The Magic of Tuscany Through Your Camera

DATES: 09/28/2019 - 10/05/2019
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Fedele
PRICE: $2,850.00

Lester Lefkowitz is a New York-based professional photographer who has photographed in all fifty states and fourteen countries. He has provided images to many Fortune-500 companies and most major publications, from National Geographic to Time Magazine to The New York Times.

Lester is the author of numerous books and articles on photography, and has been a consultant to both Kodak and Polaroid. He has taught workshops and lectured at many arts, educational and professional institutions, and is a very popular teacher at The International Center of Photography (ICP). From introductory classes to advanced lighting, from basic Photoshop to close-up photography, Lester has been an enthusiastic instructor to hundreds of students.

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Lester was an early adopter of digital photography, but is still pleased to assist film photographers based on his years of experience with that lovely (old) medium. His knowledge of state-of-the-art digital imaging is extensive, working with both Macs and PCs, numerous digital cameras, and with a long list of software, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, iPhoto and Portfolio.

Lester is a major producer of stock photography; creating images for both Getty and Corbis, the two largest stock photo agencies in the world. His subject matter ranges from landscapes to cityscapes, flowers to lasers, architecture to surgery.

This new workshop is sold out!  But please contact us to get on the waiting list.  Or join Lester for his upcoming workshops in Chile and the Dolomites in 2020.

Combine the sights and stimulation of Tuscany – certainly the most beautiful region in Italy – with an opportunity to broaden and hone your photographic skills and vision. 

For a solid week, totally immerse yourself in art, architecture, nature and adventure, with sights that are a feast for the eyes. Then translate those experiences into compelling photographs with the assistance of Lester Lefkowitz – an energetic, vastly experienced and wonderfully engaging instructor.

Our home for the week will be the wonderfully restored 12th-Century San Fedele, formerly a monastery, located in the enchanting Chianti hills.  This region is famous for fine Italian wines and lovely landscapes. On most days we will venture forth in our private van to explore and photograph places such as Florence, with its magnificent Duomo, world-renowned art and charming views along the Arno River. We also plan to visit Siena, whose historic center, dating back over 1,000 years, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the hill town of San Gimignano, famous for its medieval architecture, enchanting narrow streets, and fourteen stone towers visible from miles away. Local village markets and vineyards will be additional arenas for our excursions and photographic explorations.


San Gimignano, by Lester Lefkowitz

Workshop Goals:

  • have a wonderful experience,
  • improve your visual and technical mastery of the film or digital medium, regardless of your current level, and
  • create memorable images..

Because of the small group size, each person will get a good deal of personal attention with the opportunity (but not necessity) to interact with the instructor and each other for up to sixteen hours a day.

Carefully planned daily excursions will allow abundant time for photography at visually and intellectually stimulating venues. Most mornings (and after dinner if you wish), there will be presentations by the instructor, and one-on-one attention to your personal photographic interests and needs.

Digital photography, of course, provides tremendous opportunity for immediate feedback, critique and sharing, greatly facilitating the learning process. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring not only a digital camera, but also a laptop computer.

In a studio set aside just for us, those shooting digitally will have the opportunity to download their images for immediate editing, review, and comment by instructor and class. As appropriate, Lester will offer instruction in all aspects of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, iPhoto and Portfolio for editing, organizing, image enhancement and image manipulation. If you are familiar with some other software, you are, of course, welcome to use that.

Early October is an ideal time to visit Tuscany: the weather is mild, autumn colors paint the landscape, and the olive and grape harvests are underway. Best of all, tourist hoards have diminished considerably!

Florence-Climbing the Duomo

Florence-Climbing the Duomo

This program includes:

  • Instruction that matches your experience level:  camera handling, basic camera settings and composition for people relatively new to photography.   For those more advanced, Lester will help you with shooting in RAW, professional-level exposure modes, fast and accurate focusing techniques, explanation of zillions of menu choices, white balance, and much more.
  • Tutorials in the “digital darkroom” – various software to download, edit, organize and enhance your images, from basic cropping and color correction to RAW file conversion, layers, masking and collages.
  • Excursions to capture landscapes and towns in the magical golden light around sunrise and sunset, and evening opportunities to record city scenes in the warm glow that emanates from street lamps, shops, and houses.
  • All transportation in our private van to each venue, as well as pick-up and in Florence at the beginning of the week, drop off in Siena at the end of the week.

Note: Digital photography is strongly suggested, but if you choose to shoot film, please note that there are no nearby facilities for film processing.

Price: $2,850* p/p; non-participants $2,550
Supplements:  $550 for single room-limited availability; $250 p/p for Jr. Suite

$100 Early Bird Discount if registered by April 1, 2019.

