About Us

Founders and Directors of Il Chiostro Michael Mele & Linda Mironti

Founders and Directors of Il Chiostro Michael Mele & Linda Mironti

A typical cloister - chiostro

A typical cloister – chiostro

Welcome to Il Chiostro

We celebrate Art, Photography, Singing, Culture, Food, Wine and Personal Development adventures in Italy since 1995!

Who Are We?

We are Linda Mironti and Michael Mele, both Italian Americans, both with backgrounds in the arts. Linda was a singer, then a chef, then a singer again. Michael a dancer/choreographer turned fiction writer. In the spring of 1995 we took a group of friends to Tuscany for a creative retreat. We immersed ourselves in beauty, food, wine and culture and quickly developed lasting friendships with the local community. Little did we know, that week was the beginning of what we now call the “Il Chiostro Experience”. We had no intention of starting a business but that experience was so profound that we wanted to share it again and again. In those first years every week we asked the participants to leave a thought about their stay in our book of memories.  Those thoughts and memories guided our way to creating Il Chiostro and now 21 years later we remain as inspired and excited as the first time we discovered all that Italy has to offer. We have expanded beyond Tuscany and now offer workshop locations that include Venice and Rome and many places in between.

“chiostro” = cloister

Our name is a bit tricky to pronounce (the ch is hard like in Chianti and the o’s are both long like the word photo).  In Italian “il chiostro” means the cloister, by definition a central square area within a monastery or convent, surrounded by arched walkways which is used for contemplation and seclusion from the outside world. For us, Il Chiostro is a metaphor. Take yourself away from your hectic, demanding life and place yourself in a beautiful, seductive environment that will give your spirit and creativity a chance to breathe and reconnect.

Why Italy?

Art, music, scenery, food, wine, the romantic language, friendly people, crafts, fashion,… There is a reason why Italy has inspired great artists for centuries, why the Renaissance started here, why opera and ballet were born here, why 60% of Western art is still here, why its cuisine is cherished around the world, why Italian is the language of love. There is an essence of Italy that is magic and seductive. Other places may have some of these characteristics, but Italy has them all. Our programs may take place with Tuscany or Venice or Rome as the backdrop, but Il Chiostro aims to show you an authentic Italy, not just dazzle you with highlights. We think that the good and simple life of Italy is an artwork in itself. We try to find interesting, non-traditional places to stay, like a convent or a farmhouse or a family-run winery. We don’t hurry from one town to the next, we settle in at one place for the week. We dig our heels in and talk with the man who owns the grocery store. We shop for dinner at outdoor markets, eat newly harvested figs, drink fresh wine from a vintner’s own cask. Linger over a cappuccino and watch the people come and go. Watch them watching you. Walk the dirt paths instead of pointing at them from the comfort of a tour bus. Then you’ll slowly begin to understand what makes Italy so special.

Il Chiostro is Italy. Then with the combination of good food, wine and working on a creative project with stimulating people in a sublimely beautiful setting, the deepest, most unexpected passions emerge. It happens time and again…

The Rest of the Il Chiostro Family


Michael Ferris has been a Program Manager with Il Chiostro since 2000.  His “artful spirit”, winning personality, willingness to help and beatific singing voice endear him to all of our guests.





Andrea & Massimo

“The Boys” – Andrea is from Florence and Massimo from Rome.  They complete any team as drivers, guides and resident experts on Italian culture.



John Motondo

John has been a “sometime” program facilitator with Il Chiostro ever since he took one of our workshops in 2003.  His sense of humor keeps everything going at a brisk pace.










Antonio is an architect from Rome who, together with his partner Pierpaolo, started the private touring company Roam Around Rome.  Antonio has been stepping in as an Il Chiostro guide and assistant since our inception.  He helped us inaugurate our newest program in Sicily.



Enrico Cioccolini

Started as a biology student and singer/musician, then entered the world of multimedia in the early 90’s.  He is a professional in the field of Design, Production and Marketing of Digital Media, Graphics, Events and (of course) Music. In the meanwhile he opened an Italian restaurant & deli in the center of Amsterdam and started organizing and leading wine & food tours in Italy, both for private and corporate markets.  At the beginning of 2022 he started a tour agency – La Limace Mystique –  with two friends from high school, Alessandro and Stefano. Since May 2022 all the three have been working as program manager/assistant with Il Chiostro.





Stefano Borelli

He was born in Rome from an English mother and Italian father. And has been travelling since he was a child, visiting more than 50 countries in the world.  He has a degree in Science of Communication and in the first part of his life he was an anchorman for an Italian TV channel, planning production and presentation of news. Now he is a freelance journalist writing articles on medicine science, wine and agriculture.  He is also a professional sommelier and teaches Italian enography in the school for aspiring sommeliers of Fisar (Italian Federation of Sommeliers and Restaurateurs).  He has worked for Il Chiostro since 2022 and is a partner with his friends Alex and Enrico in the tourism company called La Limace Mystique.  His other passions are running and dancing Argentine tango.





