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Dear Friend,

Spring at the watermill in Tuscany, Italy

Well, in late April the Watermill was looking marvellous, thanks to Spring springing, Müller maintaining and Terenzoni tending. Karsten Müller, our manager and friend, who is staying at the mill for the duration, has been doing all those maintenance and restoration tasks that are needed to keep the mill looking spruce and lovely. He’s also been slowly and lovingly restoring the old ‘Chippendale’ wardrobe that belongs in the Botticelli bedroom.

Karsten in the watermill courtyard

Here he is working away on the wardrobe door in the sunlit courtyard. Meanwhile our gardener and friend Flavio Terenzoni has been bringing out the window boxes from their winter hibernation and filling them with flowers, as well as tending the Watermill gardens and grounds. He has also been taking some marvellous pictures of flora and fauna around us. Four of his pictures are top and bottom of this introductory section, and you can see more in a little 30-second Facebook slideshow, by clicking here.

Catherine's Book
16th century music
discovered by Lois

Lois and Bill are still ‘confined to barracks’ in Florence. Lois has finished the thesis for her PhD and will be soon taking her viva, online, to convince expert musicologists that she knows what she’s talking about. It’s a bit scary, but Bill and our daughters, Lydia and Lara, confidently expect that we’re going to have to address her as dottoressa very soon.

Now she’s reading some first-hand sources about the Italian opera composer Pietro Mascagni, with a view to writing a novel or screenplay about some aspects of his life.

Thanks to some expert, practical advice from our scriptwriting guru Laurence Marks, we are beginning to see what direction the story might take.

Cathederal Floor - Illusions
The illusion of reality

Bill seems to be as busy as ever, not only writing daily blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets and goodness knows what else, but also working on the follow-up to his detective novel set in Renaissance Florence, A Matter of Perspective. (If you haven’t read it, now is your opportunity. You can buy the paperback on Amazon, or download the Kindle version. Please click here for more. The link is to, but you’ll also find the book on your own country’s Amazon page. The working title of the sequel is The Illusion of Reality and the picture above, of the floor of Florence cathedral makes the point. What’s it all about? See Beware of Vertigo below. Bill has also completed the World’s Slowest Marathon, and there’s more about that below, too.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that the coronavirus has wrought havoc on the Watermill’s 2020 season. We have taken decisive action, postponing our earlier courses to later in the year and even to 2021. We 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 article below.

Meanwhile, enjoy Flavio’s pictures above and below this introductory section. They are: Top Left: A swallowtail butterfly soaks up the spring sunshine; Top Right: The wisteria is blooming on the vine Verandah. Bottom Left: Busy gathering ingredients for Lunigiana honey; Bottom Right: Lemons and flowers on our riverside terrace.

In this month's newsletter there are also stories on:

  • The coronavirus at the Watermill
  • Beware of vertigo
  • The World’s Slowest Marathon
  • Bees, honey and breakfast
  • Gone fishing! A peaceful pastel from a Watermill guest
  • Liszt and Lisitsa: exhilarating sounds
  • Grandparents, cousins, aunts -- everyone wants to join Mike’s international painting classes
  • ‘Tune in‘ to a knitting chat with Renée
  • How quickly are you writing your book?
  • Italian words mispronounced by millions

Happy reading....

Flavio's pictures of the watermill's wildlife

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
“You need a break, Scarlett.
Let’s take a week at the Watermill!”
Leigh and Gable in Gone with the Wind

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

Come and join us at the watermill in Tuscany

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 currently 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 be 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 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
  • If we cancel a workshop, rather than just postpone it, we will refund any payment in full.
The Watermill is waiting for you...

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.

Beware of vertigo

Cathedral floor plan

During our April ‘house arrest’ in Florence, Bill has been musing on the artistic and architectural splendours of the city, and in one of his mini-essays last month he suggested we looked down for a change.

