Singing Your Heart Out in Tuscany

DATES: 06/15/2019 - 06/22/2019
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Giovanni d'Asso
PRICE: $2,850.00

Over a period of two decades, Helen Baldassare has trod the boards of off-Broadway, regional theatre, summer stock, supper clubs and cabarets, in the US and abroad. Along the way, she has garnered numerous awards and honors.  Most recently Helen was a recipient of a 2009 Night Life Award.  New York cabaret audiences have seen her at the original Duplex, Don`t Tell Mama, The Park Ten, Caroline`s Comedy Club, Eighty Eight`s and Rose`s Turn, as well as at the Cabaret Convention at The Town Hall and at Lincoln Center as part of the Meet The Artists series.Ms. Baldassare has taken her one-woman show from Salem, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts; she received critical acclaim at the Cairo Sheraton in Egypt; and she is currently a featured guest artist at the annual Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival.

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Off-Broadway, she was an original cast member of the phenomenon known as Nunsense portraying nearly every role in New York, Florida and Washington, D.C. Over a span of several years she shared the stage with Kaye Ballard, Peggy Cass and Jaye P. Morgan. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Ms. Baldassare returned to her alma mater in 1996 to direct the musical production Once Upon A Mattress. She earned an M.F.A. degree from the University of Utah and currently sits on the faculties of The New School University and the Turtle Bay Music School, both in New York City. She has directed numerous cabaret acts and often serves as a consultant and private coach.  This will be her 7th season with Il Chiostro. I really appreciated how you can bring out the best in each individual person and how you care about people. Thank you for sharing yourself and your talent with me.  – A student. – See more at:

Scusi!  This popular workshop is full.  If you would like to be added to our wait list, please send us email.  Hey, somebody always cancels!

Learn to tell your story through song!

This will be a very special program indeed!

We’ve been offering this unique and personal music workshop in Italy since 2001.  Our one-week intensive singing program has been such a special time for all those who have participated over the years.  This season will be even more special…a week of making music and new friends while sharing marvelous food and wine – all under that ever so famous Tuscan sun!
During this annual week of music in Italy, the singer (and the person) become revitalized.  Italy does that to you.  Discover a new freedom in your singing and a new awareness of what really matters – in your music and in your life.
This year the extra special focus added to our cabaret week will be the food and wine adventures in the MONTALCINO/MONTEPULCIANO area of Tuscany!  Here’s what we are including:
  • pecorino cheese tasting and gelato tasting in the charming medieval hamlet of Pienza
  • private cooking class with the world-renowned chef, Linda Mironti
  • market shopping for our cooking class
  • truffle tasting in our 16th century cantina with an in-depth discussion of truffles by Paolo
  • an optional dinner at the ever creative Osteria Della Crete in San Giovanni d’Asso
We will be staying in a small fairy tale of a town in southern Tuscany called San Giovanni d’Asso in the Crete Senese area of the golden hills where the Academy Award winning movie, “The English Patient” was filmed.  We will be living and singing in a beautiful 16th century manor house situated on a hillside in the small town, with glorious views of the Val d’Orcia.  AND…yes, there’s a pool!

So, imagine yourself waking up every day in a palazzo of the nobility with a beautiful Tuscan landscape stretching out beyond your window.  And all you have to do is sing!


I have found that people sing differently during this week in Italy.  They sing with more freedom and with less judgment & fear; I have also found they bring this fearlessness in artistic self-expression back home with them.

Singing with more abandon and freedom, of course, becomes possible when you are away from the stress of your daily life.

But why do this in Italy? Here’s my bias:  Everything is better in Italy!  I believe thatthe sun is warmer and more beautiful; that the soil is richer making all the food so much better; that the cuisine is magnificent and so is the wine.  Everywhere you look, there is an amazing view.  You can get lost in this exquisite beauty. Emotions and feelings seem to be more on the surface with people in this Mediterranean country thereby making it permissible for us  (who may be a little more tightly wound) to access and express ours…did I mention the food and the wine?

