I promised to blog about my week leading a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy. So here it is.
I was on the same flight as four of the participants and we either travelled together or met at Perugia airport, where we were met by one of our hosts and driven through Umbria to the fabulous Tenuta di Poggialame, a 200-acre estate of woodland and olive groves. Greeted by the rest of the household, an amazing view and several glasses of ice-cold prosecco, I felt instantly at home!
A residential course at Arte Umbria is like being at a select, luxurious hotel, where all the guests have been specially chosen for their appealing qualities (they’re writers).
The house is a Sixteenth Century hunting lodge, built of stone and wood, that was renovated only a few years ago. There’s a mixture of rooms/small apartments to choose from but, though I loved my room, I used it only for sleeping or changing. I spent most of my time, whether leading the course or snatching a few minutes at my WIP, on the terrace or somewhere in the fantastic grounds. Whether I was in a sun-loving moment or needing a little shade, there was an appropriate spot.
We spent a lot of time working:
– workshops on the story arc, analysing your novel, interviewing your characters etc, before focusing in on various writing techniques
– writing exercises and group feedback
– works in progress and group feedback
Between times, we swam, or just chilled out.
And we had some great trips. In nearby Orvieto, we admired the cathedral (duomo), ate gelato and wandered around the shops in the pretty streets. We also saw a wedding where the groom trod on the train of the bride’s dress, prompting a hissed argument between broad smiles for the photographer. Most of the hissing came from the bride, while the groom just waved his hands and said, ‘Scusi! Scusi!’
We also went to La Scarzuola where Francis of Assissi hung out in the Thirteenth Century and built a pretty church. Gorgeously restored, it’s decorated with paintings on plaster of martyrs having knives thrust through their necks. And I learned the difference between painted plasterwork (painted on dry plaster) and frescoes (painted on wet plaster so the colour is absorbed, which is why
frescoes can last for centuries).
In the Twentieth Century La Scazuola was bought by an eccentric architect, Tomaso Buzzi, who had an interesting take on garden
ornaments and built a collection of mini theatres in his back garden. These take the form of a pile of buildings replicating various monuments and wonders of the world. Captivating. And a little mad.
Our final trip, one evening, was to Castello di Montegiove, where Lorenzo, the Marquesi, talked us through their wine-making process. For hand-picked, first pressings wine, ten or fifteen euros a bottle was a snip, but current security measures wouldn’t allow me to take it home so, sadly, a few sips and I had to leave it there.
To complete the post, I’m just going to post a few pix that appeal to me. Oh, yes, and say that I’m delighted to be returning to Arte Umbria next year, 2-9 July, and we’ve already had our first booking.
And I’m not going to say anything about the singing on the final evening – except that my suspicions have been confirmed. I dance better than I sing.