Tuscany: Write, Travel, Transform... and Eat!

May 23-June 1, 2023

5 spots remaining

0

As of January 17, 2023

The Place

Tuscany

Located in central Italy, Tuscany is home to stunning landscapes, world-class food, and the historic cities of Florence & Siena. It's a place of art, delicious local dishes, Chianti wines and charming hilltop towns.

Tuscany is famous for many things, but of all its qualities, the countryside is perhaps the most remarkable. Whether you are walking the vineyard trails, or driving a winding road to one of the hilltop towns, its hills, valleys, and cypress trees always seem to arrange themselves into an exquisite view. Each one more impressive than the next.

Tuscany
Villa in Tuscany

The Villa

The retreat takes place at Villa I Bonsi, located 400m above sea level in the beautiful Tuscan hills, 45 minutes away from the magical city of Florence. Originally built in the fifteenth-century, the Villa estate covers hundreds of hectares filled with olive groves, vineyards, and forest.

The Villa belongs to a noble Florentine family who dedicated themselves to restoring it to its original glorious state after it was occupied by Germans during WWII. Between the rolling hills, the wild white peacocks strolling free on the grounds, and the air of Florentine history, there is plenty to inspire and awaken the senses.

Olive trees on the estate produce one of the finest olive oils in the world. Grapes from the expansive vineyards are used to produce delicious organic wine. The land also produces fine raw honey, seasonal garden vegetables, and its own "Vinsanto" - a delicate white dessert wine that is traditionally aged in oak barrels for at least five years. Simply divine!

Writing, Yoga and Cultural Exploration

There will be a writing workshop every day except for the two days we go on all-day outings. Laura Davis will help you sharpen your powers of observation and ability to write vivid description. You will learn to record your experiences and insights with clarity and depth, facilitating a richer travel experience. We will also use writing practice, developed by Natalie Goldberg, to discover our "wild mind" and tap our deep creativity.

Beginning and experienced writers are welcome, but since the material in the class builds progressively, this will not be a drop-in class.

Sunflower in Tuscany
Carriage House at the Villa in Tuscany

Imagine stepping outside into a beautiful Tuscan morning for an hour of yoga. We’ll begin each morning with a well-rounded practice led by Iyengar yoga teacher, Karyn Bristol. Our daily sequences will focus on three aspects of yoga designed to support the needs of travelers: balance, presence, and peace.

Beginning the day with a calm focus, connected to your own center, increases relaxation, receptivity, and your capacity to be flexible, essential qualities in a traveling community.

Newcomers to yoga are welcome. Karyn is a deeply experienced, trained Iyengar yoga teacher who can modify poses to meet a wide range of experience and physical conditions.

Most days we’ll have an hour-long yoga class and a 3-hour writing class, as well as time for relaxation, exploration and rest.

A typical day will look like this:

8:00-9:00 AM:     Hour-long Yoga Class with Karyn Bristol
9:00-10:00 AM:    Breakfast
10:00-1:00 PM:     Writing Workshop with Laura Davis
1:00-2:30 PM:       Lunch
2:30-5:00 PM:       Personal Time: Siesta, Journaling, Pool Time
5:00-8:00 PM:       Late Afternoon Activities (varies by day)
8:00-10:00 PM:     Dinner

Vineyard in Tuscany

Here’s one of our favorite companions from the Villa. He loves to make a show of himself!

Who This Trip is For

Although this is a trip designed with writers in mind, this isn't a retreat where you hole up and write for most of the day. Rather, this trip is designed for people who are looking for something other than an intensive writing retreat. Our itinerary features excursions and daily opportunities to actively explore Tuscany's natural, cultural, and culinary treasures. Writing and yoga are the tools that will help you integrate this relaxing, immersion experience.

Non-Writing Spouses and Friends are welcome to join our trip. They are free to use the hours of writing class for rest, relaxation, photography, painting, exploration on their own, unexpected adventures, or whatever else they enjoy doing while on vacation.

walking in the vinyard
Steps at the Villa in Tuscany

Physical Requirements: This trip is designed for anyone in reasonable physical health, capable of walking at a relaxed pace for one to two hours at a time, able to traverse uneven terrain without the kind of assistance we take for granted in the US, like hand railings or standard step heights. The Villa is filled with stone steps everywhere!

To see Italy at ground-level requires walking, and we will walk on dirt roads or cobblestone at various times during the trip. Plan to wear sturdy and supportive footwear: tennis or walking shoes.

Just about everybody will feel sleepy during the day from the time change, which is why we include midday siestas in the schedule.

Want to know what you will be doing day-to-day in Tuscany?