The extra bonus of spending time in Italy with Il Chiostro is that Linda Mironti and Michael Mele share their knowledge of, experience in and love of Italy with us.  To be given that personal view is priceless.

Images from past singing Performance workshops in Italy

Participants will learn the fundamentals of:

  • stage presence
  • connecting and communicating with an audience
  • overcoming stage fright
  • choosing appropriate musical material
  • lyric interpretation
  • refining phrasing
  • microphone technique

For those who have never performed publicly or have never ventured into the intimate environment of expressing yourself through song, the question may be, “Can I do it?” With Helen, the answer is “Yes, you can…And you’ll have fun!”

Price: $2,850 p/p; Supplements:  $450 for single room-limited availability

$500 deposit upon registration.  Balance due by April 15 (we’ll send you an invoice).


  • Shared double room in palazzo (single room available for a supplement)
  • Daily buffet breakfast and dinner, (including wine) prepared by our personal chef
  • Daily cabaret classes with Helen and pianist Bobby Peaco
  • Excursions to Tuscan towns of Pienza and Montalcino:  cheese, wine and gelato tastings
  • Cooking class
  • Truffle presentation and dinner
  • Transportation for all excursions to area hilltowns
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to train station in Buonconvento on final day for connections to Rome or Florence

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Music supplies
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by April 15th.  Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

San Giovanni d’Asso

SAN_GIOVANNI_D'ASSO-Gilbert RiosWhere We’ll Stay: This is part of our new Il Chiostro Nobile series. We will be hosted for a week in an authentic, elegantly appointed villa that was at one time home to a noble Italian family. The palazzo includes a formal garden, private swimming pool with inspiring vistas. Inside there are 8 twin, double or single bedrooms in the villa, each with a private bathroom. The rooms are decorated in authentic, elegant family antiques.

Common spaces include 2 elegant living rooms, a terrace overlooking the garden, large fireplace, kitchen and formal dining room.

The villa is across the street from a castle and within easy walking distance of the small town.  You can easily be independent to meet and interact with the locals.

Single rooms are available for a supplement of $450.

The villa from the garden

The Villa: a 13th century manor house situated on a hillside in a small town with views of the Val d’Orcia. Owned by the current family for 102 years, it was gracefully restored in the 19th century with comfortable period furnishings. The rooms are bright and airy with high ceilings and beautiful views out to the gardens and the valley beyond. Bedrooms are elegantly appointed each with a private, modern bathroom. Because we will be the exclusive residents at the villa during the program, the experience will be intimate, like living in our own Italian mansion. Our meals will be shared in the formal dining room, on the terrace or in the garden. All living quarters of the villa are on the second floor, accessible only via a staircase.

Dinner table
Dining Room and Living Room in the Villa

View from our window, photo by Linda Mironti

The Grounds: the setting is extraordinary overlooking the valley towards the Brunello wine country. There is a formal garden with a pool, lounge chairs, a shade arbor and plenty of seating for outdoor meals. The Villa is an easy walk through the facing castle (now the museum of truffles) to the quiet village of San Giovanni d’Asso.
The villa and grounds consist of:

  • 8 twin or double bedrooms, each with bathroom either ensuite or next door.
  • A dining room and breakfast area
  • Large terrace with tables
  • 2 sitting rooms
  • Wi-fi internet access
  • Heat or air conditioning as necessary
  • A large private formal garden area with fountains and, seating area
  • A private pool at garden edge with a valley view
  • There is a changing room near the pool with WC
  • Air conditioning or ceiling fans in bedrooms
  • Very quiet setting in small village

SGA-Bathroom2 SGA-Bedroom3
Double bedroom and bathroom

SGA-Bedroom Twin2Twin bedroom

The Town: San Giovanni d’Asso is in the Siena section of Tuscany. It is famous throughout Italy for its production of truffles. Small and quiet with fewer than 1,000 residents, the town has a café, grocery store, 2 restaurants, several historic churches and a weekly outdoor market. A very special addition is the beautiful botanical gardens “Il Bosco della Ragnaia” ( created by an artist who chose to turn his talents from painting and sculpture to designing and maintaining this beautiful space that is open free to the public.

