Frequently asked questions
Below are a few frequently asked questions relating to our Creative Writing Courses in Tuscany. If there are any further questions you need answering, please do not hesitate to contact us using our Contact Form.
At the Watermill
The Watermill is an historic building, dating from the 17th Century, and there are steps both internally and externally.
The Vasari Suite and the Ghirlandaio and Uccello bedrooms are accessible from ground level, with the odd step. The other bedrooms are on the first and second floors (US: second and third floors), accessed by internal and/or external stairs.
The painting studio is accessed by a flight of a dozen or so external steps.
The Vine Verandah in the Walled Garden, where aperitivi are served, has three stone steps leading from the Courtyard.
Painting on location
(click HERE for the typical painting itinerary)
Our transport will drop us off at lovely locations, but sometimes there will be a short walk to get to the best painting spots. The maximum walk (at Verrucola castle and village) is some 80 metres down quite a steep slope. At Fivizzano there is a walk of a similar distance, gently uphill from the lower gate of the town to the main piazza where the market is held. At the other locations our minibuses will drop you off within a few metres from where you will paint. As well as mobility, please also be certain you are able to carry what you need during your location painting sessions.
If you have doubts about your mobility, it would be wisest to bring a spouse or friend or carer who can help you.
Writers, language-learners and knitters
Will also be taken to these lovely locations for a quick tour and special lunches.
The above gives an indication of steps at the Watermill
None whatsoever. Everything is included in the cost of your course: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals (including dinner with wine at charming local restaurants), and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; the excursion by train to Lucca or Cinque Terre) . All you have to do is to get to Pisa and we do the rest.
On the excursion day (transport is free), at breakfast time we'll provide materials for your own picnic lunch or, if you prefer, you can buy yourself a snack or a more formal lunch when you are out - it's up to you!
Other than that you only need money for personal needs, postcards and the odd cappuccino in the piazza.
We pick you up at Pisa airport on the first day between 10am and 1pm. We organise precise pick-up times to fit in with our guests' flight arrivals times.
Transfers to the mill later than 1pm are extra, at cost. If you arrive later than 1pm, we can arrange a local taxi to come to pick you up at Pisa airport. This will be cheaper than hiring a taxi at Pisa airport. The cost for a taxi is of the order of 180 Euros. . Alternatively, there are trains from Pisa Centrale (shuttle bus from airport) to Aulla Lunigiana station and we can arrange to pick you up there, where the taxi fare will be far cheaper than from Pisa. If there are other people arriving outside our pick-up hours, we'll let you know and you will be able to share the transport costs.
Alternatively, you may care to arrive a day early and stay in Pisa overnight (See Where can I stay in Pisa? below) and come to the airport on the Saturday morning. The airport is close to the town and there is a shuttle bus from the centre, as well as a train and taxis. We will inform you of the precise time we will pick you up from the airport on Saturday morning.
We depart for Pisa on the last Saturday after breakfast. In practice, this usually means there are two minibuses, leaving 8:00 am and 9:00 am, but precise timing does depend on all our guests' flight times. Since the mill is about a one-and-a-quarter-hour to one-and-a-half-hour's drive from Pisa airport and since check-in starts two hours before flight time, your ideal return flight time should be later than about 1130 am /noon. If your flight is earlier, we’ll try to help with our complimentary drop-off, but it depends on our guests’ departures – and if your flight time means that you have to leave Posara before 7.30 am, we will arrange a taxi for you, for which you will have to pay.
For those who are leaving Pisa airport later in the day, we will drop you off at the airport in the morning. It's easy to leave your luggage there and enjoy sightseeing in the city. The airport is close to the town and there is a shuttle bus to and from the centre, as well as a train and taxis.
Please let us know your flight details as early as you can so we can make all the necessary arrangements.
A handling charge of £75 per person per week will be levied on all cancellations. In addition, if you have to cancel four to eight weeks before departure, a charge of 40% of the total price is payable; at two to four weeks, 60%; at one to two weeks, 80%; at less than one week, 90%. Once the course has started, 100% is payable. We highly recommend that you take out travel insurance that includes provision for you having to cancel.
