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Dear Friend,

Paintings by Paul and Rebecca

The Watermill is on holiday, so you might just find us in the walled garden, or the vine verandah, or the riverside terrace, or the millstream, or in the bamboo forest.

Yes, while other people might care to venture bustling historic sites or crowded beaches, our holidays are at the Watermill itself, enjoying the peace and quiet and the the beautiful scenery of Lunigiana which surrounds the mill. We’ll enjoy visits from family and friends, of course, for as Hilaire Belloc has it: “There’s nothing worth the wear of winning than laughter and the love of friends.

The watermill in Tuscany's garden
They seek them here; they seek them there. Could that be Lois and Bill (bottom right) taking the last rays of the evening sun at the end of the walled garden?

We had an interesting July (in the sense of that Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’) in that we contracted Covid and had to rush to Florence to isolate for a week, while the magnificent Watermill team did a wonderful job looking after the guests. Then Lois had to have her wisdom teeth extracted, a traumatic and painful operation. That’s why we are going to enjoy a quiet time in the Tuscan countryside, ‘recharging our batteries’ before the second part of the season.

We would love you to join us when we start our creative courses again from 20 August onwards, to find out what’s so special about the ambience of the Watermill and its surroundings. And why, additionally, inspiring tuition, warm hospitality, delicious food and wine and the convivial company of like-minded people combine to make your Watermill week a holiday to remember.

The pictures at the top of this introductory section are by Watermill painting tutors Paul Talbot-Greaves (the road from Posara to Fivizzano) and Rebecca de Mendonça (the valley of the river Rosaro, with Posara in the distance).

Here (below) are four more pictures by Watermill tutors: Varvara Neiman’s stunning evocation of a local market and Mike Willdridge’s delightful watercolour of the millstream bubbling back into the river; Cynthia Armstrong captures the atmosphere of an Italian bakery; Tim Wilmots’ wonderful watercolour of the interior of one of the old mills.

Paintings by the Watermill's tutors in Tuscany

And at the bottom of this introductory section you will find Grahame Booth’s evocative watercolour of a man working on his allotment plus a photo of students soaking up the Italian language under the dappled shade of the Watermill vine verandah.

Why not come and be inspired with us? We still have some places left on our nine remaining courses this year (eight painting and one Italian language) and you’ll find more details and links below.

In this month’s newsletter we also have stories on:

  • The amazing Watermill bamboo forest
  • Watermill guests go potty at the market
  • How the mobile phone helps painting ‘still life’ figures en plein air
  • Truthfully poignant observations on youth and old age
  • Our remaining inspiring painting weeks in 2022
  • Featured painting tutor of the month: Grahame Booth
  • Looking forward to our 2023 painting courses make your memories into unforgettable stories
  • Get to know your chickens on our Italian language course

Happy reading!

Painting and Language course

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
“We must put a week at the Watermill in our diaries,”
Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth
as Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy

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 amazing Watermill bamboo forest

The Watermill's Bamboo forest
(Left)Mike Willdridge’s picture of the bamboo forest hangs in the Watermill sitting room gallery
(right) Guests visiting the bamboo forest

On Saturday afternoons during our creative courses, we usually go for a walk through the Watermill grounds and then along the millstream and riverside – and our guests never cease to be amazed at the veritable forest of bamboo that grows beside the river.

It is very Zen-like: very few people go there and bamboo leaves fall silently, creating a rich carpet over the decades. It is a haven for wildlife: badgers, deer, porcupines, wild boar, foxes, to name but a few. We don’t do much to maintain it, just making sure it doesn’t spread too far towards the Watermill grounds and keeping a path clear beneath the towering stalks.

Our guests often ask how it got there, and the answer is simple: in the old days, the villagers had their orti, vegetable plots, in the rich alluvial soil beside the river, and in one corner, they planted a little bamboo, to cut for canes to support their tomatoes and their beans. But in the fullness of time, the old folk died off, the young folk were not interested in working the orti, and the plots were abandoned. And the bamboo grew, and grew, and grew...