The Area: San Giovanni d’Asso is 30 km southeast of Siena in the area known as the Crete Senese (see photo below). Pienza and Montalcino and the famous Brunello wine country are easy day trips.

Garden View-Gilbert Rios-sm

Garden View by Gilbert Rios


Florence will be our meeting point on the first day of the workshop. A van will pick up the group at the train station at about 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon.

We recommend that you fly into either Florence, Pisa or Rome (Milan is a bit too far away). Florence is closer but it doesn`t have an intercontinental airport, so there are no direct flights from the US. You would have to change planes in a larger European city. From the Florence airport you must take a shuttle bus (Volainbus) into the center (20 minutes).  

There are more scheduled flights from the US to Rome, many of them direct. From Rome, you will need to take a train to Florence (about 2 1/2 hours).

Important! In making your return flight arrangements, if you are flying home on Saturday after the workshop, try not to book a flight too early. From our location allow 1½ hours to get to the Florence airport or 3 ½ hours to get to the Rome airport.

For suggestions about getting to Rome or Florence, accommodations or other logistics, please consult our Traveling to Italy link in the main menu bar above. Renting a car from all the major rental agencies is possible if you prefer to be more independent during the week.

If you have time, it is a nice treat to stay in Florence before the workshop starts.  It gives you a chance to get over jet-lag while at the same time allows you to see this incredible Renaissance City.  It is filled with incomparable artwork, architecture and history – not to mention great shopping.  Why not stop in for a few days.  (Look at our Travel to Italy tab above for accommodations suggestions.)


Florence: Sunrise Over City, photo by Anne Benvenuto


Linda at SF-ESThe Food: For us at Il Chiostro, helping our guests experience the food in one of the earth`s richest, most sensual areas is our pleasure. This area is part of Italy`s famous wine and olive oil producing region, but is specifically famous for truffles. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking. Linda, a director and founder of Il Chiostro, will be your personal chef.  She uses seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops.  She creates her own twist on pasta dishes, shops in local markets for fresh mozarella and peccorino for our dinner tables. 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.

Terrace Lunch2-AH 2013 Terrace Lunch-AH 2013

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 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.

Linda-Michael with glasses-smallAbout Your Il Chiostro Hosts:  Linda and  Michael, Il Chiostro’s directors, will be hosting you at San Giovanni d`Asso.  Linda will be our chef while Michael will coordinate our excursions.  They have been organizing workshops in Italy since 1995. You can read more about them by following the About Il Chiostro link. For this week the owners of the palazzo will turn their home over to us so we can live like a noble Italian family ourselves.

In addition to your workshop, optional activities offered with this program will focus on the cultural, gastronomic, historical and artistic heritage of Tuscany. This area has been an inspiration to countless people for centuries. What Tuscany offers its visitors is truly astounding:

Art – San Giovanni d`Asso is located near the cities of Medieval Siena and Renaissance Florence packed with some of the most famous masterpieces in the world.

Wine -You are in the heart of the wine growing region, synonomous with the most famous wine that Italy produces – Chianti. But the innovative Tuscan vintners are also producing Super Tuscans, red varietals that are quickly ascending the ranks of world-class wine.

History – this area was settled by the Etruscans centuries before the Romans were a civilized society. Their necropoli dot the fields throughout the area. Nearby towns like Radda, Vagliagli and Castellina date from the early Middle Ages. Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. San Fedele witnessed most of this from its panoramic perch atop the hillside.

Foodcucina povera is the typical Tuscan cuisine that has become popular around the world. The recipes are simple, emphasizing local and seasonal products: porcini mushrooms, salumi, legumes, vegetables, pasta, bread and game meats. Visiting an outdoor food market, you will understand the wisdom of this very healthy cuisine.

Crafts – perhaps the harmony of the landscape has been the inspiration for many local craftsmen. Exquisite hand-painted ceramics are the prime example, closely followed by mosaics, leather, woodworking, and textiles.


Montalcino by Michael Ferris