Join me for a week on Lake Como, to write about that childhood memory, travel experience, or any other event you’ve been wanting to capture in print. Spend the mornings in writing instruction, and afternoons in leisure touring the area, eating exquisite foods and pinching yourself that it’s real.
Kathryn Abajian and I hold the writing retreat at Villa Monastero (pictured above) in Varenna, on the banks of Lake Como, Italy. We’re scheduled to repeat it September 24-30., 2017.
Come along with me for an armchair visit to learn about the villa and its origins. Maybe you’ll decide you’d like to spend a week here with us too, improving your writing skills, and partaking of the region’s foods, wines and nearby sights.
The villa was founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1208, but its mission foundered in 1667, when the nuns left for Lecco, a city to the south. After three years, the villa was sold to the Mornico family, whose weath came from the iron mining industry in the area. The family converted the monastery to a noble residence, renaming it Villa Leliana. It was held by the Mornico family for nearly three centuries, when it was sold at the end of the 1800s to the German sheep owner Walter Kaas.
But in the lead up to World War II, Kaas was declared an enemy of the state and was sent back to Germany, while Italy took over the villa. The villa was then used by the elite mountaineering unit of the Italy military called the Alpini, until it was sold in 1955 to biologist Marco de Marchi, who converted the villa into a scientific conference center.
Marchi had no heirs however, and left the villa to the Italian government with the proviso that it be used for conferences of a scientific or artistic nature.
We hold daily sessions in a sun-filled conference room overlooking the lake, surrounded by beautiful artwork created by local artists.
The villa also has a larger conference room that served as a chapel when the nuns occupied the villa, and is the place where Nobel prize winner Enrico Fermi taught his last lesson.
You can see evidence of a religious fresco is a small niche there, dating to the 13th century.
Other rooms in the villa highlight both the Germanic artistic taste of Walter Kaas, as well as highly decorative furnishings bought by de Marchi.
The villa’s extensive gardens, containing thousands of species of plants, are open to the public, but at night, we writers have the beauty of the grounds and the silence of the lake to ourselves.
Most bedrooms have modern furnishings, some with views of the lake, and a few have balconies facing the lake. Sign up early to get priority for one of these.
Writing instruction is in the morning, and you can set up your laptop by the lake in the afternoons to soak in some inspiration from the peaceful and lush surroundings.
If you need a break from writing, the town of Varenna has a lot to offer, with inviting shops and cafes.
Can you picture yourself seated along the lake sipping a cappuccino, or a glass of Prosecco?
Come with us if you like, on an afternoon visit to Vezio, and step back to the 11th century and a castle that was once home to Teodolinda, queen of the Lombards.
From the castle, you get a magnificent view of the lake and the rooftops of Varenna below.
We also eat well on our retreats, and taste local wines and cheeses, like this taleggio.
Dinners are all special, and we try different restaurants each night.
If you’d like to go further afield one afternoon, we’ll take you on the ferry to Bellagio, where the streets are as quaint as the shops are prolific.
You can even try your hand at watercolor, whether you’ve got experience or not. We can arrange a lesson for you.
It’s not to soon to start thinking about reserving a spot for next year’s retreat at Villa Monastero – September 24-30, 2017. Check out our website at www.italyinotherwords.com for more details.
How many times have you heard the phrase “Life is short?” Well, it’s not just a saying, it’s true.