In the days BC (Before Coronavirus ), every time we visited the Duomo, Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Fiore, we wanted to look around us at the impressively colossal space created by those ancient architects, at the wonderful artefacts on the walls, and then up into the interior of the extraordinary dome created by his hero Filippo Brunelleschi. But by looking down you can also see a remarkable achievement: the cathedral’s 16th century pavimento.

The first section of flooring, just inside the main portal is the most extraordinary of all. You will see that the multicoloured marble motifs in the octagonal pavement get smaller until they reach the central point, marked with a medallion inscribed with the letters OPA, the ‘logo’ of the Opera del Duomo, the venerable institution in charge of the cathedral works. (See the two pictures above.)

You can admire the precision of the stonework and the knowledge of mathematics that went into its construction, apparently inspired by the inlays in Turkish carpets, fashionable among the rich in 16th century Florence. But to enjoy the truly remarkable aspect of this floor, you need to fly with us, virtually, high into the nave. Beware of vertigo!

Cathedral floor overhead view

Isn’t that extraordinary? It just shows that being locked down can give you a new perspective on life!

The world’s slowest marathon

Bill's marathon

At 9 o’clock on the morning of 12 April the church bells in Florence rang out loudly under a clear blue Tuscan sky. We’re not sure whether they were celebrating Easter Day or the fact that Bill had just completed the World’s Slowest Marathon, 422 100-metre laps around a specially designed circuit in our apartment here.

Yes, he’s been in and out of the bedrooms, round the kitchen, through the hall and sitting room and round a couple of balconies, no fewer than 422 times, for a total of 42.2 km, slightly more than the 26 miles 385 yards required. That’s Bill above at the Finishing Line between Balcony Bend and Sitting Room Straight, waving the chequered flag specially prepared by Lois. And the winning time? A mere 13 hours 40 minutes.

Since the Italian lockdown is not scheduled to end until 4 May, and since oldies like Bill are likely to have to remain ‘confined to barracks’ for some time after that, the challenge was to find another objective for those daily 20 laps of hundred metres each. The answer was the Kennedy March.

In the 1960s President John F Kennedy was concerned about the lack of physical fitness of the American people and he heard that his predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, had said that American Marines should be able to walk 50 miles in three days. JFK said that that modern Marines should be able to do even better, completing the distance in 20 hours straight. Jokingly, he suggested that the presidential staff might do the same. The president’s brother, Robert Kennedy, made the march, through slush and snow, wearing his Oxford brogues! Many ordinary Americans also took up the challenge, and the Kennedy March was quite a craze in the 1960s. I think it has all but disappeared now.

We can’t report any slush and snow: in fact, the April days have largely been warm and sunny. And Bill doesn’t have a pair of brogues. But by the time you read this issue, he should have completed his 50 miles (80 km, 800 laps of the apartment; a cumulative time of 26 hours 40 minutes!) and looking for new challenges. Ghent to Aix? Land’s End to John O’Groats?

Bees, honey and breakfast

Lunigiana honey

That’s another marvellous Flavio picture above, of a bee busy above the Wisteria blossoms in late April, and next to it, the product of their labours: Lunigiana honey.

Lunigiana hives

As you may know, honey from Lunigiana, the unspoiled part of Tuscany in which the Watermill is located, is the only one in Italy to have been given the coveted DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) designation. Other products so defined include Parma ham and Parmesan cheese and the balsamic vinegar of Modena.

Beekeepers here still keep to the centuries-old traditions to ensure the quality of the honey. The earliest records of honey-making go back to the early 16th Century (when the authorities realised they could tax the product!) and, amazingly, if you compare the locations of beehives on ancient maps with those on a modern one, you can see that the hives today are in almost precisely the same areas as they were five centuries ago.

Two types of honey are made in Lunigiana: the lighter-coloured, delicately flavoured acacia honey and the darker, more strongly flavoured chestnut honey. We serve them both at breakfast at the Watermill.

A recent blog Bill made about the honey inspired a Watermill guest, Shirley Coles, to rummage through the photographs she took during a painting course here last year.

She told us: “I have just done a small pastel painting based on photo from the Watermill breakfast table... didn’t manage to include the honey though!”  It is still a lovely painting, even without the honey. Thank you for sharing it with us Shirley..

