The Contessa’s Retreat
Write (and dine) in a 16th-century Tuscan villa
with NYT-bestselling author Laura Fraser and chef Giovanna Tabanelli
October 6-12, 2019– Retreat only
May 9-15, 2020– Writing workshop
Spend a delicious week in the countryside near Lucca, Italy, with Laura Fraser, NYT-bestselling author of An Italian Affair. You’ll spend your days writing and savoring the culinary pleasures of a noble villa in the country, with time for walking, sight-seeing, and relaxing by a pool. This is a rare opportunity to experience Villa al Console, a 16th-century estate now owned by the Contessa Leopoldina Pallotta della Torre del Parco, a writer and literary patron who will be joining us for dinner one evening. Italian chef Giovanna Tabanelli will be cooking most meals from local sources, and will hold a market tour and cooking class. We’ll also have excursions to the nearby towns of Lucca and Viareggio.
This will be an intimate writing retreat, with a maximum of six students (partners welcome). As the facilitator, Laura will bring her love of Italy, sense of humor, fluent Italian, and long experience as a writing teacher to insure that you have a memorable week. The Tuscan spring scenery, an historic villa, and wonderful Italian meals and wine will inspire you to write and reflect about your sensory experiences. Chef Giovanna will lead a market tour and cooking course, and we will have excursions and meals in Lucca and Viareggio.
At Villa al Console, time seems to have stopped. The pastel walls, antique furnishings, and ample garden filled with lemon trees and flowers evoke the calm, romantic atmosphere of past centuries. Listed in the Association of Historical Italian Villas, Villa al Console is only five kilometers away from the famous town walls of Lucca. It has a suite, five double bedrooms, five bathrooms, a dining room, and a big frescoed salon with a grand piano where we will conduct the workshop.
This intimate workshop is open to writers who are serious about improving their craft, whether or not they are published. Participants must submit a short writing sample before registering. Our week-long retreat is also available for private groups and families without the writing component; please inquire about dates.
NOTE: The October retreat has no workshop time, just time to write, ramble, and reflect. Price adjusted accordingly.
After your arrival at the Lucca train station (easily accessible from Pisa airport, Rome or Florence), the group will drive to Villa al Console and settle in. We will share wine and introductions in the garden, followed by dinner prepared by chef Giovanna.
DAY 2–Quiet Day in the Country
Workshop: The morning will start will our first writing class, followed by lunch and a leisurely afternoon to either walk the grounds, relax, or work on your writing. Retreat: Laura will be available for writing guidance.
DAY 3–A Day in Lucca
We’ll meet in the morning before heading to Lucca for a walking tour and lunch. After an espresso, you will have a few hours to walk around Lucca by yourself, and visit its museums and shops. We’ll meet up to head back to the villa for dinner. Optional!
DAY 4–Writing at the Villa
After the morning get-together, we’ll have the whole day to work on writing, one-on-one meetings with Laura, lunch, a free afternoon, and dinner by chef Giovanna.
DAY 5–Market Day and Cooking Class
We’ll arrive early to the market in Lucca. There will be plenty of time to peruse the stalls and sample local delicacies before we take our fresh produce back to the villa for a cooking class. We’ll all make lunch together. Afternoon writing with dinner at the villa.
We’ll meet in the morning for class (workshop only) before heading to Viareggio, a Tuscan seaside town. Enjoy the seaside, winding streets and numerous shops at your leisure. Lunch on your own at one of the town’s many wonderful restaurants. We’ll head back to the villa in the afternoon for a garden dinner with the Contessa Leopoldina.
DAY 7–Buon Viaggio!
In the morning. we depart our beautiful Tuscan villa and return to the Lucca train station for connections to Pisa, Florence or Rome.
*itinerary subject to change depending on local festivals and markets.
INSIDE THE WRITING WORKSHOP
Laura Fraser’s writing workshops are dedicated to the notion that writing can be a pleasure as well as a serious craft. Immerse yourself in your writing and be inspired by the beauty of Italy– its art, food, and culture.
At the workshop, each day will start with a check-in, a short writing exercise, and lecture on craft. Since this is a small workshop, it will be tailored to participants’ needs. Participants will have quiet times to write, and will be able to share their work with others for feedback. The focus will be on writing from experience—personal essay, memoir, travel, food—though writers from any genre are welcome.
Laura Fraser is the bestselling author of An Italian Affair, and speaks fluent Italian. A widely-published journalist (the New York Times, Craftsmanship Quarterly, O Magazine, Sunset, Gourmet, Food & Wine, and many others), she was the Editorial Director of Shebooks, and has taught writing at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Stanford Continuing Education, the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and her own Laura’s Mexican Writing Fiestas. More on Laura at laurafraser.com
Giovanna Tabanelli was practically born in a kitchen. Her parents owned a restaurant in Ravenna, Italy. After careers as a teacher and in the tourist industry, she now runs Casa B, which provides authentic Italian home-cooked meals in Bologna, Italy. She and Laura have collaborated on many articles for Gourmet magazine, as well as for Craftsmanship Quarterly.
