Writing It Real at Lake Garda

DATES: 09/21/2017 - 09/28/2017
LOCATION: Lake Garda
PRICE: $2495.00

Sheila Bender is the founder of Writing It Real, an online community and resource center for those who write from personal experience. Her most recent books are the poetry collection, Behind Us The Way Grows Wider, the prose memoir, A New Theology Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, and two writing exercise books, Sorrow’s Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief and Writing in a Convertible With the Top Down.

Sheila received a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and since then has committed much of her career to facilitating others in writing to the essence in many genres including flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, memoir, and personal essay.

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In addition to teaching for The Writer’s Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA and The Learning Curve in Tucson, AZ, she teaches at writers’ conferences and has most recently been on the faculties of the Mendocino Writer’s Conference and Centrum’s summer Port Townsend Writers’ Workshop. She is a past Distinguished Guest Lecturer at Seattle University.

She also hosts the KPTZ.org radio program “In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.” You can listen to the programs as podcasts archived on Writingitreal.com – <https://writingitreal.com/article-archives/audio>.

Practicing Creative Nonfiction, Poetry and Fiction Strategies for Writing the Essence

If you’ve wanted to travel to Italy with a group of like-minded writing enthusiasts (all levels of experience and publications welcome!), our September, 2017 writer’s workshop at Lake Garda is a wonderful opportunity. During seven days in Italy, you’ll enjoy morning and evening writing workshops and readings, afternoon excursions with time to wander and write, and one-on-one writing consults with instructor Sheila Bender.


The romantic city of Verona

Gathering inspiration from time in Verona, from the landscape around the small, family-run hotel you’ll be housed in, from the aura of nearby villages and riding on the ferry running up the spectacular Lake Garda surrounded by mountains, not to mention the delicious food and wine served, you’ll write new work, expand older work you bring with you, and gather the responses of trusted listeners.

Bring your laptop, tablet or just pen and paper, along with curiosity about sub-genres new to you and an appetite for Italian vistas. You are guaranteed to come away enchanted, unblocked on writing that has been troubling you, and loaded with new work.

Sheila interviewed by Mark Matousek
Sheila on Writing the Personal Essay


Lake Garda with the pre-Alps lining the opposite shore

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

  • first night in charming Verona – the fabled home of Romeo and Juliet – to take notes, take photos, wander and shop
  • dinner together at a typical osteria in Verona
  • explore the two villages nearby:  Gargnano and Villa
  • excursion by ferry across the lake to the town of Malcesine for a sense of the grandeur of the area and drama of the scenery
  • optional visit to the Vittoriale, the eccentric mansion of the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio
  • optional hiking through the hills and lemon groves along the lake

Toast glasses-LM

Price: $2,495 p/p*
$375 p/p supplement for single room, limited availability
Non-participant discount $300

* $2,095 discount if registered by June 15, 2017.


  • First night in Verona
  • Shared double room in Hotel Gardenia al Lago (single room available for supplement)
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, including wine
  • Daily writing sessions with Sheila
  • Excursion on the lake to Malcesine
  • Optional visit to Vittoriale, home of eccentric poet Gabriele D’Annunzio
  • Transfer on final day back to Verona or train station at Desenzano for connections

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Gratuities
  • 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 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.


Gargnano, by Andy Holtzman

We will spend the first night of our week together in Verona at the four star Grand Hotel des Arts.  For anyone wishing to arrive early and spend your extra nights at this hotel, please contact them directly through their web site.

We’ll have our first dinner together in Verona, and the next day after an independent lunch, transfer to the lake (75 min) where we’ll spend the next 6 days at the small, family-owned Hotel Gardenia al Lago, right on the shores of Lake Garda.


Hotel Gardenia al Lago

This hotel was built on what was once a lemon and olive garden on the shores of the lake.  Because this is an original villa refurbished into a hotel, each room is different with some of the decor dating from the original 1925 family home.  Rooms are either doubles or singles (with a supplement).

Dinner will be served each evening, weather permitting, in the garden adjacent to the villa.

