Scroll to topSCROLL TO TOP
NEWSLETTER ISSUE 120 / June 2020

Dear Friend,

Mill Garden

Free at last! At the end of May, after some eight weeks ‘confined to barracks’ in Florence, we were able to motor to our beloved watermill in the wilds of the Tuscan countryside. And very beautiful it looked, too, thanks to the meticulous maintenance work by Karsten Müller, who also supervised our new projects, restoring the old olive press and completing the installation of air-conditioning units in all our bedrooms and public rooms. Added to that, the courtyards and the gardens were awash with colour, thanks to the green-fingered expertise of Flavio Terenzoni.

We made a little 30-second Facebook slideshow soon after we arrived, to try to capture something of the atmosphere of the Watermill in early summer, and you can see it by clicking here.

You can also enjoy four of the pictures from the slideshow at the top and bottom of this introductory section.

Alls quite in Florence
Courtyard, walled garden, the Apennine mountains
and the blue Italian sky: waiting for you

All we need now is for you to arrive and enjoy it as much as we do. Italy is now casting off the coronavirus shackles very speedily and life, in city and countryside, is pretty much back to normal, although we are still practising a careful social distancing. All the signs are that by the end of this month, travel restrictions will be lifted in other countries, too, so we are making sure that we are poised to welcome our guests’ return.

But the most exciting sight for us as the Watermill was the wonderful space our team has created in the interior of the old frantoio, the olive press. Please see the story Towards another inspiring space..., below.

You may recollect that we have completely reroofed this building and renovated its exterior walls, so that now the whole fabric of the Watermill is completely restored. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic, and governments’ reaction to it, has squeezed our cash flow, so our exciting plans for the interior of the frantoio have been put on hold until next year. But you can come and see the alluring space that has been created and dream with us about what it will look like in the fullness of time. (One of the consequences of the work is that our non-rolling stones are now gathering moss, as is our chubby Scotsman. Stories about that later the newsletter.)

Watermill Stones

So, we are ready when you are: buildings renovated, walls painted, furniture restored, window boxes filled, courtyards and gardens full of flowers: we just need your company to make it all perfect.

We do hope you will be able to plan ahead for when we are through this difficult time and you are ready for a relaxing and inspiring break away from it all. Come and join us. *Please 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 make you a course with the same tutor next year.

As we say, we are confident that things will be back to normal in the next month or so, and, we’ll make sure you stay safe: as well as the extremely high hygiene standards at the Watermill we will also be inaugurating additional special safety measures to keep you safe. Please see the story Keeping You Even Safer, below.

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

  • Towards another inspiring space at the Watermill
  • Why our rolling stones will now gather moss
  • Mille miglia? No, Cento chilometri
  • Cento chilometri plus: an excuse to hear Caruso singing Puccini
  • Another photovoltaic milestone
  • Our chubby Scot enjoys the sun
  • Our demijohns continue to inspire our painters
  • Paint along with Mike in our free online interactive sessions
  • Stitch up your knitting course for 2021
  • Write with Jo in her free taster lesson
  • Creative writing: You call that a lining?
  • Take it piano, piano and your Italian will soon be a posto.

Happy reading....

Watermill garden in Tuscany Italy

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
“Time to set sail for the Watermill, me hearties.”
Orlando Bloom and Keira Keightley
in Pirates of the Caribbean

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.

Keeping you even safer

Keepin you safe at the watermill in Italy
We’ll give you the space you need

At the Watermill at Posara our aim is to look after you. And that doesn’t mean just providing inspiring tuition, warm hospitality, delicious food and wine, but making sure that you are safe well. As well as the extremely high standards of hygiene normally practised by the Watermill, we will also be taking additional precautionary measures. Our ‘ultimate hygiene’ programme includes:

  • doorknobs and drawer handles etc, in the public spaces, will be sanitised every morning and evening
  • all cleaning and catering staff will wear protective gloves during their work
  • all crockery and cutlery will be sterilised after every meal, also our mugs and glasses after every cup of tea or drink
  • dispensers of supplying sanitising gel will be available in the communal kitchen, and outside the guests’ dining room. Sanitising gel will also be available in your rooms
  • disposable gloves whenever you need them
  • certification from an independent analyst, including microbial testing, that our safety precautions in the kitchen more than meet stringent guidelines on how to prevent infection by the coronavirus.

Keepin you safe at the watermill in Italy
Plenty of space for all
at a local hilltop restaurant

We will make sure that, if it is still necessary, you will be able to observe social distancing. If this is still required:

  • Our minibuses will only take four passengers at a time, instead of the usual eight.
  • In the studio you will be able to sit at least 1m away from every other person.
  • We will modify our itinerary so that you can eat safely at every meal: for meals at the Watermill, you will spread out to eat at tables in the dining room, the vine verandah, and the courtyard, or there will be two sittings.
  • We will only visit local restaurants where there is adequate space for social distancing.

