Spannocchia (Tuscany) – July 1-11 2014
Writing Immersion in Sustainable Tuscany gives writers time, space, and structure to work creatively. Enlivening group critiques and writing exercises are available every day for the duration of the retreat.
To apply now for the summer Writing Immersion in Tuscany, click here.
This exclusive program is expected to fill well before the program deadline and has space available for twelve participants only– consider applying soon. If you’re interested, please don’t miss your chance to spend time in Tuscany with us!
Spannocchia’s dedication to preserving the traditionally sustainable way of life on a Tuscan tenuta has remarkable effects on the creative process. As people, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how we affect the land and get our food. This relationship to the land carries over into the way we think and the way we write, and guests at Spannocchia have the huge privilege of getting not only wonderful food and lodging but also an enriching experience of traditional Tuscan agriculture.
Each day at the retreat, the following activities are available:
- One-on-one manuscript guidance
- Enlivening interdisciplinary group critique
- Early morning yoga
- Direct observation painting instruction
- Pranayama breathwork
- Goal writing and wellness activities
- Delicious healthy food
- Creative writing discussion and exercises
We believe in offering a full array of activities that bring together a dynamic group of participants with varied interests and backgrounds. Each day begins with optional yoga in the villa lawn under the morning sun in the shade of enormous cypress trees. We will take a hike together through the beautifully sustained chestnut oak forest to the Castle that Only God Knows. We will feast every evening on traditional family style Italian cuisine, drink Spannocchia wine and enjoy their olive oil. We will eat local, in-season fruits and vegetables. We will learn the tenuta’s history and we will have a few painting classes. But most importantly, we will write. . . and we will write a lot.
I came here wanting to be done with six stories and I left with two new collections and notes on a novel.
I went well past what I expected I could do. If I were you, I wouldn’t hesitate to come.
-Gina, Writing Immersion Participant 2010
Run by the Spannocchia Foundation, its main emphasis has been to continue the traditions of sustainable organic agriculture and Tuscan culture.
Castello di Spannocchia provides room, accommodations, as well as meals featuring their own delicious olive oil, organic produce and wine for all program participants.
Each evening, guests are invited to meet on the veranda to chat, drink wine, and take in the sunset.
After wine, traditional Italian four-course dinner is served family-style for all guests in a lively and warm atmosphere.
Our summer retreat gives you the opportunity to feel perfectly at home in this terrific example of balance and integration between sustainable agriculture and artistic and educational enrichment. You may participate in as many additional activities as you would like. Or, you may choose to devote your time solely to your writing. This retreat is about you.
Partial scholarships available–for a limited time only. Simply mention your need in your application.
Additional Activities Available at Spannocchia
Morning Yoga and Breathwork
Every morning, Jade will lead powerful, transformative yoga classes on Spannocchia’s lawn (open to our participants only). Jade is trained in Pranakriya Tantra Hatha Yoga and a variety of fitness yoga traditions. She combines pranayama (breath work) and ancient yoga traditions with modern alignment and fitness expertise. The class will accommodate your needs, whether you are brand new to yoga or already skilled. Jade focuses on her participants and gives each of them support and attention. The classes will lengthen and strengthen your muscles, increase your body awareness and tranquility, calm your mind and raise your energy. You will be smiling and heartfelt, feeling expanded and full of life at the beginning of each day.
As a host guides you through the numerous areas of the Castello including
the Villa, Tower and Fattoria you will learn about the architecture of the Castello, the histories of the Cinelli and Spannocchi families, the mezzadria sharecropping system, by which Spannocchia operated for centuries, and past and present agricultural activities in the property. The tour will also visit Spannocchia’s own Catholic Chapel which was once used as the community church for the estate and the museum, which houses ancient Etruscan archaeological artifacts from multiple Tuscan sites. Lastly, climb Spannocchia’s medieval tower for a breath-taking view of the 1100 acres of rolling hills and farmland surrounding the Castello.