Alessandro “Alex” Dondolini
is the third member of the touring company La Limace Mystique.  Alex is a professional geologist who has worked for non-governmental agencies in the Congo in Africa, Afghanistan and other locations in the third world.






Alumni Comments

"I just can`t seem to find the words of appreciation and value for the friends and lessons I have found through the course of these workshops... they`ve completely changed my life, my photography, and my values. I wouldn`t be where I am today without that influence, experience, and friendships that I have acquired. I thank you guys - for making it all possible, and for changing lives!"

DR, Illinois

I`ll have seconds - hell, thirds of everything!

Jeanne, CA

Thank you for making time stand still…

Nina, NY

"I dream about walking around and around those narrow little streets in Siena, and Florence. I imagine all those people who have walked the paths and corridors of [the houses on the property in Tuscany] in thought and dream, now I feel I`m one of them. Thank you for sharing with me one of the best experiences in one of the best places I`ve ever been to, and for passing on your talents, inspired visual insights, fabulous cuisine Italiano, and array of "colorful" personalities."

OH, California

I came home feeling truly enriched as an artist. I feel so honored to have gotten the chance to spend time with so many talented people in such a beautiful place. I am not blessed with the gift of word, but I’ll just say, it was an awesome experience."

AW, Colorado

Thank you again for hosting us with such genuine kindness, delightfulness and surprise. Our every need was met, the dining experience way beyond our expectation for fabulous food and entertaining conversations and the setting was pure Italian. We loved our week with you all.

BY, Minnesota

My many thanks are sent to you for your generosity and care during my stay in Tuscany! It was an incredibly moving and challenging week for me, and it’s one that I’ll never forget. The raw beauty of Vagliagli and the surrounding areas was beyond anything I could imagine – and I have a pretty keen imagination! I’m not articulate enough to really give it it’s full due – but it was a very special time for me and one that I hope can last within me for a long, long time. You’re fabulous hosts, and I was honored to have the opportunity of experiencing Italy for the first time through your influence.

JB, New York

Thank you, my friends of San Fedele, for your very warm, caring and perfect hospitality. You have shown us a part of Tuscany that fully realizes all my expectations of its beauty while allowing us to paint. San Fedele was a perfect facility. It provided all comforts in very tasteful accommodations and settings. All our needs were covered while retaining a warm feeling of being also a family home, a very beautiful home.


The support from the staff during the workshop was excellent. Whatever was needed was provided cheerfully...even a broken tripod was replaced with a borrowed one from the local art school . The arrangements were outstanding...such a beautiful house and furnishings . We couldn't have had more spectacular views... in every direction. The small town of San Giovani d'Asso was charming. Walking up the hill to shops, grocery store and a caffe house for cappachino truly made me feel a part of the Italian culture. The restaurant we walked to for dinner one night was very special in that we heard the facts on truffles from a truffle expert, and was served truffle lasagne ...why not...we were in the World's Truffle Capitol. Tony went the extra step in making us aware of the healthy ingredients he used in preparing the tasty Italian dishes. I love all my new best friends

GH, San Giovanni d’Asso

It was a dream come true to be able to spend an entire week in such a lovely setting and be able to do nothing but paint and paint and paint and then go back to San Fedele and eat and eat and eat! I met such interesting and talented people from all over and will treasure all of those memories for a lifetime.

ES, Tuscan Renaissance Center

I'm sure many a tear has been shed on the eve of parting from this wonderful place. This is certainly the case here. I will never forget how my soul was filled with peace and love from everyone and the beautiful surroundings. I have grown so much this past week - evident to everyone including myself. I will never be the same. My eyes have been opened. My heart has been touched and now my spirit can fly. What is experienced here can never be captured by mere words or photographs. We who have had the opportunity know its magic. Thank you both for fulfilling your dream and sharing it with us.

Eli, NJ

My experience in Italy was amazing and I replay in my mind the highlights (which were many) over and over again. Working with my photos for this show has reminded me again what an extraordinary trip it was to a beautiful country, with an inspiring teacher, and amazing people. Dievole is a place that I hope to visit again!

SS, Autumn Arts

We had the most glorious week. After each workshop with Il Chiostro (and this is our fourth since 2002), we leave energized, refreshed, grateful and glowing. Grazie per tutto! It's a joy always to be with you and to experience Italy anew!

T&J, Venice

Big thanks to you both and your team for a memorable trip. I learned a great deal and so enjoyed the "slow travel" and the Tuscan immersion. Dievole is a very special place...

VF, Autumn Arts Festival

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