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

Celebrating 21 years of Art, Photography, Singing, Culture, Food, Wine and Personal Development adventures in Italy!

When the workshops are done, we also provide an opportunity for our alumni to exhibit their work at a gallery in New York City.  It is an annual juried exhibit of painting, photography, collage, drawing and sculpture. The next exhibit is scheduled for July 7-August 27, 2017 at the gallery of the Italian American Museum in New York’s Little Italy.

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

Michelino

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.

John Motondo

John has been a program facilitator with Il Chiostro over the years.  His sense of humor keeps everything going at a brisk pace.

Nicasio-2014

Nicasio Zanetti

The youngest and tallest member of our team, Nicasio comes from Washington State and studied in Florence.  He is a photographer and budding food and wine blogger.

Jim Cachey

Jim Cachey

Jim is a lawyer and real estate professional in remission. Originally from Chicago, he decided to give up the corporate life and enrolled full-time in Italian language school in Perugia.  During the Il Chiostro season he is happy to share all that he’s learned about Italy with our guests.

 

Testimonials

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.

LK

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

Articles About Il Chiostro and Our Community

Forbes Magazine

Tap Into Your Inner Artist in Italy, by Janet Rodgers, Summer 2012

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Poets & Writers

The Grand Tour European Writers Workshops and Residencies, Poets & Writers Magazine, Volume 31, Issue 2

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Stillwater Living Magazine

Wine from the Barrel, Boars on the Hoof, By Kelli Billstein, Stillwater Living Magazine

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The Almanac

Making Friends Through Her Lens, Jane Knoerle, Volume 42, Number 22

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The Cortland Standard

Former Cortland Resident Has New CD, October, 2005

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Watercolor Magazine

Painting Under the Tuscan Sun, by Joseph C. Skrapits, Spring 1999

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