The charming village of Villa, with it’s small harbor and cafes, is just a few steps away.  The larger town of Gargnano is a short 10 minute walk where you will find shops, restaurants, another harbor and fantastic artisanal gelato!


The town of Gargnano, photo by Linda Mironti

The group will meet at the hotel in Verona then travel by private coach to Lake Garda (about 1+ hours).

Unless you will be traveling around before the workshop, we recommend you fly to Verona’s airport. From there you can take a taxi to the hotel.  Otherwise you can take a train to Verona from anywhere in Italy.  The station is fairly close to the hotel, but with luggage you might prefer to take a taxi.  They are parked right outside the station.

Our first meeting will be at 6pm that evening for an orientation.

Verona is a charming town with plenty to do and see.  There is the old Roman arena, several museums, plenty of high end shopping and great restaurants.  If you can take the time, why not spend a couple of days in Verona prior to the start of our workshop.

On the final day of the program a coach will take participants to either the nearby train station of Desenzano for your connections to other parts of Italy or back to the train station in Verona.  If you are flying out of Verona on that day, please try to make your flight for noon or later.

This area is not as well known as Tuscany or Venice, yet it is a spectacular part of Italy.

The Province of Lombardy: Both Milan and Lake Garda are located in the section of Italy called Lombardy bordering Switzerland to the north and the Veneto to the east. It is the most populous province of Italy. Historically Lombardy was passed among Germanic tribes, the Spanish, French and Austrians, before finally becoming part of the nation of Italy in 1861. Hence, like most regions of Italy, the distinctive character apparent today in its artwork, food, wine and architecture is a fusion of bits and pieces of these past inhabitants. Geologically speaking, many of the Alpine rivers in the north have spread out to form the famous Lakes District. These lakes nestling among the gentle slopes of Pre-Alpine hills have won for this strip of Lombardy the name of “The Garden of Italy”.

Lake Garda: 

Those who are sensitive to all that is sublime. are invited to look at the map of Lake Garda. The shores of this lake with its beautiful forests and calm waters constitute perhaps the most beautiful landscape in the world.           Stendhal

Also called Lake Benaco, Garda is the biggest of the Pre-Alpine lakes and the largest in all of Italy. It was shaped by glaciers during the last Ice Age. The climate is temperate and mild supporting the unusual Mediterranean vegetation (vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards) which has more in common with the southern regions of Italy. Given these features, the lakeside areas have since ancient times seen flourishing civilizations, from the Bronze Age to the first settlements of the Gauls until the area finally became one of the strongholds of the Romans. It takes its name from the powerful castle of Torri del Benaco that served to “guard” the entire lake area in times of pestilence and invasion. Today it is invaded mostly by German and Austrian tourists and is a popular weekend getaway for white-collar Milanese. The most famous section is the so-called Brescia Riviera, between Salò and Gargnano. This is an area of parks, gardens, large country houses, trees and well-known health resorts.


It was like another world: the world of the eagle, a world of wild abstraction, the resplendent sunlight was devouring all: it was a platform suspended in the light. Just below in a muddle of tiles, the roofs of the village, beyond which, lower down, the intense blue water of the lake; still further, before my eyes, facing me, the clear luminous snow of the mountains on the other side of the lake.

D.H. Lawrence, 1912, Twighlight in Italy
(of which the first 7 chapters are about our town of Gargnano)

Gargnano is a small town midway up the western flank of Lake Garda. It is a perfectly formed port with a bevy of yachts and sailboats bobbing behind a promenade of orange trees and lakeside cafes. Beyond this balmy beauty is the nearby town of Salò with more sinister associations – it was the capital of Benito Mussolini’s puppet government of Salò after the rout of September 1943. Mussolini himself settled in Villa Feltrinelli (yes, the same family as the bookstore) in S. Faustino. Villa Orsolina became the fascists` headquarter and the Prime Minister`s Cabinet settled in the nearby Bogliaco. This Repubblica Sociale was famous for doing nothing much except busing in whores from Milan to entertain the boys while they plotted how they might survive.


The village of Gargnano, by Linda Mironti