Food

Traditional Tuscan Cuisine

Taking time and enjoying 'slow' meals in community are invaluable components for aging gracefully, happily, and fulfilled. This is an integral part of this trip's experience - and Italians are not new to this concept!

On most days, you will enjoy three daily multi-course meals during the retreat. Lunches will be served outside on the terrazza that overlooks the main garden. The dining room is located inside the main Villa - a seventeenth century room where you will feel like royalty!

The menu is filled with ancient Mediterranean flavors that Italian centenarians have enjoyed for generations.

kneading bread
Restaurant in Tuscany

The dishes are a celebration of the Tuscan lifestyle. They strive for creating local traditional recipes - not following the latest fads.

They use organic, fresh, seasonal, and locally-sourced ingredients.

*Please note that grains and grain products, such as bread and pasta, barley, spelt, oats, etc. are important and prevalent components of Italian cuisine. Our team is able to make reasonable accommodations for gluten and dairy free options upon request. However, if you have a severe allergy to gluten or any other kind of severe allergy, this experience may not be the right fit for you. Please be sure to discuss your needs with our team before making your reservation.

Click to view a sample menu.

Accommodations

Accommodations are held in charming apartments with double or single bedrooms and a shared living-room with a fireplace. Apartments are located in a seventeenth-century building attached to the main Villa, historically used as a convent. Its original structure has been meticulously and elegantly maintained for an authentic experience.

ALL 9 NIGHTS OF LODGING ARE INCLUDED WITH YOUR REGISTRATION.

Accommodations are simple with an old world charm. You'll feel like you've stepped back into the era of the "Grand Tour" with the beautiful period furniture.

Room in the Villa in Tuscany
Livingroom at the Villa in Tuscany

Participants will enjoy exclusive access to Villa amenities including the elegant gardens, stunning pool overlooking the Tuscan countryside and miles of olive groves and vineyard trails.

NOTE: If you sign up for a double occupancy room without having a roommate in mind, we will do our best to pair you with a roommate. If no one is available, you will be automatically upgraded to a single room with shared bath.

There are four accommodation options available:

1. SHARED
Double-Occupancy Room with Two Twin Beds and Shared Bath
Per person based on double occupancy. For couples, the two twin beds are pushed together. European-style bathrooms will be shared with one or two other participants.

2. SINGLE
Private Room with Shared Bath
Per person based on single occupancy. Bathrooms will be shared with one or two other participants.

3. SINGLE PLUS
Private Room with Private Bath
Per person based on single occupancy. The private bathrooms are in the apartment, but outside of the sleeping area.

4. MASTER SUITE (there is only one)

Private Suite with Loft Studio Apartment, a kitchen, and stand-up shower (as opposed to a bath). A spiral stair leads up to the sleeping loft.

Note: The master suite has now been booked for this retreat.

Bedroom in Villa in Tuscany
Studio for 2 in Villa in Tuscany
Master Suite

Here's What Our 2022 Travelers Had to Say

“I’d absolutely recommend this trip. It has everything: creativity, time, exercise, education, great food at an outdoor table in the twilight, and the chance to get to know your neighbor.”

—Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, CA

“Villa Bonsi is magical. The food and staff are amazing. You will be transported to a deep level of beauty and life.”

—Derya Samadi, Boston, Massachusetts

“I felt well cared for. I could relax into all the experiences we had because I was in such good hands. The organizers provided a great balance between intriguing experiences and down time to relax and wander.”

—Tamara Myers, Darwin, California

“I was delighted by how welcoming, lovely, open, and interesting our three leaders and all the group members were. That feeling of community was a precious opportunity.”

—Joni Mantell, New York City and New Hope, Pennsylvania

“So often a webpage prints a picture of perfection, but Villa Bonsi was even more beautiful that the beautiful pictures on the website. This trip provided more than I expected on every level.”

—Lucie Eggleston, Columbia, South Carolina

Would You Like to Add an Adventure to the Magical City of Florence?

Your Guides

Laura Davis: Writing Teacher

The author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor and speaker. Words have always been at the core of her work and her self-expression.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death. You can read the first five chapters for free here.

Laura has been mentoring and supporting writers for the past 20 years. It is truly the work of her heart: "I love teaching. I love watching my students find their natural voice and their rhythm. I love it when they find their true stories and discover the courage to put them on the page. I feel like a midwife as my students birth their stories, and I feel honored to witness their bursts of creativity and pure life energy pouring out on the page. Our writing circles are safe places where skills are honed, tears and laughter are welcome, and each writer is seen, heard and deeply known."