We don’t stay there ourselves of course, but our travel advisers and guests have in the past recommended:
- Bologna Hotel Pisa - bologna.pisahotelsitaly.it/ - 4 star
- Alessandro della Spina - www.hoteldellaspina.it/ - 3 star
- Hotel Roma - www.hotelroma.pisa.it/ - 3 star
- Relais dell'Orologio - www.hotelrelaisorologio.com/eng/#!/page_splash - 5 star
- One of our guests regularly stays at the cheap and cheerful B&B Gate 52: www.gate52pisarooms.it/ and he swears it was exceptional value and very convenient.
- We also have heard good things of the 4-star Republica Marinara - www.hotelrepubblicamarinara.it/en/
Our Personal Travel Adviser, Jan Handley, of Freedom Personal Travel Advisors (part of the Thomas Cook Group), can find a hotel for you. There is absolutely no obligation to use her, but if you would like her help, her UK phone number is 0844 8716162 (freephone) or +01964 626360 (local call charge) [From outside the UK. Dial +44 844 8716162 or +44 1964 626360] and her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our UK guests:
You can book your own flights to Pisa (there are good connections from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands, Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester and Bristol and an increasing number of other UK airports).
Or, to make life easier, you can use the services of our Jan Handley, of Freedom Personal Travel Advisors (part of the Thomas Cook Group), who will fix everything for you at very competitive prices. There is absolutely no obligation to use her, but if you would like her help, her UK phone number is 0844 8716162 (freephone) or +01964 626360 (local call charge) [From outside the UK. Dial +44 844 8716162 or +44 1964 626360] and her email address is email@example.com. We have found that many travel agents these days are not very helpful and are often tied to big tour operators. Jan will give you personal service.
For our non-UK guests, we suggest you book online, or use a local travel agent. Don’t forget travel insurance!
Of course you can. You can park at the mill and we'll give you full instructions on how to get there. (We haven't lost anyone yet!). We reckon you can do Calais to the mill easily in two days using the French autoroutes and the Italian autostrade and it is even more fun if you take three days and make a holiday of the journey. We recommend stops near Strasbourg and beside Lake Como if you make a three-day trip. We'll gladly share our experiences of motoring down, suggesting routes and places to stay.
Yes, of course. Italian electricity supply is 220 Volts, You will need an adaptor from your plug to a 2-pin continental socket. We have wi-fi available in the administrative area of Apartment 1.
Predicting the weather these days is an impossible task! In the Spring and Autumn when the creative writing courses are held, the days are usually warm to hot, but it can rain, sometimes for a day or two at a time. So we recommend a lightweight waterproof coat and perhaps an umbrella. The evenings might be a little cooler so warm pullovers or tops are a good idea. (We have a saying: lunch in shirtsleeves, dinner in a pullover.) Sensible shoes for walking are also recommended.
Some dinners are taken in local restaurants, but there is no need to dress formally. You'll find the Italians are 'smart casual', but everyone is very relaxed. For the men, there is no need to pack a tie.
No, all linen and towels are provided. There's also a washing machine for communal use, but please ask us first so we can fit you in around the mill's laundering.
There are hairdryers in each room. If you bring your own, the electricity is 220V. You will need an adaptor from your system to a two-pin European plug.
In an emergency it's probably best for your friends or relatives to contact Bill on his Italian mobile: +39 327 379 9178. Or Lois at +39 328 471 3589. Or you can call our manager Karsten on his mobile: +39 347 979 3294.
If you bring your laptop you can receive emails in our communal sitting room.
Please note that the numbers above are correct; don't add or subtract zeroes to those above.
We stay in and around the mill on the first day, then take you each day to nearby locations by minibus or car. There's no strenuous walking, except perhaps a steep slope down to the castle at Verrucola. But you can paint from the car park above the village if need be.
The Wednesday excursion is to Lucca or the Cinque Terre is by train. How much walking you do when you get there is entirely up to you! There is some strenuous walking in the Cinque Terre if you want to do it, but you may just want to sit in a cafe and watch the view. Or there are ferry boats (and trains) between the villages.
Visit our Partners activities page HERE for more information
Non-participating partners are welcome to join the groups. You should certainly come on the day we go to the wonderful Al Vecchio Tino restaurant (usually the Friday) in its spectacular setting, and on the excursion to Lucca or the Cinque Terre on the Wednesday. And we have many suggestions for fun places to visit and things to do while your partner is busy on the course. If you come by car, of course, you will enjoy even more freedom. Many non-participating partners, however, find it rather relaxing to choose a quiet spot in the walled garden or the riverside gardens and settle back with a book or enjoying a dappled-sunlight snooze....