. We are looking forward to another Italian language course this Summer, where we will again be soaking up knowledge in the dappled sunlight under the vine verandah and making forays into the towns and villages surrounding us, to learn Italian from the Italians.

We have teamed up again with the Florence language school Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala to bring you a unique course which is both fun and illuminating. I have made one of those fun, 30-second slideshows on Facebook, which you can see by clicking here. )

Francesca la SalaLangues Services and Francesca la Sala
22 - 29 August 2020 - two or three places remaining
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