Laura leads weekly writing groups and retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region and online, as well as retreats internationally. She has taken writers to Bali, Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Peru, and Italy. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation. You can visit Laura’s media page to read, listen, and watch her talk about her work.

Laura-suit-smiling

Praise for Laura

“From the outset, Laura’s guidance was clear and gentle. She is a very skilled and gifted writing teacher and mentor. I appreciated the holding structure she provided. I never felt the group was at any risk of losing its way.”
—Gail Gorman, Belmont, Massachusetts

“Laura is solid, generous, thoughtful, and talented. She made me feel safe. I very much appreciated her patience and soothing voice encouraging us to take our time when we shared in writing class.”
—Derya Samadi, Boston, Massachusetts

“Laura’s teaching reaches me, supports me, and challenges me. That’s why I come back again and again.”

—Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, California

“Laura is a supportive and very GENEROUS teacher. I have wonderful writing and publishing resources to take back with me. One of her very first prompts launched me into a new essay that I will relish writing.”
—Lucie Eggleston, Columbia, South Carolina

“Laura made the writing class easy to participate in. I didn’t know what to expect, and I walked in feeling anxious about the unknown. Those fears melted away with Laura’s expert guidance.”
—Lynn Kamp, Holland, Michigan

Graseilah Coolidge

Graseilah Coolidge

Graseilah's passion for creating enriching educational experiences has been as diverse as her interests and background. She has led and organized international conferences and retreats for over 10 years. She has hosted events for a wide variety of groups and organizations such as the United Nations, the US government, the University of California, and many other organizations in the defense and space arena. Graseilah is the founder and host of Epic Gatherings, an international community of health enthusiasts and adventurers who come together every year to enjoy culinary and lifestyle pleasures in Italy.

Graseilah has a Master's degree in International Policy and Bachelor's degrees in International Relations and Economics. She's also an alumna of the Global Startup Program at Singularity University at NASA-Ames.

In her free time, Graseilah acts as a Transformational Nutrition ambassador and is on a mission to help people live healthier lives. Graseilah is fluent in Italian, Spanish and English. She is also proficient in French and Portuguese. She currently resides in Santa Cruz, CA with her beloved husband and continues to travel the world.

Praise for Graseilah

“Graseilah was always smiling, organized, and articulate as she fulfilled her role of leadership. She was always one step ahead of our needs. I’m so appreciative of how she took care of all of us.”
—Joni Mantell, New York City and New Hope, Pennsylvania

“Graseilah is responsive and fun. She’s warm and approachable. She’s also rock-solid, unflappable, steady-as-a-drum, essential for someone in her job. I loved getting to know her.”
—Lucie Eggleston, Columbia, South Carolina

“Graseilah is a rare find—extra special!”

—Dana Lerner, New York City

“Graseilah is such a soulful, happy person. There is something grounding about her voice and presence that drew me in. Her deep appreciation and love of Tuscany was contagious.”
—Derya Samadi, Boston, Massachusetts

"Graseilah was both professional and kind. I could tell right away that she was confident and proud of Italy and that she loved sharing Italian culture with us. She hired the best staff and executed everything to a tee.”

—Kim Lanzillota, Los Angeles, California

Karyn Bristol

When new students walk into their first yoga class, they often fear that they’re not fit or flexible enough. They worry that they don’t have the right body type or that they’re too old, that injuries or physical limitations will stand in their way. But yoga has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re young or old, large, small, or in-between, flexible or stiff, athletic or just starting to know your body, yoga can help you.

Let her show you how.

Karyn has been passionate about yoga for the past thirty years. She started studying yoga in midlife and it’s been transforming her life ever since. Her practice has brought her physical well-being, a deep connection to herself, and a growing relationship to her own spirituality.

Karyn says: “As an Iyengar yoga teacher, my greatest joy is watching students grow through the natural evolution of yoga in their lives, seeing it transform them in so many levels: increasing flexibility, reducing pain, healing mind, body and spirit, increasing joy, inspiring lifelong commitment to health and well-being.

"Let me share the gift of yoga with you.”

Karyn Bristol

Praise for Karyn

“Karyn is fabulous: centered, thoughtful, honest, funny, and very knowledgeable.
She adds hope for the future of an easier body.”
—Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, CA

“Karyn is a fantastic yoga teacher—the perfect teacher for this setting.”