Tuscan field-LL

Olive Trees by Lester Lefkowitz


  • Accommodation (shared double or single room as priced above) in restored monastery
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, including wine
  • Daily photography classes and critiques
  • Full day excursions to Siena and Florence
  • ½ day excursion to nearby hilltown (San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Radda, Volpaia…)
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to bus/train station in Siena on final day

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch (lite lunch will be available for purchase on days we are not out on excursion)
  • Museum entry fees
  • Gratuities
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing
  • Travel insurance (which we strongly recommend)

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 August 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.

Borgo San Fedele

— San Fedele is a restored 12th century monastery floating in the Chianti hills —

©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-001Il Chiostro at San Fedele is the combined skills of Linda and Michael of Il Chiostro joining together with Nicolo and Renata of San Fedele to produce a unique and inspiring environment rooted in the traditional Tuscan values of beauty, great food, an appreciation for nature and the value of community.  The monastery, dating back to the 12th century, was meticulously restored using traditional building methods and all original materials. Today, the monastery remains true to its original spirit, rich architectural detail. The 16 rooms and suites where participants are housed have lovely modern bathrooms, screened windows, air conditioning, period furniture, wi-fi internet service, satellite television and minibar, all designed to perfectly compliment the medieval surroundings.

The original soaring chapel is now used as a large art studio or workshop space. The monks’ refectory, where a lost 16th century fresco was uncovered during renovation, is now the dining room connected to a state-of-the-art kitchen and the old stone cantinas where they stored their wine have been transformed into studio and classroom space.

For information about the history of this monastery, Click here to go to San Fedele’s web site…


Rather than  hotel, San Fedele is classified as a historic residence in Italy.  That means that it is an intimate setting, preserved along strict historical guidelines to preserve the spirit of the setting.  The owners are on site to oversee this unique combination of historic landmark and modern day comfort.

Accommodations are spacious shared double rooms or junior suites. Each room, because it was converted from the original structure of the monastery without altering the building, is unique in shape. Furnishings and decor were selected to coordinate with the historic, subdued feeling of the monastery, but in a comfortable, modern style. All rooms have two beds that can be separated into twins or combined into one large matrimonial. There is a sitting area, refrigerator, DSL wi-fi, television, air-conditioning, heating, modern private bathroom with shower and hair dryers.

lester-lefkowitz-room3 lester-lefkowitz-room2

There are a limited number of single rooms available at a supplement of $550.

2 Jr. Suites for a minimum of 2 people are available for a supplement of $250 per person.

Night shot piazza©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-010© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-022Archway from rose garden and breakfast buffet in the refectory (photos by Lester Lefkowitz)

Terrace-MJossThe back of San Fedele is surrounded by a large al fresco dining terrace with the original terra cotta tile designs reproduced down to the smallest details. The terrace overlooks the same organic vegetable and flower garden tended by the monks for centuries. Beyond are the rolling Chianti vineyards that make this part of Tuscany so breathtaking.

Other common spaces include a large classroom carved into the rock of the ancient wine cellar, an expansive private piazza, a 16 x 7 meter swimming pool and sprawling landscaped grounds on a rolling hillside.

To San Fedele-LMFlorence 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 1 ½ 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 ourTraveling to Italy link. Renting a car from all the major rental agencies is possible if you prefer to be more independent during the week.

Fall vineyards

Fall vineyards


Borgo San Fedele sits conveniently on a country road connecting the charming medieval walled town of Radda and the village of Vagliagli. Other nearby hilltowns include Castellina-in-Chianti, Monteriggioni and Volpaia. It is about 45 minutes from San Gimignano and Volterra. Many of these towns have roots in the earlier Etruscan civilization that permeated this area prior to the Romans.

San Fedele is located about 12 km northeast of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.

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. The Chianti region of Tuscany is Italy’s famous wine and olive oil producing region. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking known in the area as cucina povera. Our chef is a Tuscan native who uses recipes from her mother and grandmother to bring the tradition of not only Tuscany, but specifically the Chianti region, to the table each evening.  We use seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops. Our chef searches for the best of Tuscany to serve you. Tuscan cuisine is a simple art that has been refined over the centuries to surprise our palates while the red chianti wine comforts our souls. Come explore what food can really be all about.

© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-057Candle Light Dinner2-CharlesAnderson
About Your Il Chiostro Hosts
Linda and Michael, and their program managers will host your program in Tuscany. They have been organizing workshops in Italy since 1995 and each person brings a special talent to the program. You can read more about them by following the About Il Chiostro link. 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.

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:

Bell tower-smallArt – San Fedele is located conveniently between 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 Chianti region, synonomous with the most famous wine that Italy produces. 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.