Double occupancy $2000 each (private baths will be allotted first, some rooms have shared baths.)
Single supplement $500.
This is a retreat with no writing classes, but Laura will be available as a mentor during the week.
*included in the price are 6 nights accommodations at Via al Console, all ground transportation after arriving at the train station, all group activities, cooking class, and most meals, except for lunch in Viareggio.
Double occupancy $3000 each (private baths will be allotted first, some rooms have shared baths.)
Single supplement $500. Companion who is not taking the writing course, $2500.
*included in the price are 6 nights accommodations at Via al Console, all ground transportation after arriving at the train station, all group activities, cooking class, and most meals, except for lunch in Viareggio. Also included are 12 hours of class time and a 30-minute private session with Laura.
All reservations should be made through Narrative Solutions, LLC.
To apply to the writing workshop, please email a short writing sample (1-3 pages) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will respond with registration information.
A $500 deposit is needed to secure your place in The Contessa’s Retreat. Since the number of participants is limited and accommodations vary, early registration is advised. The balance of the tour is due 60 days prior to departure. If not received by that time, we reserve the right to treat the reservation as canceled.
Most bedrooms have en suite baths. Room assignments are first-come, first-served. Here are a few of the rooms; we will email all your choices when you register.
There were so many amazing aspects of the Italian Writing Affair trip, but the people I met – the friends I made – was really the best (and most unexpected) part. The great thing about signing up for a themed retreat – in our case, writing and cooking – is that you are automatically surrounded with people who have similar interests as you. We were all different ages, and came from different parts of the States, but we had a shared love of creative writing, excellent food, belly laughs, and vino! Some of the best moments were sitting around our giant dining room table, scraping up the last morsels of tiramisu from our plates, pouring another glass of red wine, and sharing stories of our day’s adventures.
And of course, we shared our words, and Laura (Fraser) gave us all valuable tips and encouragement in our writing endeavors. Laura quickly and skillfully asked questions and provided feedback that was totally perfect for my piece.
I learned much, I laughed lots, and had one of the best times of my life! I would definitely go back again…and again, and again!!!
–Rachel Himsel, PR strategist
I highly recommend Laura’s workshops. She looks at a piece of writing and sees where it needs more structure and less clutter. She offers honest insight and encouragement. She knows what publishers are looking for and can lead the writer in the right direction while answering any number of questions in a one to one setting. Thank you, Laura, for the oil cloth bag with goodies inside, sharing your home and your friends, menu planning and everything else that made it a great experience for me.
–Cynthia Leonard, author of “Pulling Rabbits From a Hat,” in the Shebooks/Good Housekeeping anthology, Every Mother Has a Story
Laura Fraser is as gifted as a writing instructor as she is a NYT best-selling author. Not every great writer can teach writing, but Laura excels at both. With enthusiasm and compassion, she breaks down each aspect of personal writing and invites her students to be honest, bold and daring on the page. Under her guidance the words easily flow and what seemed challenging and confusing before, takes shape with new structure and voice. Her “Writing From Experience” workshop in San Miguel is much more than a workshop – it’s a cultural fiesta! While the writing classes are incredibly constructive and informative, the excursions into San Miguel’s colorful lifestyle, food, music and history make the whole experience one I’ll never forget.
–Gwen Mayes, Lawyer, Freelance Health Policy Writer
Laura Fraser’s writer’s workshop in San Miguel was everything I’d hoped it would be and much, much more. The accommodations were not just comfortable, they were absolutely luxurious and very secure. Our classes were enlightening and constructive with feedback given in a very positive manner. Sometimes it can be beyond intimidating to bare your soul in a writing group, but Laura made it a wonderful experience. She is an intelligent, experienced and very skillful writer who understands and embraces the craft of writing. She’s able to get that across easily in her classes. I left with renewed enthusiasm to see my writing project through to completion.”
–Fran Tunno, copywriter and actress
“Laura’s workshop was a pleasure and more importantly, the structure of the sessions and her facilitation allowed for very practical feedback. I do not think that every writer can create an environment where the workshop portion is actually useful, that is, where the participants can be constructive, not too nice and not too mean. But that is exactly what happened. The format allowed for a lot of learning (for me, especially on structure), a lot of re-writes and a lot of fun.
–Carol Merchasin, lawyer and essayist, author of How It Goes in Mexico, published by Shebooks.