Il Chiostro 25th Anniversary – Special Alumni Week!

DATES: 06/06/2020 - 06/13/2020
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Giovanni d'Asso
PRICE: $2,525.00
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:

1995 was the first time we organized our program in Tuscany.  We rented a villa northeast of Siena – sight unseen! – and invited artists who we knew to come and work on their own creative projects.  All the elements seemed right, so we decided to do it again the following year, and the next and the next until we realized that we were growing a small business.  Something that started out simply as a way for us to spend more time in Italy morphed into the Il Chiostro of today, but with the same goal – to share what we love about Italy with others.

Now, 25 years later, we have expanded from that little farm house to Venice, the Cinque Terre, Lake Garda, Sicily and now, thanks to our Upside Down programs, to places in the southern hemisphere like South Africa and New Zealand.  The 2 of us can’t physically be everywhere so we have our wonderful staff, led by Michael Ferris (affectionately dubbed “Michelino” to distinguish him from Michael Mele) to carry on our tradition of providing the Il Chiostro Experience for all of our participants.

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we want to try to recreate that feeling of the early programs at the farm house.  We hope this alumni week will do just that.  The accommodations have been significantly upgraded from the old contessa’s place and Michael isn’t leading his Broadway stretch class any more, but Linda still sings and the familial feeling, sense of exploration and openness to the Italian culture should still be there.  We look forward to spending an inspiring week rediscovering ourselves and coaxing our creativity to blossom along with the spring poppies in the magical land of Tuscany.

Linda and Michael
Directors of Il Chiostro- Arts Workshops in Italy since 1995

 

1995 was the first time we organized our program in Tuscany.  We rented a villa northeast of Siena – sight unseen! – and invited artists who we knew to come and work on their own creative projects.  All the elements seemed right, so we decided to do it again the following year, and the next and the next until we realized that we were growing a small business.  Something that started out simply as a way for us to spend more time in Italy morphed into the Il Chiostro of today, but with the same goal – to share what we love about Italy with others.

Now, 25 years later, we have expanded from that little farm house to Venice, the Cinque Terre, Lake Garda, Sicily and now, thanks to our Upside Down programs, to places in the southern hemisphere like South Africa and New Zealand.  The 2 of us can’t physically be everywhere so we have our wonderful staff, led by Michael Ferris (affectionately dubbed “Michelino” to distinguish him from Michael Mele) to carry on our tradition of providing the Il Chiostro Experience for all of our participants.

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we want to try to recreate that feeling of the early programs at the farm house.  We hope this alumni week will do just that.  The accommodations have been significantly upgraded from the old contessa’s place and Michael isn’t leading his Broadway stretch class any more, but Linda still sings and the familial feeling, sense of exploration and openness to the Italian culture should still be there.  We look forward to spending an inspiring week rediscovering ourselves and coaxing our creativity to blossom along with the spring poppies in the magical land of Tuscany.

Linda and Michael
Directors of Il Chiostro- Arts Workshops in Italy since 1995

 

Come Back to Tuscany and celebrate our 25th Anniversary!

We are so excited to announce this special program celebrating 25 years of Il Chiostro offered exclusively to Alumni!

Yes, 25 years ago, this June we began bringing folks to Italy to work on creative projects in the hope that they would be inspired, as we had been, by all that Italy has to offer.

Back in 1995 our desire was to share Italy in an intimate way, as if participants were coming to visit their Italian family.  We imagined that each person would work on a creative project while we created the experiences to immerse them in the Italian culture through cuisine, wine, culture, the Italian landscape and, of course, the people.

Now, in 2020, we have designed a similar week for Il Chiostro Alumni.  Along with the planned festivities listed below, if the spirit moves you, we encourage you to work on your own creative project.  Tuscany is such an inspiring location, you might find yourself wanting to pick up a pen and paper or computer, a camera or cell phone or even a journal; and capture your experience through a form of creative expression.  Just like the early days of Il Chiostro, it will be just Linda and Michael as your hosts!


