Watercolor Journaling in the Chianti Area of Tuscany

DATES: 10/05/2024 - 10/12/2024
LOCATION: Tuscany, San Fedele
PRICE: $3,595.00

Kathy Rennell Forbes is an accomplished international artist and instructor. She has taught plein air workshops in Cuba, Italy, France, Spain and the USA. Her artwork is in private and corporate collections around the world, including the French Olympic Committee in Paris. In 2019, Forbes taught watercolor workshops in Vence, France; Cinque Terre, Italy and Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Kathy is a Signature Member and past President of the Georgia Watercolor Society and has won numerous awards.  She was one of thirty master artists invited to the prestigious Olmsted Plein Air Invitational in Atlanta and Georgia Color’s Inaugural event. Her recent awards include 1st Place at the Plein Air Paint Out (PAPO) in Eatonton, GA, 1st Place at the Lake Country Fine Art Show, and Best Watercolor at Stone Mountain PAPO.

Forbes earned her BFA in Art and Art Education at the University of Georgia in Athens. Kathy currently creates, instructs, and exhibits her paintings at Studio Z in Atlanta’s Westside Arts District, at Binders Art Supply & Frames in Atlanta, GA and the Art House in Acworth, GA.

Kathy on location

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Artist Statement

Although I create many of my paintings in the studio or at live demos, my favorite place to paint is outdoors. There I become one with nature, lost in the scenery and the painting. It also keeps my work fresh and provides new challenges, whether it is a new location in a different country or dealing with the changing elements of nature. I oftentimes work in a small watercolor journal making notes in the margins and then create larger studio pieces from them, especially when traveling overseas.

You can follow Kathy on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/KathyRennellForbesArtist

Sketch and Paint in the gardens and villages of the Chianti Hills of Tuscany

Immerse yourself in a week of inspiring landscapes and painting in this workshop offered by instructor Kathy Rennell Forbes and Il Chiostro. Our focus for the week will be creating values sketches and painting watercolors of the iconic Tuscan landscape. You will learn how to simplify the scene, create your best compositions and how to select pleasing color harmonies en plein air. This workshop is open to artists of all levels and mediums, all demonstrations will be in watercolor. Kathy works with a limited palette and watercolor supplies to make international travel easier. She paints in acrylic, oil and watercolor. Now is the time to paint the beauty of Italy with her and Il Chiostro.

The fountain at San Fedele, watercolor by Kathy Rennell Forbes

What a great way to record lasting memories! Each day you will visit a new location in this area of Tuscany just north of Siena.  It is surrounded by vineyards, hill towns and olive groves.  We’ll choose different perspectives, from hilltops to village squares every day for a few hours of sketching and painting. Kathy will demonstrate and teach various ways to see, draw, simplify a scene, and creatively collect information to fill up your sketchbooks.

The Well at Pontignano, watercolor by Kathy Rennell Forbes

Student Testimonials

The Italy trip totally exceeded my expectations! Never having gone to Europe, I didn’t know what to expect really. But now I fear I’m completely spoiled by our trip to Italy as it was the most amazing, stress free, wonderful time of my life! The people, food, art and painting were perfect. Kathy did a fantastic job of leading us in painting each day through the towns and landscapes.  Thank you so much for this fantastic experience!  – Katie K.

The watercolor workshop in Italy was a wonderful experience, it was so peaceful and serene.  The towns that we visited and painted were beyond my expectations.  Our guides were extremely helpful at the various painting locations or venues.  – Jackie C.

A typical day will include early breakfast at San Fedele from 8:00- 9:30. Then Kathy will guide you with demos and then you will select your painting spot. Lunch will be on your own at local cafes in one of the villages where we paint. We will continue to paint a few hours during the afternoon or visit local sites or gardens.


Group dinners with local wine will finish off our adventurous days nicely.

Non-painter friends and family members are welcome to join us.  They can accompany us on all excursions and enjoy exploring the area while we are painting.

On the final evening, we will have an exhibition of our week’s creations.  On the final day after breakfast we will transfer back to Florence: the train station (for those traveling on) or the airport.

Come with us and capture your personal impression of this stunning corner of Italy.

Meals and our “Home”

Beautiful San Fedele, a thousand-year-old monastery near Siena, resurrected from ruins and transformed into a distinctive retreat center, will be your home away from home for a full week.

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 of the ex-monastery each evening.  Breakfast is served buffet-style.  You are free to eat indoors or out on the terrace.  There is a lovely private pool at the end of the garden which makes for the perfect end to a long day painting.

The Duomo in Siena

Additional Activities: Our daily painting will be combined with other adventures such as:

  • Day trip to Medieval Siena to sketch, take photos, explore and shop
  • Excursions to nearby hilltowns like Radda, Castellina, Monteriggioni, etc.
  • Visit to Chianti winery for a tour and tasting
  • Sunday dinner at local winery
  • Variety of plein air locations to paint landscapes, villages, and the Tuscan light

After excursions or painting on location, we’ll return each evening to relax in our 1,000 year old monastery to enjoy the surroundings, have a glass of wine, and relax after the day’s rich experiences. Then we will move to the dining room (the authentic refectory where the monks used to assemble) to enjoy our local chef’s authentic, homemade Tuscan meal, recapping the day’s adventure with good company.

Sketching a Castellina courtyard

Price: $3,795* p/p; non-painters $3,495

Supplement:  $575 for single room, limited availability

*$200 discount if registered by February 1, 2024.

$500 deposit due upon registration.  Balance due by August 15.


  • Shared double room in restored monastery
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, including wine
  • Daily painting classes and individual guidance
  • Excursion to Siena
  • ½ day painting excursions to nearby plein air settings and hilltowns (San Gimignano, Radda, Volterra,…)
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to Florence station or airport on final day

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch (lite lunch will be available for purchase at San Fedele on days we are not out on excursion)
  • Art supplies
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing
  • Gratuities – much appreciated by your hard-working staff.  (Suggested 10-20 euros per person per day.)

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A 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: info@ilchiostro.com or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

Painting in the road to San Fedele


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.

Common/Studio space in the ex-chapel

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 $575.

2 Jr. Suites for a minimum of 2 people are available for a supplement of $275 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.

The upper pool at San Fedele

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.

Above the Ponte Vecchio, photo by Andy Holtzman

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


The side of the Duomo, photo by Andy Holtzman


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.