Time: The morning after arrival
Traditional Tuscan Cooking Class
The cooking class begins at 9 am with a tour through the vegetable garden at Spannocchia with the garden manager, who will describe the cycle of the various crops through the year and her methods for providing the kitchen with fresh, flavorful products. Then to the kitchen, where with Loredana you will prepare a three course Tuscan meal utilizing food products from the estate.
The first course might be handmade pasta such as tagliatelle, ravioli, or gnocchi,or perhaps the typical “ribollita” Tuscan soup, or in summer a simple but delicious bread salad called “panzanella.” For our second course we may choose between our own farm-raised pork, beef, lamb, or chicken, or perhaps even wild game, and this will be accompanied by fresh vegetables direct from the garden. We finish with a traditional dessert such as cantucci cookies with Spannocchia vin santo, pinenut cake, tiramisu, or our renowned chocolate salame.
A vegetarian menu is also available, and we will try to fill requests for specific recipes as long as they fall within the traditions of this local region. Each lesson concludes with lunch, tasting all the dishes created during the morning class, accompanied by Spannocchia wine and spring water.
Loredana Betti grew up on Spannocchia in the 1950’s when her family was tenant farmers here. As a young girl she learned how to prepare the traditional fare of the region and eventually developed a talent notable even in this area where every housewife seems capable of culinary magic. For nearly twenty years, Loredana cooked for the Cinelli family and Spannocchia’s students and guests, until her retirement five years ago to spend more time with her three grandchildren. She still loves to produce wonderful meals for friends and family, and enjoys staying involved at Spannocchia with her weekly classes in the kitchen she knows so well.
Time: 9:00-2:30 pm weekdays, includes lunch
Price: 60 Euro per person (minimum of 6 people)
Bees & Honey
Agronomist Andrea Battino introduces participants to the wonderful world of bees! Andrea explains bee dances, bee keeping history and honey production. He concludes by leading the group through a honey tasting of several different varieties. The class lasts approximately 2 hours.
Time: Weekdays, flexible
Price: 75 Euro per group
Olives and Olive Oil
Have you ever wanted to know the whole story about olive oil and why it is such a prized product? Did you know olive oil is like wine, with different blends, and that there is a correct way of tasting it (and it isn’t on bread!)? Spannocchia Education Director Katie talks about the history of olives, and explains how olive oil is produced, complete with a slide show of Spannocchia’s olive harvest and trip to the olive press. The class concludes with a guided tasting of several Tuscan oils–including our own award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Optional walk to see some of our 700 olive trees available upon request. Lasts approximately 2 hours.
Time: Weekdays, flexible
Price: 50 Euro per group
Cinta Senese Tour & Tasting
Do you know what a Cinta Senese is? Do you know how prosciutto is made? Spannocchia Education Director Katie offers a close up look at our Noah’s Ark rare breed animals, our organic artisan meat production and the typical salumi (salt-cured meats) that we create. The tour includes a walk up Pig Hill to see our pigs (and maybe even some piglets if you’re lucky) a glimpse into our seasoning/curing room, and finishes with a guided tasting of our salumi products such as salame, prosciutto, capocollo, guancia, etc. The tour and tasting lasts around 2 hours.
Time: 10-12am weekdays
Price: 5 Euro per person (minimum 50 Euro)
Wine tasting class and Pasta tasting class
You have the option of attending these classes with our group. We will learn how to taste wine and pasta with a master. This class will have us smelling all the subtle scents in each glass of wine and noticing deep and rich flavors we didn’t know how to taste before. Katie Phelan is a phenominal teacher and a good friend. These classes are guaranteed to be really educational, deep fun and fantastic for all the senses.
Discover the native Tuscan flora and fauna through a self-guided nature walk
on the Spannocchia grounds. The walk starts at our newly completed interactive museum Casetta del Bosco and continues through the Secret Garden, with examples of nearly every type of tree present in our surrounding forests. There is a good chance you will see or at least hear many birds on your walk, so bring binoculars if you have them!
