Awakening the Creative Spirit Within
The Art of Seeing
The Understanding and Application of Seeing Through the Eyes of an Artist
in a splendid villa in Tuscany with
June 2nd – June 9th, 2018
As you arrive into the Tuscany region, you are greeted by the amazing landscapes of rolling hills covered by vineyards, olive groves and scattered villages throughout the region. After you settle in, you will have time to relax, explore the area, sip some mineral water or wine and breathe in the fragrance of the countryside. You will stay at the villa for the next seven days, so get comfortable and enjoy the splendor. Some mornings we will offer a yoga and meditation session to start the day, and then you will be exploring some fascinating areas and sites in Tuscany. Here is a little information on these excursions:
VINCI, the birthplace of the genius Leonardo…
On the 15th of April 1452 in the hills of Tuscany, Italy, a peasant girl named Caterina gave birth to an illegitimate son in a small town called Vinci. The father was a wealthy legal notary by the name of Piero Fruosino, and as this was an out-of-wedlock child, he could not take the family name; instead, he would take the name of the town in which he was born, Vinci, and was named Leonardo.
Leonardo da Vinci would go on to change the thinking of his generation and, in turn, every generation to follow. He would redefine art, science, invention and engineering, and in doing so help pioneer the Italian high renaissance movement during the 15th century. His most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, attracts up to 15,000 visitors a day and is arguable the most famous painting in the world today.
Leonardo would spend his early childhood with his mother, Caterina in nearby Anchiano before returning to live with his father, Ser Piero, in Vinci in 1457, at the age of five. The town of Vinci is nestled amongst the Tuscan hills, and has a population of just over 14,000. It is located 11km north of Empoli.
The skyline of Vinci is dominated by its castle; built during the 12th century it soon earned the nicknamed of the “ship castle,” due to its similar shape. While looking up at its bell tower, high above, it’s impossible not to imagine that maybe a young Leonardo looked up at this very tower. Did his dreams of flight stem from here? Did his young, curious mind first envisage his flying machine after watching the birds fly from this very tower all those centuries ago?
You will get to visit this town and spend a bit of time at the intriguing museum that offers a glimpse of the life of this brilliant mind.
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the Arno River on the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its Leaning Tower, bell tower of the cathedral, the city of over 87,500 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several palaces, and various bridges across the Arno River.
Pisa’s origins remained unknown for centuries. The city lies at the junction of two rivers, Arno and Serchio in the Ligurian Sea forming a laguna area. The Pelasgi, the Greeks, the Etruscans and the Ligurians have variously been proposed as founders of the city. Archeological remains from the 5th century BC confirmed the existence of a city at the sea, trading with Greeks and Gauls. The presence of an Etruscan necropolis, discovered during excavations in the Arena Garibaldi in 1991, allowed to clarify its Etruscan origins.
Ancient roman authors referred to Pisa as an old city. Servius wrote that the Teuti, or Pelopes, the king of the Pisei, founded the town thirteen centuries before the start of the common era. Strabo referred Pisa’s origins to the mythical Nestor, king of Pylos, after the fall of Troy. Virgil in his Aeneid states that Pisa was already a great and developed centre by the times described; the foundation of the city in the ‘Etruscan lands’ has been credited to settlers from the Alpheus coast.The maritime role of Pisa should have been already prominent if the ancient authorities ascribed to it the invention of the rostrum: it took advantage of being the only port along the western coast from Genoa (then a small village) to Ostia. Pisa served as a base for Roman naval expeditions against Ligurians, Gauls and Carthaginians. In 180 BC, it became a Roman colony under Roman law, as Portus Pisanus. In 89 BC, Portus Pisanus became a municipium. Emperor Augustus fortified the colony into an important port and changed the name in Colonia Iulia obsequens. From 313 it became the seat of a bishopric.
FLORENCE…A CITY OF STONE
Florence is an amazing city situated in the Arno valley. It’s historic importance and artistic contributionsmake it a city that is a must to visit. At the heart of the city is the Fountain of Neptune, which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct. The Arno river, which cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the men who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno — which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood. Many of the bridges across the Arno were built by the Romans.