As well as providing a wonderfully calm space for our guests to enjoy peace and quiet (apart from the rushing of the river and the clicking of the cicadas), our bamboo forest has proved an inspiration to many of our tutors and artistic guests.

Paintings of the Watermill's bamboo forest in Italy
(Left) A bamboo watercolour by Ali Hargreaves;
(Right) Randy Hale's picture of Bill taking a group into ‘a tunnel of green gloom.’

Watermill guests go potty at the market

Pots at the market

Our guests on Carl March’s painting week last month went slightly potty. Leastways, they couldn’t resist the stall selling local ceramic bowls. Quite a few of them bought quite a few of the colourfully patterned pottery, which we, incidentally, use to serve the ‘nibbles’ for our evening aperitivi.Rachel Priest, who took the picture, says: “I think most of us are going home with them in our luggage, hopefully arriving in the UK one piece.”

The market always proves a great attraction, not just for its artefacts and local produce (the dried porcini mushrooms are always in demand), but also for the visit to the local gelateria for a lunchtime panino and scoops of delicious home-made ice cream. All this and sketching the market scenes, and painting the view down the valley. And that is just Tuesday on a typical Watermill painting week. Watermill creative courses refresh the parts that other courses cannot reach.

How the mobile phone helps painting ‘still life’ figures en plein air

Paintings by Pamme Turner

Watermill tutor Pamme Turner came up with an interesting thought last month on the contribution of the mobile phone to painting and sketching en plein air.

It’s not just that you can take a picture of the scene for future reference but, says Pamme, the mobile phone means that “it is now easy to find life models to draw or paint/work from—just about anywhere!" She adds: “No need any more to search for a seated cafe figure or hire a live figure model to add to your drawings, paintings and artistic compositions.”

The reason is that people’s obsession with looking at their phones “has created a near-frozen aspect to human figures residing in nature—and now has created a fabulous added bonus opportunity for aspiring plein air artists-on-location!”

Pamme has been painting in and around the famous Garibaldi Park/Venice and she says “there are visitors and Venetians frozen in time and place (sometimes for 30-40 minute sessions)— so I’ve filled my notebooks with a fun array of figures, watercolor studies in light and shadow.”

Painting by Pamme Turner at the Watermill in Tuscany

You can see a montage of some of her sketches above, the unmoving humans paired with the Roman-style garden statuary. Pamme asks: “Are the statues the ‘real ones?’ The living people are becoming literal “still lives”— and are painted here, peering at their cell phone screens, in silent contemplation.”

Here (right) is another ‘still life’ by Pamme, of a woman taking a selfie at the famous fish market by the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Pamme will be at the Watermill next year for her plein air watercolour and gouache painting course. But you have to move to bag your place: six people booked in already. And don’t forget: if you book your place before 1 September 2022 you can enjoy this 2023 course at 2022 prices.

Pamme Turner

Pamme Turner
20 – 27 May 2023
Watercolour and gouache en plein air
To learn more about Pamme and her course at the mill, please visit her 2023 Profile Page.

Truthfully poignant observations on youth and old age

Sketch by Rembrandt
Rembrandt van Rijn,
wide-eyed and open-mouthed
self-portrait in 1630,
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Readers of the Watermill blogs (click here to read them) will know that as well as giving you news of all the Watermill activities and adventures, we also like to bring you stories about art, architecture and creative writing. We had a fascinating story last month, courtesy of the online DailyArt magazine, about some of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and we thought we’d share it with you here, in case you missed the blog.

As John Keats told us “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all you know on earth and all you need to know.” Art, too, whether writing or the visual arts, only really succeeds (in my opinion) when it is true, stripped away of self-delusion and artifice. That is why, for me, the self-portraits of Rembrandt are so moving, as they chart relentlessly the artist’s progress from exuberant, expectant youth to tired, disillusioned old age.

So, we were particularly interested in one of the latest stories from the online DailyArt magazine*, in which Zuzanna Stańska looks at some of the 100 or so self-portraits that Rembrandt made during his lifetime. He often used these to explore the effects of light and shade and also, to experiment with facial expressions, as in the drawing above from his early days in Leiden in the 1630s.