Vegetable Garden Tour
Spannocchia’s Garden Manager introduces participants to Spannocchia’s organic vegetable gardens. She explains why we choose to be organic and the different aspects of organic gardening including: crop rotation, cover crops, the creation and use of compost, and our two greenhouses. As she guides participants through the different areas of the garden, she explains the different seasonal crops growing, pointing out heirloom varieties and typical Tuscan crops grown only in this area. She also includes details about crop storage and transformation into secondary products like tomato sauce and pesto.
Time: 9am weekdays
Price: 30 Euro per group (or is included in cooking class)View from the top of the tower.
Italian Language Lessons
Learn the basics of the Italian language during your stay at Spannocchia! Instructor Valeria is available for private or group lessons. Lessons usually focus on basic grammar and vocabulary, and Valeria always encourages conversation in class! Learn how to order at restaurants, ask about bus schedules, and find out where the nearest bathroom might be. Valeria’s teaching style is flexible and she can accommodate all levels of proficiency and can tailor the class to your particular interest (art,cooking,history,farming,etc). Each class lasts one hour and Valeria will provide lesson materials.
Time: Monday through Friday, Flexible
Price: 25 Euro per hour
We can arrange for a local T’ai chi teacher to come to Spannocchia in the
mornings before or after breakfast to lead you through a series of stimulating and invigorating poses to get creative juices flowing.
Price: 25 Euro per lesson for a group of 3-6 people
The reflexologist works on pressure points on your feet or hands. Treatment sessions last between 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your body’s needs. For your convenience, the Reflexologist speaks English.
Price: 35 Euro per treatment
Take a break from writing – we can arrange a Shiatsu full-body massage to massage away travel pains and provide a moment of pure relaxation. The message is done by a certified massage therapist and typically lasts one hour.
Price: 45 Euro per hour
Frequently Asked Questions about Spannocchia
What are the meals like?
Delicious four-course traditional Tuscan cuisine is served family-style for all guests, whether staying in the villa, the fattoria, or one of several cottages on the property. When weather permits (it usually does during Italian summers), we dine outside, enjoy the company and take in the lovely weather. The exquisite lunches and dinners will quickly become one of the most memorable aspects of the retreat.
Is it easy to get to Spannocchia?
Pick-up from the Florence airport and delivery to Spannocchia on the first day of the retreat will be arranged for you. If this is your first visit to Tuscany, you won’t be certain you aren’t dreaming on the beautiful car ride to Spannocchia! If you need transportation from Spannocchia back to the Florence airport on the final morning of the retreat, it is also included.
Is it safe to drink the water?
The water is pure and drinkable. In fact, the well was blessed by San Bernardino. You may find that it tastes especially satiating. Don’t forget that there is a ready supply of wine also.
What are some nearby attractions?
Siena and San Galgano are within a half-hour’s drive. They are each
unforgettable and deserve be a part of each participants weekend travel plans. Within hiking distance are the strikingly beautiful 10th century Castle that Only God Knows and the abandoned monastery of Santa Lucia. Not far beyond the monastery is Ponte della Pia, a still-standing 1st century Roman bridge.
What else is there to do on this farm?
Besides writing and experiencing the richness of traditional Italian farm life, participants can lounge near the pool, listen to the birds and take in some Tuscan sun!
Is there electricity?
Yes, and there is a television and a computer with internet access as well as free wifi in the wifi room. Remember to bring your European travel adapter for your electronic devices.
How close is the nearest town?
Rosia is about ten to fifteen minute’s drive. There is a post office, and there are grocery and drug stores, should you need to pick up anything or mail postcards back home.
What else goes on at Spannocchia?