Towards another inspiring space at the Watermill

Nico and Daniela at the watermill in Tuscany
Builders Nico and Daniele
put the finishing touches to the pointing
before the scaffolding comes down

Last month we had an email from our gardener, Flavio Terenzoni, with the message: “i lavori del frantoio sono terminati, ieri hanno tolto i ponteggi.” Sounds like the words from an aria in an Italian opera, doesn’t it? It was certainly music to our ears because being translated it means “the olive press works are finished, yesterday they took down the scaffolding.”

Yes, all the external renovation and reroofing of the old olive press are now finished. It looks marvellous. We haven’t done any work on the interior of the moment, but all is ready for us to create a new exciting relaxing space for our guests at the Watermill.


As you can see we have a large window that looks out over the millstream and the campi beyond and will also be putting in a glass floor so you will be able to look down to the millstream gushing beneath your feet.

The old Mill

The three pictures above show, from left to right, the view over the campi, the machinery to open the sluice, and the bridges over the Millstream as it returns to the river.

All in all, it’s going to be a perfect setting for relaxing times. We will return to it next year: as the Medici used to say festina lente, make haste slowly. The frantoio is not an essential part of the mill complex (we run the laundry and store the linen in there at the moment), but our guests will still have the capacious sitting room, the airy dining room, the sunlit studio, the vine verandah, the courtyard tables, the roof terraces and river terraces, the walled garden, the riverside gardens and the millstream walks in which to spend their time!

Why not come and see for yourself and enjoy our ‘work in progress’. And while you’re at it, marvel at the size of our non-rolling stones. More in the next story...

Why our rolling stones will now gather moss

Rolling Stones

On the right are the massive stones of the Watermill’s old olive-crushing machine, now placed in honourable and elegant retirement in our sunny courtyard. But it was a struggle and a half to get them there!

You can see the size of the problem in the picture of the olive crusher (left below), followed by the intricate task of dismantling the machinery (middle picture), then taking the stones, with the help of a friendly neighbour’s tractor, and putting them into position in the Watermill courtyard (picture on the right).

Moving the millstone at the watermill in Italy

We made one of those fun 30-second Facebook slideshows of the process, which you may enjoy. You can see it by clicking here.

Moving the millstone at the watermill - video
Nail-biting! Watch the video

Even more fun was Flavio Terenzoni’s short video of the most nail-biting part of the process, the toppling of the stones from vertical to horizontal. You can see it by clicking here.

Come and see our non-rolling stones for yourself on one of our renowned creative courses: painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language. You could paint them, write about them, describe them in Italian and even devise a knitted yarn bomb for them!

Mille miglia? No, Cento Chilometri

The winner

Following Bill’s lockdown triumphs in the Round-Our-Florence-Apartment marathon and the 50-mile Kennedy March, in the middle of May he reached another milestone, or rather kilometre post, in his daily gyrations around the specially constructed circuit in Florence apartment: 200 steps round all the rooms and balconies, repeated 20 times each day. That’s two kilometres every day. He reckons he knows every nook and cranny of the apartment intimately.

The middle-of-May milestone was that he completed 1,000 laps, or more than 100 km. Wow! We are surprised he hasn’t worn a groove in the parquet and the ceramic tiles. That’s Bill above at the finishing line , waving his chequered flag and clutching a winner’s bouquet. As the florist was closed, we couldn’t run to roses, but Lois thoughtfully wrapped a bag of fresh mint from the market in a red ribbon and presented it to him. It may not have been such a colourful floral display, but it certainly smelled good!

The challenge was to work out where to go next, but Bill decided to reassign his virtual journey, as if he was walking from our apartment in Florence to the gateway of the Watermill the north-west Tuscany. Freedom from lockdown means he’s not going to make it all the way. But he did reach (virtually of course) the wonderful walled city of Lucca, to pay his respects to his favourite composer Giacomo Puccini.

Cento chilometri plus: an excuse to hear Caruso singing Puccini

Stella Polare

Well, that was a doddle. Here we are (virtually) in the bar Stella Polare in the centre of Lucca. The Pole Star café, is the very essence of a sophisticated late 19th-century meeting place. Note the dark wooden furnishings and the clean symmetry of the black-and-white tiles on the floor. Note also the ceiling, gleaming white too. It would not have been like that in Puccini’s day: he was a chain smoker and, we suppose, so were most of his drinking chums, so the ceiling would have been a fine shade of nicotine yellow!