One of the bridges in particular, however, stands out as being unique — The Ponte Vecchio, whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.The most famous palace in the city is San Lorenzo, which has become a monument to the Medici family who were one of the most powerful families in Florence during the 15th century. Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art galleries in the world.
It is a vast geographic area from the hilly landscape placed at the center of the Tuscan region, between Siena and Florence, whose limits are distinguished at the North in the Ombrone river; at the East in the Monti of the Chianti, at the South in the Arno and at the West in the valley of Elsa.Its hills, crossed by a rich network of short rivers, those of the Pesa, the Elsa, the Greve, the Ombrone and the Arbia, are everywhere famous for the incomparable naturalistic beauty and as an example of harmonious union between environment and human activity, which is reftected by the orderly cultivation of vines and olive trees and by the golden expanse of grain.
The rural reality of the Chianti region is not however monotonous, it also presents, in fact, woodland areas composed essentially of oak and chestnut trees of coppices that cover the slopes of the surfaces. The fascination of this territory lies in the perfect equilibrium between the soft forms of slopes and the thousand nuances of color and crowded woods, populated by ancient castles, secular parishes, pleasant villas and large farms, in which the tradition well mixes with the most modern criteria of organization and production.A region, so to say, with a primarily agrarian vocation, whose roots go back to a very remote past, as it is shown by it’s name, “Chianti, ” that according to some scholars would derive from the Latin clangor which stands far “sound of the trumpet”: referring to the noise produced by the instrument anciently used during the hunting parties in this territory; according to others, from Chiante, the name of etruscan families who lived here between the VII and the VIII centuries BC and to whom the introduction of the vine and it cultivation in Tuscany is attributed.The term appears far the first time in 790 in a manuscript drafted by a monk in the Badia of San Bartolomeo a Ripoli, even though the description that he gave of the territory does not seem to correspond, since the monk describes it as a very humid zone as opposed to the mountainous and dry characteristics of the Chianti region. Later, in documents of the XIII century, the term comes to refer to the Monti of the Chianti (which in reality, in spire of their name, are little more than high hills).Already around the year 1000, these lands began to appear among the possessions of the marquis Ugo of Tuscany and of his successor Bonifacio, who donated ample portions of them to the Fiorentine abbey. An approximate division of the territory between rural earldoms and the great abbeys of Passignano, Montemurlo and Coltibuono dates back to the same age: an equal partition between civil and religious power.This is the period of maximum expansion of a demolished domain that covers the region with a great number of castles spread for the most part on little hills, in militarily strategic positions. Among them are those of Cintoia, Lamole, Montefili, Montefioralle, Panzano, Verrazzano, Uzzano, Vicchiomaggio, Cacchiano, Brolio, Meleto, Tornano, Vertine, and Aiola. In this time originates the long easting contrast between Guelph Florence and Ghibelline Siena for the supremacy on a such a vast and rich area. A curious legend narrates an episode which illuminates us on the grade of existing rivalry, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, between the two republics for the attribution of their boundaries. The argument was centered on a competition of speed between two horsemen, who were to depart, one from Florence and the other from Siena, and meet at a point which would then delineate the limits of their respective territories. The hour of departure was fixed at the first calI of the rooster: The Florentines, astutely would use as an alarm clock a young black rooster which, kept without food, launched his calI much earlier than dawn. It was in this way that the florentine horseman, departing earlier could cover a greater distance than his rival, conquering more land for his republic. The place in which the two horsemen met still carries the name of Croce Fiorentina.
SIENA… A MEDIEVAL WONDER
Surrounded by olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti, Siena is one of the most beautiful cities ofTuscany. Set on three hills, the city is drawn together by winding alleyways and steep steps, whilst the Piazza del Campo stands at its heart, and the Duomo and St Maria della Scala serve as additional cultural landmarks. Famed for the “Palio”, the annual historic horse-races that take place on 2 July and 16 August, it is also home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, which ensures a vibrant Italian student atmosphere throughout the academic year.
There are so many great things you will see in Siena. It has uniquely preserved medieval architecture, and you can walk from tiny piazzas shared by you and a couple of pigeons to stately 14th and 15th century buildings. There is always something to notice and admire as you explore this unique city. Limited traffic within the city centre enhances your experience and adds to the feeling of stepping back in time into a medieval world.