It is always buzzing with the rustic life of a beautifully-run farm. Every other Wednesday is Nosta Cena, a special and more formal dinner. We should also be so lucky as to witness Pizza Night, where traditional pizzas, including the legendary gorgonzola and pear, are cooked in the outdoor wooden oven. Interesting guests are always making their way in and out, and often during nice weather Spannocchia is home to traditional folk music and dancing.
What will the weather be like?
Temperatures can range in the 70s to low 100s F, with average
temperatures around high 80s. Late in the summer, the air is drier and the landscape takes on its famous golden Tuscan glow. The sun is deliciously bright.
Is there a swimming pool?
Yes, and it will be especially refreshing!
What are the accommodations like ? Is this a clean farm?
Accommodations in the villa are wonderfully kept. While everyone is used to different lifestyles, be assured that Spannocchia is priceless and special. It is, of course, surrounded by agriculture. If you expect to bask in posh lodging, it would be better to either adjust or look elsewhere.
What shall we do on our weekends?
Travel to Italy’s hidden gems nearby! Everything is available to you. Rome and Venice are just a few hours away, as is the legendary island of Elba. At Spannocchia, we will get together as a group to finalize and coordinate weekend plans to see whether car-pooling is an option.
I wrote more in the two weeks at Spannocchia than I did in my first year of my MFA.
- Rachel, 2011 Writing Immersion at Spannocchia
Partial scholarships available–for a limited time only. Simply mention your need in your application.
The door of possibility is open for you, but it won’t be for long. This retreat often fills 9 months in advance. Send in your application now before it is too late.
What’s included in the Retreat
- Ground transportation to and from the estate from the airport (FLR)
- Room and board at Spannocchia
- Tuition for all daily yoga classes, writing critiques, and wellness workshops
- Ethically-printed personal journal
- Wellness and Writing Immersion handbook filled with creative guidance and exercises
All-Inclusive Program Pricing
Wellness and Writing Immersion at Spannocchia:
Total Price of program:
€2469 €1949 (double room)
To calculate the exchange rate from Euros into another currency, please visit xe.com
The total is split into two easy payments:
(Remaining payment: €974.50)
As always, we’ll get you to and from the airport (Florence – FLR), the costs of yoga/breathwork and critique/workouts/writing instruction are included, breakfast, lunch and dinner are included (except on Saturday night), use of facilities are included. Airfare is not included.
Additional cost for single room: €640
Applications will be reviewed the order in which they are received. Due to the appeal of the retreat offerings and the date/location, it is extremely likely that the course will fill up soon. If you are approved, you should be prepared to pay the first installment soon to ensure you retain your space or it will lose it to someone else. The first installment goes toward the total amount and reserves your space. All payments are nonrefundable. Please make both of your payments as soon as possible and come on a retreat with us!
If your application has been approved, you can confirm your spot at the retreat via Paypal. You do not need to have a Paypal account — all you need is a credit or debit card.
Payment Plan Option: Split the Cost Over Four Months
For participants unable to pay for the entire retreat at once, we offer a payment plan. After paying the deposit, you can split the remaining cost of the retreat over the next three months. We want everyone whose application gets accepted to be able to participate in this experience, and so we will be happy to use this payment plan option to make this retreat a reality for you.
Should You Apply?
If you can answer yes to each of the following questions, this retreat is a good fit for you:
- Do you have an appreciation for the unique traditions of other cultures?
- Are you seeking the edge in your writing?
- Do you strive for greater physical and emotional well-being?
- Are you excited to take part in a new and empowering routine that includes the options of daily writing, yoga, painting, appreciation of nature, and the warm community of creative people?
- Are you ready for focused time for rejuvenation, self-development and peace?
If your heart says yes to this experience, send your application while there is still space available.
How to Apply
The application process is the same, whether you’re applying for a retreat in Italy, Bali, or Mexico. If you are hoping to come on a retreat, you can apply by clicking here.Photos on this page were taken by Josh Bowen, retreat participant at Spannocchia 2011.