We don’t know whether Puccini and the celebrated tenor Enrico Caruso ever met in the Stella Polare, but they were friends and contemporaries, and if they were here in 1906, they might have discussed Enrico’s recording of Puccini’s Che gelida manina, from La Bohème.

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we can still hear that incredible singing clearly today. You can listen to a digitally remastered version by clicking here.


Incidentally, Caruso was not prepossessing: “short and tubby, with an undistinguished moustache and an undesirable Neapolitan accent,” according to one report. But so remarkable was his voice that Puccini instantly gave him the part of Rodolfo in La Bohème, saying, after the audition: “Who has sent you to me? God?” Listening to that voice more than a hundred years later, you can see what Puccini meant.

A Room with a view

And to continue your enjoyment of lyrical Puccini melodies, here is a link to a marvellous contemporary voice, Kiri Te Kanawa, singing Puccini's O mio babbino caro. The link also has a built-in romantic ‘Ahh’ factor (perhaps to the point of soppiness, but indulge yourself) as it is accompanied by scenes from A Room with a View, as Lucy Honeychurch falls in love. Just click here.

Another photovoltaic milestone

The picture (below left), from our handy little photovoltaic monitoring app, shows that one day in late May our watermill photovoltaic array was still merrily producing electricity even on a cloudy day. Our latest milestone is that now we have produced more than 13,000 kWh of electricity from the sun. What’s more, we have also saved more than 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide production.

Watermill solar system

Our arrays of photovoltaic panels, hidden away on our south-facing roofs overlooking the river make us totally self-sufficient in electricity generation, even powering the new air-conditioning units in all our bedrooms and public rooms. We’ve commissioned the air-conditioning system, and we now have another little app which enables us to control each unit remotely, even from Florence!

Our chubby Scot enjoying the sun

The watermill's chubby scot

Someone else who’s been enjoying the Tuscan sunshine is the chubby Scot above. Some years ago, when we were living in Scotland, it was given to us by our sculptor friend, Norman Defoe. His fulfilled repose looks even more at home in the watermill gardens. And he has even grown a mossy moustache.

Our demijohns continue to inspire our painters

Painting by Shirley Coles

We are always delighted when our painting guests continue to enjoy their Watermill experiences, by painting from photographs when they get home. The latest such picture (above) comes from Shirley Coles, and is of our intriguing demijohns. Shirley says: “I am always fascinated by the demijohns when I come to the Watermill and always have a go at painting them. This is my first one although somewhere I have plenty more!”

Here’s a montage of some paintings from other Watermill guests and tutors:

Demijohn paintings from the watermill in Tuscany

The demijohns were used in the old days for fermenting wine, but these days people tend to use stainless steel drums and they throw these beautiful old glass vessels away. Our gardener Flavio Terenzoni has been collecting them and we are happy to store them in the Watermill courtyard, where they have provided inspiration for many of our guests. They also inspired us to make another of those short, fun Facebook slideshows, which you can see by clicking here.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS
Sunlit door

Paint along with Mike in our free online interactive sessions

Our friend and Watermill painting tutor Mike Willdridge has devised some entertaining online, interactive painting sessions, where you can brush up your basic painting skills. And they are free!

We have already run two of them and the third is scheduled for 11 June. Details below. We are planning even more in the future.

We have room for 100 or so guests on each of these Zoom sessions. Our first session involved painting of a lemon (montage below) and the second was a sunlit, Tuscan doorway (picture above).

Unlike many online painting programmes, Mike’s will not expect you to ‘look over his shoulder’ for a long demonstration, and perhaps be allowed to ask the odd question or two. No, you will be painting along at more or less the same time, trying out the watercolour techniques that Mike has shown you. He will demonstrate some basic techniques such as wet onto wet, wet onto dry, light to dark etc. for only a few minutes before you start painting the same subject at home. Then, after you have had your turn, Mike will move onto the next part of the process. Lois will act as ‘host’ for these sessions and make sure you are able to ask any questions that crop up.

Mike Willdridge

Each session will last about 90 minutes. Here are the details of the next one:

Thursday 11 June, 9.30am UK time (so that guests in Australia can join in) – subject: geese (and a barn!).

Before each session Mike supplies a photograph of what is going to be painted, and a list of equipment and colours for your palette. We will send these beforehand to all the participants in the session. After the session we will send you a link that will enable to you revisit Mike’s teaching steps on YouTube.

Mike's Geese for the online tutorial
The source photograph for Mike’s
‘geese’ interactive online painting session

The ‘geese’ session will be limited to 100 participants. We are still taking bookings and places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Please get in touch with Lois by using the Watermill Contact Form, which you can find by clicking here. Mark the topic as ‘Mike’s free interactive session’. You will find them informative, inspirational – and fun!