Gone fishing! A peaceful painting from a Watermill guest

We are always pleased when previous guests write to support us in these extraordinary times. So, it was heartening to receive an email from Betty and Roland Gravois, from Louisiana in the USA.

Betty says: “We have fond memories and a few paintings from our time with you. We are hopeful that we will be able to travel to Europe again and see lovely places like The Watermill.”

Betty and Roland say they are keeping well, and Betty has had plenty of time to paint. She sent us the peaceful picture (right), reminding us of happier days, when all we had to worry about was whether the fish were biting!

There are trout in the river Rosaro that runs peacefully by the Watermill, but we seldom go fishing ourselves: we are far too busy ensuring that our guests enjoy our inspiring, week-long creative courses. We are certain that they’ll be up and running again very soon.

Liszt and Lisitsa: exhilarating sounds

In our monthly newsletters we like to give you exhilarating sounds as well as inspiring pictures.  Last month we shared a beautiful recording of Pietro Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. This month it is something a little less relaxing: Just under ten minutes of extraordinary piano-playing that will invigorate your day.

It is Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, played by Valentina Lisitsa, and you can see it by clicking here. It proved one of the most popular Watermill blogs last month. Valentina’s playing will amaze and inspire you by its sheer virtuosity. You can admire it quietly, in the privacy of your own home, unlike the earlier performances by the composer himself.

Liszt was an old musical show-off, of course, and his composing and his piano concerts played unashamedly to the gallery. Lisztomania, the hysterical ecstasy of his female fans, preceded Beatlemania by more than a century. His devotees would wear his portrait on brooches, and some would try to grab his handkerchief and gloves. A lock of his hair was as gold dust.

And not just his hair: some women carried around glass phials, into which they poured his coffee dregs and according to another report: “Liszt once threw away an old cigar stump in the street under the watchful eyes of an infatuated lady-in-waiting, who reverently picked the offensive weed out of the gutter, had it encased in a locket and surrounded with the monogram "F.L." in diamonds and went about her courtly duties unaware of the sickly odour it gave forth.” I don’t recollect the fans of John, Paul, George and Ringo go to quite such lengths!

So, make yourself a cup of coffee, click on the YouTube link and enjoy an exhilarating 10 minutes. It might just make your day! And you can throw away the coffee dregs!

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Grandparents, cousins, aunts -- everyone wants to join Mike’s international painting classes

Mike and his grandchildren

Another very popular Facebook post last month was Bill’s report on how our friend and Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge is running virtual art classes on Zoom for his grandchildren (aged between four and 10 years old) living in Australia, Wales and England. The picture of his five-year-old Welsh granddaughter, Evelyn, posing in front of some of her artwork (top right in the montage above) had more than 600 Likes on Facebook.

As well as a picture of Mike, the benign grandfather, the montage also shows another granddaughter, seven-year-old Joselyn from Australia, who is not just going to be a student, but also a tutor!

Mike Willdridge

Mike says: “My virtual art classes are really taking off. We’ve now been joined by grandparents, cousins and aunts, all keen to share some special time with their younger relations. Tomorrow’s class, in a fascinating twist to these sessions, is being run by my granddaughter in Australia - Joselyn, who is seven years old and is shown with her artwork prepared for her first teaching assignment - scraper board art.”

***Mike has kindly offered to run an online painting tutorial for our Watermill painting enthusiasts as well. He and Lois are just working out the details and we will let you know how to join up, if you’d care to have as much fun as the Willdridge grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and children. Come and join us online -- and come and meet Mike himself at the Watermill later this year.

Mike’s course, in watercolours and drawing(and gouache and acrylics) will run from Saturday 29 August to Saturday 5 September. Details and link below. Why not give yourself something to look forward to and join Mike here? We think things will be back to normal by then, but don’t forget the Watermill’s coronavirus promise:

  • Rest assured that if travel restrictions in your own country or in Italy mean that the course cannot run on these dates, or that appropriate flights are not available, we will postpone your course until 2021.
  • If a workshop is postponed and you cannot make the new dates for the tutor you have chosen, you can postpone to an alternative course with one of our other inspiring tutors.
  • If we cancel a workshop, rather than just postpone it, we will refund any payment in full.
Paintings by Mike Willdridge

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.