Activities

Together we will be exploring – or re-visiting – this area of Tuscany called the Val d’Orcia.  Of course everything will be optional, but some of the things we are planning are:

  • Local food – an excursion to  Pienza, for the best artisanal gelato and a pecorino cheese tasting.
  • Paolo and Milli

    Truffles, truffles, truffles! The town of San Giovanni D’Asso is known for truffles of every season. Our neighbor Paolo and his extremely cute truffle-hunting dogs will take us on an adventure to show us how to find that aromatic, earthy black summer truffle. After a truffle hunt, we’ll do a truffle, cheese and wine tasting in the original cantina of the estate where we are staying. Another night we will savor truffles and the creative Tuscan cuisine at our good friend Donatella’s restaurant in town.

  • Cooking – We’ll visit a local market and then dive into a sensual cooking class with Linda.
  • WINE! Yes, we will explore the best wine of the area Brunello di Montalcino and taste it in Montalcino!
  • Andrea’s pizza

    Pizza – one night our longtime friend Andrea (who many of you know) will come for a pizza festa, teaching us about the ancient grains he uses to make the pizza dough which we will top and then cook in our own wood-burning oven, like the old days.

  • Cultural Excursions!  history, art, unrivaled natural beauty – we are located between Siena and Montepulciano, an area that is filled with things to discover.  See our suggested list of activities below.
Poppie View SG

Poppy view from our terrace, photo by Linda Mironti


Meals and our “Home” We will stay in a 16th century palazzo in the heart of the village of San Giovanni d’Asso (click the Accommodations tab above).  Filled with antiques and artwork, it evokes the history of the area when the owners were lords of all of the land that spreads out in every direction around us.  This is the uncluttered, lush Tuscany that both inspires and brings peace to the soul.

There is a lovely private pool at the end of the garden overlooking the valley which makes for the perfect end to a long day. The villa is across the street from a historic castle and within easy walking distance of the town where there is a grocery store, cafe, restaurant and even a weekly outdoor green market.  You can easily be independent to meet and interact with the locals.

Dinners will be prepared by Linda, our personal chef for the week.  If you have been to any of our locations where Linda cooks, you know that she uses local and seasonal ingredients to make every meal a feast!  It is often said that she cooks the way she sings, with passion and creativity.  We’ll eat family-style in the dining room each evening.  Breakfast is a buffet that you can enjoy leisurely indoors, out on the terrace or in the garden – or go to town one day and have a cappuccino with the locals!


The bell tower of city hall in Siena

Special Activities:

  • cooking class with Linda
  • evening and dinner celebration together in medieval Siena
  • optional morning yoga/evening meditation with Linda Novick, our very first Il Chiostro instructor
  • truffle dinner at Donatella’s local enoteca
  • introduction to truffle hunting traditions with our neighbor Paolo and his dog Milli
  • excursions to Pienza, Montepulciano and/or Montalcino (the home for Brunello wine)
  • visit to the extraordinary frescoes of Sodoma at the abbey of Monteoliveto Maggiore
  • local, family winery tour that produces Orcia, Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello wines
  • visit to nearby botanical gardens Il Bosco della Ragnaia created by an artist who turned his talents from painting and sculpture to designing and maintaining this beautiful space

Price: $2,525* p/p

*25th Anniversary Special:  to celebrate we will apply a discount of  $25 for each workshop you have taken with Il Chiostro since 1995.

Supplement:  $450 for single room, limited availability

$500 deposit due upon registration.  Balance due by April 15, 2020.

Includes:

  • Shared double room with private bathroom in palazzo (single room available for a supplement)
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, (including wine) prepared by Linda
  • Excursions to nearby towns like Montalcino and Pienza
  • Transportation for all local excursions
  • Pick up from Florence at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to train station in Buonconvento on final day (not Florence) for connections to Rome or Florence

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

Wine buzz, photo by Denise Reisen

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.

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


 

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” (http://www.laragnaia.com/EN/) 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-2008_SunriseOverCity-ABenvenuto

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-mf-sm

Montalcino by Michael Ferris