Embrace Your Senses

Dates: 9/21/2013 - 9/28/2013
Location: Tuscan Renaissance Center
Instructor: Sandra Magsamen, Stella Ehrich
Price: $2,595 Sign Up For Embrace Your Senses

workshop details

Embrace your senses in the rolling hills of Tuscany!

Join Sandra Magsamen and Stella Ehrich for a wonderful adventure experiencing the rich culture of Italy. Fabulous landscapes, vineyards, olive groves, medieval street scenes, close-ups of nature, still life and local people will be available for our interpretation during this week of personal creativity.

Engage your senses; they are your most valued resource for living creatively. Far too often we ignore our senses: We eat dinner on the run, not tasting the flavors. We don’t see the wildflowers growing on the side of the road as we scurry to our destination. Remember, the joy of the journey is in the ride. Slow down and see, taste, touch and hear life.

Our goal will be to use our whole selves as we engage with this stimulating world each day:

  • Sandra will spend a few minutes at the start of each day sharing stories, poetry and ideas to gain knowledge and awareness
  • Through these exercises we intend to engage the group to focus on one sense for that day -taste, touch, sight, smell or hearing
  • Together we will then journey within this beautiful region of Italy to explore, define and celebrate that sense
  • day trips will be to local Tuscan places, like the iconic town of San Gimignano, the hilltop village of Radda or the medieval monastery of Pontignano
  • Through our excursions we will create written and/or sketched journals of the trips.
  • Stella will teach afternoon workshops in plein air painting in oil (all skill levels are welcome).


By concentrating on one sense per day the group will be encouraged to harvest their sensual experiences and share those through journaling, writing poetry, painting, or any other way they wish to express themselves. Participants will be able to explore this exquisite part of Tuscany with incredible guides, taking our time to savor the experience in every way, and to make the landscape and the place our own, lingering to capture it in paint on canvas.

By the end of the week together we hope to achieve a deeper connection with our surroundings and a keener means of artistic expression by fine-tuning those tools we use to absorb our environment - our senses.

 Highlights of the program:

  • Classes in landscape and still life drawing & painting, demonstrations and informal group critiques.
  • Premier accommodations at the refurbished San Fedele monastery
  • Daily breakfast, dinners (with wine) prepared by our personal chef
  • Excursions to Siena and local hilltowns and markets
  • Chianti winery tour and tasting
  • Pickup in Florence on first day/drop off in Siena on final day

Aerial view of San Fedele

Tentative Itinerary (Subject to Change):

  • Saturday 9/21 - Pick up Group at Florence train Station, arrive San Fedele, welcome toast and orientation followed by first dinner together.
  • Sunday 9/22 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Morning orientation with Sandra and Stella.
    Afternoon sketching and journaling time, followed by a Tuscan barbecue lunch. Optional dinner and wine tasting at a near by argritourismo.
  • Monday 9/23 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Morning class with Sandra: focus on Seeing.
    Visit nearby monastery of Pontignano to see garden and hidden frescos. Sketch and paint on site. Optional Independent lunch nearby or a packed boxed lunch.
    Our first afternoon of painting will focus on seeing the light and air in the landscape…how to give our paintings atmosphere and sunlight.
    Dinner at San Fedele.
  • Tuesday 9/24 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Morning class with Sandra: focus on Taste.
    Explore an authentic market in a town called Poggibonsi. Sample delicious foods from this region. Then to San Gimignano known for their towers and Vernaccia wine. Visit local shop for a balsamic vinegar tasting. Independent lunch in San Gimignano.
    At the market, we will consider what elements might be needed to convey the sense of smell for potential still life paintings. Painters will stay in San Gimignano for their afternoon work in plein air painting.
    Dinner at San Fedele.
  • Wednesday 9/25 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Morning class with Sandra: focus on Smell. We will stay on site and explore the rose and herb garden.
    Optional independent lunch in Vagliagli.
    Afternoon painting in the gardens of San Fedele with Stella. Smell the aromas of the kitchen with a cooking lesson with Chef Andrea.
    Dinner at San Fedele.
  • Thursday 9/26 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Moring class with Sandra:  focus will be on Sound. Depart for Siena. Listen to the sounds of this medieval city and its people. Independent lunch in Siena.
    Painters will stay in or near Sienna to work in the afternoon. We will consider not only the sounds of Sienna, but also the visual rhythms made by the stones of the city and the geometries of its buildings.
    Dinner at San Fedele.
  • Friday 9/27 - Breakfast at San Fedele. Morning class with Sandra: focus on Touch. Explore the near by town of Radda. Visiting a local ceramics producer called Rampini. Independent Lunch in Radda.
    Painters will consider texture in painting, relating visual language to the sense of touch. Final painting session and view of work accomplished. Art show!
    Final dinner at San Fedele
  • Saturday 9/28 - Breakfast at San Fedele.  Departure - transfers to Siena