And then:

Paintings by Remrandt van Rijn

The picture on the left, Self-portrait with Saskia, is from around 1635 and is to be found in, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany. “This is a unique double portrait of Rembrandt and his wife, Saskia, painted in 1635, when he was at the height of his fame and enjoying the happiest time of his life, reflected in this joyful painting.” Their happiness, however, was cruelly curtailed when Saskia died in 1642.

Contrast this picture with the ‘large self-portrait’ of 1652. (Centre, from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany.)

Zuzanna Stańska writes: “This is the first self-portrait Rembrandt painted since 1645. During the previous seven years, he focused instead on landscapes and intimate domestic subjects. 1645 was the year when his financial difficulties began, and he breaks with the sumptuous finery he had worn in previous self-portraits. In composition, it is very different from his previous self-portraits and shows the painter in direct frontal pose, with hands on his hips and an air of self-confidence. That’s a very strong image of a struggling man.”

Finally, Zusanna looks at the self-portrait of 1669, when Rembrandt was 63 years old, probably the last self-portrait he painted (above right, in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands.)

She says: “The expressive freedom of style and fresh gaze shows that Rembrandt was certainly not exhausted at the end of his life. This self-portrait seems to be so real that when I see it I always fear it will start to talk.” I see a querulous and anxious old man — and the truthfulness of that image is moving and beautiful.

*You can see the whole of Zusanna’s article by clicking here.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Our remaining inspiring painting weeks in 2022

Here is the list of our remaining painting courses for 2022. You can find out more about each of the tutors by clicking on their Profile page link in their entries below.

Paul Talbot-Greaves

Paul Talbot-Greaves - two or three places left
20 - 27 August 2022
Watercolours (and acrylics)
To learn more about Paul and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.

Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça - three or four places left
27 August - 3 September 2022
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2022 Profile Page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge (1) - fully booked, waiting list open
3 - 10 September 2022
Watercolours and drawing (also gouache and acrylics, with a special emphasis on drawing on location.)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.

Varvara Neiman

Varvara Neiman - still plenty of places
10 - 17 September 2022
Water-based oils, acrylics and watercolours
To learn more about Varvara and her course at the mill, please visit her 2022 Profile Page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge (2) - recently opened, places available
17 - 24 September 2022
‘Colourful watercolours’
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.

Cynthia Armstrong

Cynthia Armstrong - fully booked, waiting list open
24 September - 1 October 2022
Watercolours and gouache
To learn more about Cynthia and her course at the mill, please visit her 2022 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot - one or two places left
1 - 8 October 2022
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.

Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth - three or four places left
8 - 15 October 2022
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.


Featured painting tutor of the month: Grahame Booth

Painting by Grahame Booth
Grahame’s atmospheric watercolour
of the river and the rear of the Watermill

Grahame Booth, from Northern Ireland, paints only in watercolour and his success is reflected in the numerous awards he has won over many years. His YouTube channel now has nearly 40,000 subscribers. Grahame only started to paint some 35 years ago, and, because he clearly remembers the problems of learning to master watercolours and he is a particularly sympathetic tutor.

Painting en plein air, he will show you how to translate the landscape into watercolours full of light, excitement and impact. As one student said: “Grahame can teach people of all levels and everyone learns and improves. Most importantly it’s always fun.” Another said: “I feel I have learned so much ...Grahame is an excellent tutor and I have taken home lots of inspirational ideas, sketches and absolutely magical holiday.”

Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth - three or four places available
8 - 15 October 2022
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2022 Profile Page.

Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

We are looking forward to knitting 2023!

Knitting colour wheel

We call our courses Knitting and la Bella Vita Italiana, because they are the perfect combination of knitting every day with like-minded people and enjoying the unspoiled atmosphere and beautiful scenery of rural Tuscany, together with inspiring teaching, warm hospitality and delicious food and wine. And to add to that that, there are excursions to an imposing castle, to market day in a walled mediaeval town, to the quintessential Italian city of Lucca or to the seaside delights of the Cinque Terre. And of course, knitting, knitting and knitting.