Here’s a bit of history about Siena and links to find out more about this enchanting place. Siena is a city inTuscany, Italy. It is the provincial capital of Siena province.The historic center of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. Siena, like many other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900 BC to 400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina.The Etruscans were an advanced people who changed the face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim previously un-farmable land, and their custom of building their settlements in heavily armored hill-forts. It has been argued that their Pagan society which practiced matrilineal inheritance, and was devoted to their goddesses was one of the reasons why Roman Goddesses such as Diana and, with the arrival of Christianity, the Virgin Mary came to be of such importance to the people of the Italian peninsula. If this is true, it suggests that the Cult of the Virgin which is omnipresent in the fabric of Siena’s ancient stones has an origin which is older still.What we can say for certain is that the Romans founded a town called Saenna Julia on the site of a pre-existing Etruscan settlement, and from this has grown modern Siena. Siena may then have been under the control of invading Gaulish forces – who are known to have sacked Rome in 390 BC. Some archaeologists assert it was controlled for a period by a Gaulish tribe called the Saenones.The Roman origin accounts for the town’s emblem – a she-wolf suckling the infants’ Romulus and Remus. According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus can be seen all over the city of Siena. Other etymologies derive the name from the Etruscan family name “Saina”, the Roman family name of the “Saenii”, or the Latin word “senex” (“old”) or the derived form “seneo”, “to be old”.
SAN GIMIGNANO…LA CITTA DELLE BELLE TORRI
Perched on a hill with its towers thrown into sharp relief by the deep green mountains behind it, San Gimignano looks like a town plucked from a fairy tale and set into the Tuscan countryside. Of course, it’s not. Nor has it always been the sleepy little town it is today: In the late middle ages it was one of Central Tuscany’s most important trading centers, strategically perched astride the intersection between the main highway from Rome to the Alpine passes, and the road connecting the Tuscan heartland to the maritime republic of Pisa and the coast.
We will spend a half day or so visiting this ancient village that affords wonderful opportunities for unique photography and marvel at the beauty and spirit of its structures. Here’s a little more information about this charming town. San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill-top town in Tuscany, Italy, about a 35minute drive north-west of Siena and about the same distance southwest of Florence. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers. In Tuscan medieval walled towns, rich families competed in the erection of high towers, that served as lodgings, fortresses and prestige symbols. Because San Gimignano sits atop a hill the skyline can be seen for several miles outside the town. In medieval and Renaissance times it was a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican. While in other cities like Bologna or Florence, most or all of the towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes or urban renewal, San Gimignano managed to conserve about 15 towers of varying height. The modern town has extended some kilometers out and is no longer affected by this race. San Gimignano is also famous for its Torture museum, with a display of instruments and devices for torture in various times and places, complete with multi-lingual descriptions of their use.There are many churches in the town: the two main ones are the Collegiata and Sant’Agostino.The town is also known for the white wine grown in the area, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. A fictionalized version of San Gimignano features in E.M. Forster’s 1905 novel Where Angels Fear to Tread as Monteriano.
Ancient and medieval city, Lucca was founded by the Etruscans (there are traces of a pre-existing Ligurian settlement) and became a Roman colony in 180 BC. The rectangular grid of its historical centre preserves the Roman street plan, and the Piazza San Michele occupies the site of the ancient forum. Traces of the amphitheatre can still be seen in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. At the Lucca Conference, in 56 BC, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance known as the First Triumvirate. Piazza Anfiteatro and the Basilica di San Frediano. Lucca was an important city and fortress even in the 6th century, when Narses besieged it for several months in 553. Under the Lombards, it was the seat of a duke who minted his own coins. During the 8th – 10th centuries Lucca was a center of Jewish life, the Jewish community being led by the Kalonymos family (which at some point during this time migrated to Germany to become a major component of proto-Ashkenazic Jewry). Lucca became prosperous through the silk trade that began in the 11th century, and came to rival the silks of Byzantium. During the 10–11th centuries Lucca was the capital of the feudal margraviate of Tuscany, more or less independent but owing nominal allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor.