Tag Archives: Arte Umbria

A birthday in Italy!

Having a birthday while teaching a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy, was a lovely experience.

2015-07-23 12.09.56It seemed odd to take my birthday cards with me and stand them around my room, where nobody would see them, but word had obviously gone around regarding the significance of the date – possibly aided by nearly 500 Birthday messages on Facebook! – and there were more cards, hugs and birthday wishes. And there are far worse ways to begin your birthday than sitting on a sunny terrace with your e-reader while you sip a cup of tea and wait for someone to make you a scrummy breakfast.

IMG_3490One of the course participants had even brought me a present, a patchwork table runner made by his clever wife.

2015-07-23 16.44.09The courses are held on an Umbrian estate amidst a rolling landscape of trees, the village on the next peak, stone houses and olive groves. I claim the huge terrace as my classroom, and we began work after breakfast, as usual. More important than some old birthday – it was the first day of the course.

As luck would have it, the guests went on a trip on my birthday afternoon, to La Scarzuola. I had visited this amazing restored monastery on a previous trip, so I felt justified in staying behind. I worked for an hour – honestly, I did! My work in progress was calling me – and then I took myself down through the gardens to the swimming pool to dangle my feet and soak up a few rays. As I found the chef just finishing her swim, I chatted to her about how she’d come to work in such a fantastic venue. It’s a good story. I’m not going to tell you because I want it for a future book. (Sorry.) As with many conversations with novelists, the chat may have taken the form of me interrogating her, but she didn’t seem to mind.

2015-07-23 20.21.11When the guests returned, a little gentle work rounded out the day, until it was time to get ready for another fabulous meal, including prosecco jelly as a birthday treat.

I ate two bowls full.

Don’t tell anyone.

Here are a few of my favourite pix from Arte Umbria 2015, include those from our day off, when we went to Perugia. If you fancy joining me on next year’s course it’s 13-20 July 2016. (It won’t be my birthday!) Go to www.arteumbria.com for more information.

Arte-Umbria-15-collage

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A Course with Wow!

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

I have just spent the most amazing week leading a one-week residential course for Arte Umbria in the Umbrian hills, Italy.

I’m not sure why I should be amazed – I taught there last year. But somehow I’d managed to forget some of the majesty of the views from the terrace on the Poggiolame estate, a little of the history and luxury of the stone-built house. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do it justice.

The pergola on the terrace

The pergola on the terrace

Being at a venue so secluded is novel. The estate has 200 acres, most of it wild countryside but dotted with olive groves, fruit trees, tracks to wander around. Oh yes – and a swimming pool within the lovely gardens close to the house.

Flip chart and table on the veranda

Flip chart and table on the veranda

But my function at Arte Umbria isn’t  to admire the venue, it’s to lead the writing course. There’s something special about my classroom being at a table under a veranda or lounging comfortably beneath a vine-strewn pergola, the sun beating down around. It’s almost a shame to break for (yet another) delicious meal when the bell sounds. It’s a small course so it’s possible to provide a friendly and productive atmosphere and give individual attention to each student and their work in progress.

The students were fantastic. They got so much done and moved their work on so far that I was truly impressed.

Il Duomo - the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Il Duomo – the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Sunset on the terrace

Sunset on the terrace

I even got a chapter of my own WIP written, too! It was a bit of a challenge to write about Camden at Christmas when I was in Italy in July but every day of writing teaches me something new.

I haven’t yet heard what courses Arte Umbria will be running next year but if you’re interested in a course in art, sculpture or writing in fantastic surroundings, go to http://www.arteumbria.com and book.

My room

My room

The pool

The pool

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What do you get from a writing course? Part 2

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

Celia and Laura arrive at Perugia Airport.

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!

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

The terrace, and its view, at Poggiolame.

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 from below the terrace

The house from below the terrace

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

A welcome break in the day

A welcome break in the day

– one-to-ones

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!’

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

Interior of the church at La Scarzuola

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

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

Some of the theatres at La Scarzuola

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.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can't think how that happend.

Marquesi. Sorry the pic is a little blurred. Can’t think how that happend.

Lunch on the terrace

Lunch on the terrace

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.

The terrace leads around to an apartment

The terrace leads around to an apartment

Olive grove

Olive grove

Fab scenery

Fab scenery

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

I found somewhere to hang my swimwear to dry

Laura, working hard

Laura, working hard

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Mother Earth. One of the, erm, displays at La Scarzuola.

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The Duomo

The Duomo

The salon, Poggiolame

The salon, Poggiolame

Dinner on the terrace

Dinner on the terrace

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