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

‘Tune in‘ to a knitting chat with Renée

Renee callahan

Our enthusiastic, inspiring and talented knitting tutor, Renée Callahan, who will be with us this August (all being well), is hosting a series of podcasts on YouTube, which knitting enthusiasts may care to check out to enjoy a half hour or so chat about their favourite subject. In the latest podcast, which you can see by clicking here. Renée talks about one of her new patterns and also promises “a cameo appearance from the Lazarus socks.”

Renée is a prolific knitwear designer, working in London, 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. 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.

Knitting projects by Renee Callahan

Renée has been hard at work designing two new projects for her course, which her guests will be working on during her week here. 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 pictures show the elegance hat and 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.

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

How quickly are you writing your book? It doesn’t matter as long as you write something every day


Come the end of the lockdown around the world, publishers and literary agents are going to be inundated with manuscripts, judging by the conversations we’ve had online with our friends in recent weeks. Everyone seems to be writing a book, but what’s interesting is the different speeds at which they’re doing so. Our friend Brian Klein, for example, is totting up some 1800 words every day, while Bill who is working on The Illusion of Reality, doesn’t get through more than 500 or so. So, Brian is a Stephen King and Bill, a Grahame Greene, though I’m not sure that either of us aspire to such best-selling or literary heights.

Stephen King

Stephen King likes to write 2000 words (10 pages) each day, come what may. In his memoir On Writing, King says: “On some days those ten pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning… More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day’s work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”

Graham Greene

Graham Greene had a much more modest target, some 500 words a day. Even so, he wrote 24 novels as well as travel books, children’s books, plays, screenplays, and short stories. He said: “Over twenty years I have probably averaged five hundred words a day for five days a week. I can produce a novel in a year, and that allows time for revision and the correction of the typescript. I have always been very methodical, and when my quota of work is done, I break off, even in the middle of a scene. Every now and then during the morning’s work I count what I have done and mark off the hundreds on my manuscript.”

At the end of his writing career, Greene’s target dropped even further, to around 300 words a day. Bill knows the feeling: his excuse is that he is also writing blogs, Facebook posts, tweets and newsletters about our Watermill activities, as well as trying to get his book moving along.

But the important point is that if you want to write anything, you must write something, every day. Set yourself a target, even a modest one, and make sure you meet each day. We are looking forward to Brian Klein’s launch party and hope that, like a tortoise to his hare, Bill won’t be far behind.

If you’re a keen writer, you could do far worse than all the secrets of the trade from our renowned creative writing tutors: Jo Parfitt, who will tell you all you need to know about the secrets of writing a compelling memoir; and Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, ‘living legends’ of comedy and drama writing. Come and spend a fulfilling week with them – and write at your own pace.

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.



Italian words mispronounced by millions

Marco in a box

I've been looking at some of the YouTube videos in the ‘Marco in a BOX’ series and thought it would be fun to share with you the episode in which he goes through a list of common Italian words which are commonly mispronounced by millions of non-Italians every day. Grab yourself a tea or coffee and enjoy a fun eight minutes or so, learning how to pronounce things properly, including everyday words like grazie and spaghetti (and you can’t get more everyday than that!). I also particularly like the way that Marco rails against the way that both the Brits and the Americans pronounce his name. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But his mimicking of our attempts to get it right are hilarious. Just click here to join in the fun.

Language Group

You won’t find any problems in hearing the correct Italian pronunciation from Francesca la Sala 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 to bring you a unique course which is both fun and illuminating. Bill has made another of those 30-second slideshows on Facebook, to give you a flavour of the week. You can see it by clicking here.

Join us and your Italian pronunciation will be impeccabile (im-peck-ar-bill-ay!)

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