Painting the Tuscan Landscape in the Val D’Orcia

DATES: 06/06/2020 - 06/13/2020
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Giovanni d'Asso
PRICE: $3,195.00

Born with a love for drawing and painting, I’ve spent my life exploring my gift of artistic ability.  I am a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston, where I received honors and awards for outstanding achievement in Drawing, Printmaking, and Calligraphy.  For the past 35 years I’ve had a successful career as a freelance artist and calligrapher, painter and teacher, and have continually tried to display my passion for art and my drive for excellence in whatever I create.

I am a regular exhibitor of my oil, pastel and watercolor paintings in galleries, display in annual art exhibitions, and my work is collected internationally.  I also enjoy national sales of illustrated marriage certificates, known as Ketubot. (

Read More

In addition to my freelance and fine art work, one of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been teaching. I thoroughly enjoy the process, and feel that my experience in many mediums, my knowledge, my communication skills, and my sense of fun make my classes a satisfying experience for my students.

In June, 2012, after many years working and teaching out of my home studio, I finally outgrew it and founded The Art Studio in Beachwood, Ohio.   Located on Mercantile Road, The Art Studio is a multi-use art facility. In addition to being my personal studio where I paint and welcome commissions for portraits, landscapes and still lifes, I offer a variety of classes, workshops, and Live Model Days, as well as on-site Custom Framing.

My work has been published by Northlight Books, and I am represented by of Toronto.

Susie has a real gift to teach to each individual’s level and their specific needs.  The workshop was informal and relaxed, the scenery spectacular, the food and wine (can’t forget the wine) delicious. I returned home with a better understanding of my development as an artist.


  • The Portrait Society of America
  • The Pastel Society of America
  • The Degas Pastel Society
  • Ohio Watercolor Society
  • Akron Society of Artists
  • Western Reserve Calligraphers

Teaching Experience:

  • Lakeland Community College, (Beginning and Advanced Calligraphy)
    Willoughby Fine Arts Assoc., (Beginning and Advanced Calligraphy)
  • Solon Center for the Arts (Beginning Calligraphy and Adult/teen Drawing)
  • Private Lesson, Home Studio (Watercolor. Oil, Drawing)
  • The Art Studio, opened June, 2012.

There is nothing more exciting than painting on site

Check this off your Bucket List!

Experience painting “en plein air” in the breathtaking landscapes of the Val d’ Orcia area of Tuscany near Siena, with award-winning artist, Susan Cone Porges. Our home away from home for the week is a private nobleman’s villa in the town of San Giovanni d’Asso (known as the truffle capital of Italy).  Join me as we stroll, paint and blend in with the locals (or try to!) in this charming village surrounded by rolling vistas, rustic medieval towns set high in the hills, and a patchwork of vineyards. We’ll be driven each day to some of the most scenic locations in the region, where we’ll set up and paint, and have an opportunity to site see as well.

Poppie View SG

Poppy view from our terrace, photo by Linda Mironti

This workshop is for all levels of skill, from the person who wants to overcome his or her fear of painting outdoors in a nurturing and non-competitive atmosphere, to the experienced artist who wants to hone their skills and learn to create more dynamic and successful paintings. SPorges-Plein Air demo 2Through daily demonstrations followed by personal instruction at each easel, you’ll learn to create an interesting and well-balanced composition and get a better understanding of color, value, edges and techniques in the medium of your choice.  Emphasis will be put on capturing the remarkable lighting of Tuscany as well as the sights and sounds you’re experiencing while actually being “in” the landscape you’re painting, rather than creating it from a photo. There is nothing more exciting or inspirational than painting on site in an historical landscape as beautiful as Tuscany. Join me for a week of art instruction, touring and fun as we create memories together! SPorges-Plein Air demo 6Some of our locations will include the manicured garden of our villa, the charming village of San Giovanni d’Asso, nearby towns like Montalcino, the vistas of Pienza, etc.

I have attended two plein air workshops abroad with Susan Porges. Her artistic talent and expertise are so valuable. Painting on location can be intimidating but she manages to make everyone feel at ease through her positive words and guidance. I am excited to participate in any workshops she has to offer.

Meals and our “Home” Dinners are prepared by our personal chef using local and seasonal ingredients to make every meal a feast!  We’ll eat together in the dining room each evening.  Breakfast is served buffet-style.  You are free to eat indoors, out on the terrace or in the garden – or go to town one day and have a cappuccino with the locals! There is a lovely private pool at the end of the garden which makes for the perfect end to a long day painting. 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.

Demo by the chapel, by Susan Porges

Other Activities:

  • excursions to Pienza and Montalcino (the home for Brunello wine)
  • introduction to truffle hunting traditions
  • optional local winery tour
  • 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

If you’re a painter who has not painted in Italy yet, you owe it to yourself to join us.

I found the daily demos, the individual attention I received and the group critiques both helpful and inspiring. I continue to paint from my countless photos.

Demo in the garden, by Susan Porges

Price: $3,195 p/p; non-painters $2,895

Supplement:  $450 for single room, limited availability

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


  • Shared double room with private bathroom in palazzo (single room available for a supplement)
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, (including wine) prepared by our personal chef
  • Daily plein air classes with Susan
  • Excursions to nearby towns like Montalcino and Pienza
  • Transportation for all local excursions
  • Pick up from Florence train station 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
  • Art supplies
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing

“Come join me in Tuscany…”

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: 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” ( 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