We are already planning more sessions and we will keep in touch with our painting database by email and there will be more announcements also on the Watermill blog at

And when you’ve enjoyed working with Mike online, why not join him for real on his Watermill course this autumn?

Mike's painting group at the watermill in Tuscany
Mike’s painting group last year,
not being too serious!

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 cancelled, rather than just being postponed, we will refund any payment in full. 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 inspiring tutors.

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 - two or three places 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 - two or three places remaining
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 - two or three places remaining
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
Forlorn Knitting dog - no knitting in 2020

Stitch up your knitting booking for 2021

No wonder our friend Alison Beckett’s knitting dog is looking forlorn. All our 2020 knitting courses have fallen by the wayside due to the coronavirus pandemic, but our popular tutors will be returning here in 2021. Already many places are reserved, by people who have switched to next year’s courses. Here’s a sneak preview:

Norah Gaughan

Norah Gaughan
24 april - 1 May 2021 - still plenty of places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Norah and her course at the mill, please visit our 2021 Profile Page.
*Book now to come on this 2021 course at 2020 prices.

Debbie Abrahams

Debbie Abrahams
8 - 15 May 2021 - still plenty of places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Debbie and her course at the mill, please visit our 2021 Profile Page.
*Book now to come on this 2021 course at 2020 prices.

Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
29 May - 5 June 2021 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit our 2021 Profile Page.
*Book now to come on this 2021 course at 2020 prices.

Knitting Retreat

Knitting retreat
17 - 24 July 2021 - three or four places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about our knitting retreat week at the mill, please visit our 2021 Profile Page.
*Book now to come on this 2021 course at 2020 prices.

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

Write with Jo Parfitt in her free taster lesson

Want to start writing your life story? Kick start the process with a free taster lesson from Jo Parfitt's Life Story Jar programme, exclusive to The Watermill at Posara. Jo will be on Zoom on Tuesday 16 June 2020 at 2.30pm (UK time) for a couple of hours or so. Places will be limited to 12, and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please email us using our contact form, and mark the subject as 'Jo's free interactive writing session'.

You call that a lining?

We are really hoping that we will be able to run our world-renowned Scriptwriting course with those ‘living legends’ of comedy and drama Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. It is scheduled to start on 8 August and we think all will be hunky-dory, as the regulations and advice about international travel are changing at a rapid pace.

Jacket lining

We are keeping a weather eye on everything, of course, and we will let you know as things develop.

In the meantime, we’d like to pass on what we think is a very funny Jewish joke, told to us by Laurence earlier this year.

A Jewish lady who works in the fashion trade is walking through a London park when a flasher approaches and pulls aside his overcoat. She looks the naked man up and down and says: “You call that a lining?”

Laurence Marks

Come and be amused and inspired, learning the secrets of successful scriptwriting from those Masters of comedy drama, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. They will be with us from Saturday 8 August to Saturday 15 August 2020.

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.

Goodnight Sweetheart

The British Comedy Society describes them as ‘living legends!’ And it’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well.

Their unique course at the Watermill will give you insights into writing comedy and drama for TV, stage and screen and it will help you to craft your work from original idea to final script. While the week will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre.

If you are an aspiring scriptwriter, or indeed, would like to write in any dramatic genre, Laurence and Maurice’s course is the place to be, and they promise you will leave a much better writer than when you came!

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.



Softly, softly, we will help you to improve your Italian

Mike's painting group at the watermill in Tuscany
Picture: The Local

With June’s Italian word of the month you get two for the price of one. The word is piano and, more often than not, when Italians use it, they repeat it: piano, piano. We suppose being strictly translated it means ‘softly, softly’ and that’s the idea: take it easy, take it slowly. There’s no rush.

We are grateful to Jessica Phelan, of the online newspaper The Local Italy for further thoughts on this relaxing sentiment. She says: “You might also see it written as

  • pian piano, or for emphasis, pian pianino ('little by very little bit').
  • Pian piano ha acquistato una certa esperienza. Gradually she gained experience.
  • Versare l'olio piano piano. Add the oil little by little.
  • Pian pianino siamo arrivati. Slowly but surely, we got there.

“By extension, when you say it to someone as an instruction it means 'go slowly', or even implicitly, 'don't worry, you'll get there'. Dai, con calma, piano piano. Come on, nice and easy, take it slow.”

Mike's painting group at the watermill in Tuscany
Picture: The Local

So, if you take it piano piano, everything will be a posto: sorted, settled, everything in place, exactly where it’s meant to be. As Jessica says: “Now, isn’t that a nice image?

Speaking of which, you will enjoy Francesca la Sala’s ‘softly, softly’ approach on her Italian language course at the Watermill. You’ll 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. So everything will be a posto!

Our good friend Francesca runs 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.

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