Bookings are already flowing in thanks not only to the fame of our tutors and so the fact that if you book any of our 2023 knitting courses now, you can enjoy it at 2022 prices. Below is the list of courses and tutors, and you can see more by going to our Watermill webpage 2023 Preview by clicking here. You will note that Georgia Farrell’s course is already fully booked, but don’t despair: there are often cancellations. So, if you would like to go on the waiting list, please get in touch via the Watermill contact form by clicking here.

Knitting at the Watermill in Tuscany, Italy

Here’s what knitting weeks we are offering next year so far.

Georgia Farell

Georgia Farell - fully booked, waiting list open
6 - 13 May 2023
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Georgia and her course at the mill, please visit our 2023 Preview Page.

Knitting Retreat at the Watermill in Italy

Watermill Knitting Retreat - still four places (two suites available, each suitable for a couple, or friends sharing)
15 - 22 July 2023
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about the Watermill Knitting Retreat at the mill, please visit our 2023 Preview 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 2023 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

Make your memories un-putdownable memoirs with Jo

We are looking forward once again to another of Jo Parfitt’s magnificent Writing Your Life Stories weeks at the Watermill next June.

Jo Parfitt’s course is the perfect first step for any writer wanting to develop the skills and confidence necessary to move into writing memoir, non-fiction, articles or blogs. It’s designed to help both enthusiastic beginners and more experienced writers. Many of her students have gone on to publish full-length books.

You’ll explore writing about childhood, people, place – and how to write with humour. Above all, you’ll discover how to write complete stories and to find the 'red threads' that will turn your work into a compelling memoir. Among other things, you’ll discover the secret of SPICE, the seven steps to writing life stories, and put this into practice right away.

Here are a couple of the many notes of praise we have received for Jo’s courses:

“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. This week has been an absolute delight. Your hospitality has known no bounds, and Jo has been an inspirational teacher. I am heading home with a head full of writerly plans.”

“I can honestly say it's been life changing for me and the setting could not have been more perfect.”

“Jo was a quite delightful teacher. I found a happy atmosphere permeating the Watermill, and I particularly liked my room.”

Below are the dates for Jo’s course. Join us and plan to change your life’s memories into unforgettable memoirs.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt - still plenty of places
17 – 24 June 2023
Write your life stories
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2023 Profile Page.



Join our Italian language course and you’ll know your chickens too

Alls quite in Florence
The Huffington Post

Come and soak up the language of this course with a difference. Not only are there formal lessons in the garden on the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but you also make trips and excursions to savour the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area around the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speak Italian, and practise what you’ve learned.

The Watermill has teamed up again with Italian language tutor Giulia Balestri, to produce a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way. Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will also be individually customised, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are.

Learning Italian at the Watermill in Europe
Soaking up the evening sun and the Italian language in the Watermill walled garden

This exciting language course is suitable for all levels of ability, because of the special approach inspired by Professor Bertrand Schwartz of Paris University, who overturned the concept of teaching to adults, with a method that not only develops theoretical knowledge, but practical know-how as well. The aim is to enhance the personal qualities of each student, tailoring the teaching to their needs and ambitions, establishing active and confident relationships, where the student is the true protagonist in the course.

Watermill language group
Learning Italian under the dappled shade
of the vine verandah

One previous course participant said: “A super language week: well organised, giving us a taste of the ‘real Italy.’ Despite the disparity in ability our tutor managed to help all of us towards a better understanding and production of the Italian language. The lessons were fun, interactive and helped me enormously.”

Another added: “I can honestly say it was the nicest week I have had for a long time.”

Although our Italian Language week this October is fully booked but we do sometimes get cancellations so please just ask if you are interested.

Our 2022 Italian Language course

Francesca la SalaGiulia Balestri - fully booked, waiting list open
15 - 22 October 2022
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Giulia and her
2022 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.

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