To return to Tuscany so soon after my trip to Peralta in May was a real treat. This time my port of call was Cotto, the picturesque village in the Tuscan hills, tucked away behind the Carrara marble mountain range and near the medieval market town of Fivizzano. The first two days where not as expected sunny, but we made good use of the time and painted in and outdoors first at Cotto and on day two in the square of Fivvizano. The square has an old fountain in its centre and a big church with tower and no less than 6 bells. Thankfully they do not ring that often, so we were able to enjoy the delicious lunch at the Bar Elvetico in piece and quiet.
By the time we were ready to venture out further, the sun was out in its full glory, presenting us with clear, blue skies. Another excursion to the historic town of Lucca was great fun; some people painted, whilst others just enjoyed the sights and shops. On the way home we did not take the same route by train via the National park, but interrupted our journey at Monzone. There is a wonderful local restaurant which served us the most scrumptious Tuscan cuisine. Paulo, our friendly bus driver for the week picked up a slightly tipsy and happy lot afterwards.
This gave us ample of energy for the next day to tackle the ancient castle of Verrucula. An imposing structure, set on the top of a hill with church, campanile and stone build houses nestling at the foot of it’s towers. Conveniently, there is also a little restaurant by the fountain above the river, where we indulged in another delicious lunch.
The last day we enjoyed painting the mountain views from the balconies of La Vecchia Canonica, the old farm houses and pan tiled roofs of Cotto before getting ready for a little show in the evening. It is always a great pleasure to see the diverse work that has been done during the course. Coming together on the final night we celebrated not only a wonderful week in Tuscany with great art, but also the friendship and good spirit we all shared.
My gaze now wanders to the North, to the Scottish Highlands, where my next course is taking me. Not such a strong contrast as one would imagine. On a clear day the light in the Scottish mountains is as breathtaking as the Apuan Alps in Italy. Seeing is believing!
With best wishes for a British summer,
Painting at Peralta is always a joy, especially when the sky is blue and the sun shines on the terraces surrounded by lemon trees and Jasmine blossoms with a glistening turquoise sea in the distance. But on the first day we restrained ourselves and painted something a little less grand to get warmed up. The small, deeply set window in an old stone wall featured a wonderfully round clay pot on its sill - just the thing to try out those Burnt Sienna tones.
On Monday there was no holding back and we made an excursion to the nearby village of Torcigliano. Those of us who choose to walk, sent their painting equipment ahead with the others in the car and were able to enjoy a wonderful walk contouring along the mountainside through an enchanting forest and viewing staggering vistas across the valley to Peralta and the Mediterranean coastline. We were rewarded with the most delicious meal in Torcigliano's restaurant after a short painting session before lunch, which was continued afterwards in a slightly laid back fashion.
Another joy was our visit to the famous town of Pietrasanta. Well-known for it's marble quarry established by Michelangelo and to this day a magnet for contemporary sculptors from all over the world. The town square is of generous proportions with fantastic views for painting and cafes for cappuccino breaks. This outing was followed by an excursions to the medieval Lucca, where painting, sketching and shopping were optional, but sight seeing was a must.
The sunny weather gave way to some rain on our last two days. A great opportunity to do some portrait painting. We were lucky, our hostess Dinah Voison accommodated us in the stunning studio of the late Fiore Henriquez, left almost untouched since her death in 2004. It was an honour to be able to paint in a such a special space, surrounded by Fiore's sculptures. So came the wonderful week at Peralta to a creative conclusion.
I returned back home from Sicily to a very cold Britain last week and wished I could have turn back straight away.
This year there were two painting courses at the beautiful Fattoria Mose. And well, the weather was just brilliant in the first week with non-stop sunshine. Not as quite as much luck the following week - a bit more cloud and one rainy day. But we did enjoyed painting at all our painting locations at the Fattoria, the Valley of the Temples, the coast at San Leone and spent a day leisurely day visiting the town of Agrigento. In the second week we also discovered a new location for painting the sea with more cafes for ice creams or delicious lunches.
With the very best wishes for a sunny May, Bettina
"I came back from holiday, enthusiastic and inspired."
"Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into the holiday. It was a delight."
"I really enjoyed the week in very enjoyable company, and as usual your sense of humour (and style!) made it a memorable week with a strong fun element."
"Thanks for a great holiday Bettina. I really enjoyed it. A bit of Sicilian sparkle, after a long, cold winter!"
"It was a special holiday and such fun I will do my best to come along again next year to one of your trips."
"We had a lovely time at the Fattoria Mose and Chiara really makes you feel at home."
"I really enjoyed the painting and learned so much from you. I have made more attempts now I am home and have been putting some of your advice into practice."
"Thank you for a memorable holiday. I will hope to join you again as I really enjoyed the people I met and all the painting locations. Isn't the Fattoria an ideal place?"
On arrival in Morocco we could see the snow cupped peaks of the Atlas mountains in the far distance as we travelled towards the Nomad Palace, heading for blue skies and sunshine. Imagine the surprise when we opened our windows on the first painting day to see camels standing in the mysterious haze of a desert sandstorm. We decided to head for the Salon and settled there for a very enjoyable day painting young Berbers in their colourful robes.
The sun soon returned and we ventured out into the shady courtyards and surrounds of the Nomad Palace with it’s attractive arches, doorways and Nomad tents near the entrance. Two days later we visited a hilltop close to the desert with fantastic views across typical adobe buildings and magnificent sand dunes in the background. At tea time we set off on a trip around the Erg Chebbi – Morocco’s mini desert – and had a ‘cuppa’ with a Nomad family on the way. Another highlight was our visit to the nearby deserted village, where we painted in the cool shade of Tamarisk trees and old buildings and lunched on Berber Pizza followed by delicious Moroccan oranges.
After our wonderful days at the Nomad Palace we found it hard to say good-by to our host Ali Mouni and his friends. But we still had two great days painting in the stunning Dades Gorge and in colourful Ouarzazatete to look forward to, which made leaving just that little bit easier. Painting the lush colours of the Dades Valley from the terrace at the Auberge Panorama is always a special pleasure, since Mustafa and Ibrahim, who run the Auberge, are both artist and were delighted to meet us. I was very fortunate to be able to return to the Gorge after the course to paint, explore the area and enjoy strolling through the orchards filled with almond blossoms.
Back in London it took a while to adjust to the winter weather after the warmth of Morocco. But double sweaters have stopped me shivering in the studio!
With warmest regards, Bettina
"I enjoyed it so much, thanks for making it such a memorable trip."
"Thank you again for a wonderful time."
"I have used some photos I took to do some oil paintings and have used some of your techniques on some water colours. So it has been a most productive excursion."