—Dana Lerner, New York City

“Karyn was able to lead and demonstrate her deep knowledge of yoga
to a group who couldn’t have been more yoga-challenged.”
—Gail Gorman, Belmont, Massachusetts

“Karyn cares deeply about sharing her knowledge and understanding of yoga and the body to help people heal from improper alignment. I love the way she customized her classes to meet everyone’s individual needs.”
—Tamara Myers, Darwin California

“Karyn was so careful and attentive as a yoga teacher. I felt very seen by her and came away
with important advice on both yoga postures and how I carry myself physically.”
—Barbara Crofford, Los Angeles California

Travel

Florence: Pick-up and Drop off: Our remote piece of paradise is not easily accessible by public transportation, which is why we have arranged a complementary shuttle service to take us to and from the retreat as a group. Our pick-up spot will be close to central Florence, but just outside the city center to avoid traffic.

Please plan to be at our pick-up spot by 2 pm on May 23, 2023.

Pick-up Location: In central Florence, exact location to be determined.

If you are coming from overseas, we suggest arriving in Florence the night before the retreat.

Round-trip transportation from Florence to the Villa is included in your registration fee. If you are unable to arrive at our pick-up spot on time, you'll need to arrange and pay for your own transportation to the Villa. In this case, please let us know as soon as possible.

On our last day, we plan to leave the Villa shortly after lunch. We should be back in Florence by 5 pm on June 1, 2023 (depending on traffic).

Drop-off Location: In central Florence, exact location to be determined.

Arno river
Villa in Tuscany
Duomo in Florence, Italy
The Villa in Tuscany

Flights: Most airlines will have you stop over in a major European city like Frankfurt, Paris, or Rome before flying you into Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola (FLR)—the Florence Airport, also known as “Amerigo Vespucci” Airport. If you fly through London, try to avoid flying into Heathrow (LHR) and having to bus to Gatwick (LGW), which is 45 minutes away, without traffic.

Be sure to check on current covid travel restrictions and requirements for any country you’re considering transiting through.

We encourage you to book your flights and arrange your travel insurance (including required Covid insurance) with a trusted travel agent. We recommend that you work with our travel agent, Linda Schwedock, so that arrival times, departure times, and ground transportation are coordinated. Linda can also help you if you want to arrive sooner, leave later, or add other destinations onto your itinerary.

Linda is available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:00 am until 3 pm Pacific Time:

Linda Schwedock
Pacific Harbor Travel
519 Seabright Ave #201
Santa Cruz, CA 95062

For now, email is the best way to reach her:
linda@pacificharbortravel.com
CST# 1014242-10

Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is required for this trip. It needs to cover any medical expenses that occur during your trip, including those related to Covid-19 and quarantining and should also cover trip cancellation, in case illness or injury prevents you from going on the trip. We ask that you register for our upcoming trip only if you are comfortable with our Covid-19 policies and procedures and agree to our responsible together commitment page.

Passports, Visa and Health: A passport is required, valid six months from date of entry. No special visas are required for US citizens. Stay up-to-date with Italy’s latest travel health requirements here.

Please do not book your return flight in the morning or afternoon of June 1st (or until the morning of June 5th if you’re coming to the Florence extension). If you do, you'll miss our final closing session, and will also be responsible for arranging for and paying for your own transportation back to Florence.

TIP: We recommend that you stay in Florence at least one last night after the retreat.

The Impact of Covid on Travel

We understand that deciding when to travel next is a personal decision that comes with both excitement and reluctance, especially now. Our goal is to help you feel comfortable and supported during your trip to Italy. At the same time, there are inherent risks integral to travel. We continually assess and manage for risks, as we always do, yet some risks are in our control and others are not.

With that in mind, for the 2022 Tuscany trip, we continually monitored Covid-19 guidelines from the CDC and Italian health departments and adjusted our policies and procedures to stay in alignment with changing guidelines. We tweaked our rules as we got closer to the trip, erring on the side of caution, to keep our travelers as safe as possible. 

In 2022, we rented the entire Villa so there would be no other guests but us. We required all our travelers to take a rapid test the morning before we were scheduled to meet so they could provide evidence of a negative test. We then stayed masked whenever we were indoors until the morning of the third day when we tested again. Once everyone tested negative a second time, masks came off for the rest of the retreat.

We don’t know what spring of 2023 will look like in terms of Covid, but we will once again rent the entire Villa and apply the same attention and diligence to the 2023 trip.

We ask that you register for our upcoming trip only if you are comfortable with our Covid-19 policies and procedures and agree to our Responsible Together Commitment.