The Food: for us at Il Chiostro, helping our guests to experience the traditional food in one of the earth`s richest, most sensual areas is our pleasure. Chianti, the part of Tuscany where we will spend our second week, is Italy`s famous wine and olive oil producing region. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking. We use seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops.  Our chef searches for the best of Tuscany to serve you at our dinner table. Tuscan cuisine is a simple art that has been refined over the centuries to surprise our palates while the wine comforts our souls. Come explore what food can really be all about.

An excerpt from a recent article in the NY Times (February, 2013):

The diet that seems so valuable is our old friend the “Mediterranean” diet. It’s as straightforward as it is un-American: low in red meat, low in sugar and hyperprocessed carbs, low in junk. High in just about everything else — healthful fat (especially olive oil), vegetables, fruits, legumes and what the people who designed the diet determined to be beneficial, or at least less-harmful, animal products; in this case fish, eggs and low-fat dairy. This is real food, delicious food, mostly easy-to-make food. You can eat this way without guilt and be happy and healthy."

About Your Il Chiostro Hosts: Linda and Michael, Il Chiostro`s directors, have chosen veteran program managers John Motondo and Michael Ferris to host your program in Tuscany.  As with all Il Chiostro staff since its inception in 1995, each person brings a special talent to the program. John is a Brooklyn Italian with the gift of bringing people together and adding life to any group. Michael charms every participant with his golden voice and together they will take care of you every step of the way. 

John has been leading groups through Tuscany for almost 6 years now while Michael has been with Il Chiostro for 10 years. They truly love this region, especially the food, and know all the secret places that bring the real Tuscany alive.

At the Tuscan Renaissance Center, the owners of San Fedele, Nicolo and Renata, live on site. They will be available throughout the program to talk about the history of the monastery, the renovation and this area of Tuscany they call home.


Price: $2,595 p/p for 7 days, based on double occupancy.

Partners and friends are welcome and might consider enrolling in the concurrent workshop Be Italian!

Optional Supplements:

  • single room - $550
  • suite - $150 p/p (limited availability)

To Register: 
Click on the "Sign Up Now" button below.  Registration requires a non-refundable deposit of $500.  Payment can be made electronically with a credit card or by sending a check to the address on the Registration Page.  Balance is due by August 15.
Once your registration is received we will send you a formal confirmation with further information about the program, including the addresses of our locations and the answers to many Frequently Asked Questions.


all Il Chiostro alumni will be eligible to submit your artwork (paintings, photographs, drawings) to our annual juried art exhibit in New York City.  If accepted, your images will be exhibit in a midtown gallery for 10 days with a gala artists` reception.

For information about this year`s exhibit go to: A Flavor of Italy


  • First class accommodations, shared double room 7 nights in restored monastery of San Fedele
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 7 dinners, including wine
  • Daily sessions with Sandra and Stella
  • studio space available
  • Excursion to Siena
  • ½ day excursion to nearby hilltown (Monteriggioni, Radda, Volpaia…)
  • Transfers from FLORENCE and return to SIENA on last day

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch (lite lunch will be available for purchase at San Fedele on days we are not out on excursion)
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

Contact us for more information:  info@ilchiostro.com or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.


Price: $2,595 Sign Up For Embrace Your Senses

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