Our Trip Includes

  • Lodging for 9 nights at a tranquil charming Villa apartment
  • Round-trip transportation from our meeting point in Florence to the Villa. Please consult the schedule for pick-up and return info.
  • Writing workshops with Laura almost every day
  • Yoga instruction with Karyn every morning
  • Locally-sourced, traditional meals, freshly prepared by our Epic chef. Including:
    • A casual welcome gathering with aperitifs
    • Breakfast each morning
    • Daily lunches in the garden, except for two while we are out exploring the area (one is on-your-own)
    • Family-style dinners inside the elegant Villa or outside under the myriad of stars (weather permitting)
  • Access to Villa amenities including the elegant gardens and stunning pool overlooking the Tuscan countryside
  • Tour and wine tasting at rock-and-roll icon Sting’s gorgeous villa
  • Cooking lessons on Italian cuisine
  • A truffle hunt with a professional truffle hunter and his dogs in the hills surrounding Montespertoli
  • Villa history and garden tour
  • A day trip to Lucca, a picturesque walled town of historic significance in Tuscany
  • A tour to explore the making of organic, locally grown Laudemio olive oil
  • Local guides for many of the activities
  • Tips for activities and drivers included on the itinerary
  • A supportive, relaxed and nurturing environment
  • A wonderful experience of community and connection with a creative, adventurous group of fellow travelers
  • Multiple opportunities for deep relaxation, personal insight, pleasure, intimacy, adventure and joy.
The Villa in Tuscany

What's Not Included

Pool at the Villa in Tuscany
  • Round-trip flight to and from Florence
  • Overnight accommodations in Florence, if necessary for your flight itinerary
  • Transportation from your airport to our meeting place in Florence and back at the end of the trip
  • One lunch
  • Personal, medical, or trip cancellation insurance.
  • Souvenir shopping
  • Personal phone calls
  • Bottled water, alcoholic drinks not included in the wine tasting or extra snacks
  • Extra taxis
  • Covid testing if required
  • Personal laundry

Note: To learn what is and not included in our Florence extension trip, click here.

How Do I Sign Up For This Amazing Adventure?

Tuscany: Write, Travel, Transform . . . and Eat!

May 23 - June 1, 2023

Your Investment:

Cost: $6650 per person for double occupancy based on two people sharing a twin-bedded room at the Villa. Accommodations are European style; if you're a couple and want to have one bed, it may be two twins pushed together. Bathrooms for the double-occupancy rooms are typically outside the bedroom, shared with one other room.

Single Room Supplement: There are three types of single room upgrades. The first is a single with a shared bath that costs an additional $600. The second is a “single plus”, with a private bath, that costs an additional $950. And we have one special private master suite that includes a loft studio apartment, a kitchen, and stand-up shower (as opposed to a bath) for an additional $1500.

Note: The master suite has now been booked for this retreat.

Florence Extension: The cost for the four-day Florence extension is $1400 for a double occupancy room and $2100 for a single room. We will take a maximum of eight travelers and a minimum of four. If less than six people sign up, there will be a small group supplement of $500 per person. As of January 2023, 6 people have registered and we do not anticipate charging the supplement.

Roommates: If you sign up for a double room without having a roommate in mind, we will try to pair you up with someone. If we can’t fine someone you will be automatically upgraded to a single and you will need to pay the price difference.

Size of Trip: This is an intimate vacation, limited to 16 people, with a minimum of 11. If the minimum number is not met, you will receive a full refund. The Writer’s Journey LLC will not be responsible for any additional expenses incurred, such as nonrefundable airline tickets or passport fees.

Payment Schedule: A non-refundable deposit of $1000 is due with registration, plus a $200 non-refundable deposit if you intend to join us for the additional tour of Florence. The final balance of $5650, plus any supplements will be due March 1, 2023.

Cancellations and Refunds: The initial $1000 non-refundable deposit  (or $1200 if you signed up for Florence extension) will be forfeited in all cases. After February 1, 2023, there will be no refunds. Exceptions to this cancellation policy cannot be made for any reason, including personal emergencies. Travel protection insurance will provide your only option for recouping your investment in the trip. Please read the cancellation and refunds section carefully so that you understand the policy.

We reserve the right to cancel the trip (due to lock downs, natural disasters, border closures, or unforeseen acts of God). We will notify participants a minimum of 40 days in advance of the start date and everything you've paid directly to The Writer’s Journey LLC will be refunded—minus a $500 administrative fee. We require this fee because arranging international programs is a complex process which requires us to make advance preparations and payments regardless of whether we run the trip or not. For this reason, we recommend that you purchase “Cancel for Any Reason” travel insurance coverage and always do your due diligence about what’s being covered. This can be included in the international travel protection plan that purchased through your travel agent.

Once you complete your online registration, you will be mailed a confirmation packet that includes releases and a medical information form that you will need to complete and send back by return mail in order to complete your registration.

Do you still have questions?

Writing Retreat Tuscany

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