Danilo’s Tuscan Cooking Lessons Inspire Creativity & Paintings!

There’s nothing better than your own private restaurant in a tiny hilltop village in Tuscany, than your own private chef!

Meet Chef Danilo!

Tuscan cooking retreat
Chef Danilo Beccattini shares his secret recipe for Florentine Ravioli

The Energizer Bunny and Tuscan muse rolled up in one, Danilo picks the olives on the side of this hill town by hand.  Yes! He climbs each tree with a ladder and shakes the olives free. Late in October, each tree is surrounded with a net and the shaking begins.

Tuscan cooking lesssons
Danilo shared a glass of home made vin santo with me in the olive grove. I captured the moment in oil paint and palette knife!

Olives are gathered into orange buckets and taken to the next village for pressing. When you come to Tuscany for Danilo’s pasta making class, you use olive oil ~ extra virgin ~ harvested from his trees.

Tuscan Cooking Lessons

Tuscan Cooking Retreat
Chef Danilo Becattini prepares seafood dinner including salmon, shrimp, cuttlefish with mouth watering fresh sauce.

No Italian cooking lesson would be complete without a Tuscan dinner party. And of course, Chianti.

Italian Cooking lessons
From cooking demonstrations, to personal instruction, to savoring the best Tuscan dinner on the hill.

Danilo’s private restaurant has a spectacular view of Florence! In the photo, you can see the restaurant windows with rounded awnings overlooking the western sky.

Inspiration for Painting!

tuscan sunset
Morning view from Danilo’s restaurant
Chef Danilo Beccattini
Chef Danilo Beccattini prepares Florentine Ravioli from a traditional Tuscan recipe.

No one goes home hungry from one of Danilo’s dinner parties. And no one goes home without an ample helping of creativity and inspiration!

Tuscan cooking lessons
Danilo’s dinner party inspired this little watercolor sketch in my journal.

Find out how you can go on a Tuscan Creativity Retreat with me and Danilo. Learn More>

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7 Rooftop Garden Paintings: Tuscany, Cinque Terre & Venice

I fell in love with backyard gardens in Tuscany

Every nook & cranny is an oasis awaiting cultivation

backyard garden painting of venice italy
Venezia Dream


Flowers cascade from every window sill and balcony. During my residency, I painted in Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Figline, Volterra, Florence, Cortona, and Venice.

The Perch by Dorothy Fagan
The Perch, detail

It was not until I returned home, that I began to see the Tuscan colors seeping into my palette. My palette softened and my eye for selecting what to paint focused in on gardens.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Cinque Terre
Rooftop Garden Series


Clotheslines with fresh laundry hung in every nook and cranny excited my imagination. A special connection to warm-hearted Italian friends stirred with every breeze.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Florence, Italy
The Awning


Each painting appears to me a dream. Each window represents a person, an opportunity of a new friend. Some windows spill flowers, open and prolific, others just peeking, a few closed to shade the light.

The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series
The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series ~ Cinque Terre


Each painting seems to tell a story, an imaginary tale. Who would live there? What would they be saying? Would they be smiling, asking questions, or what? Would I recognize them?

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Tuscany
Rooftop Garden

A gardener myself, I get the message. Plant joy, drip water, fertilize with love.

Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming
Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming

Poggio Alla Croce

Windows and doorways like eyes peeking out at me.

Village on thetHill
Village on the Hill
Villa Rossa, Balcony Garden painting series

Three Sisters

An open balcony beside three sisters tucked into a window niche, side by side in the sun. Me, myself, and I?

Village Trio, Venice Window Garden
Village Trio, Venice Window Garden

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Tuscan Village ~ Setting for my new book

It’s been four months since I returned from the Tuscan village that was my home last fall. A busy winter working on three projects at once. I am glad to see one complete and another finishing soon. Now I can get back to the heart and soul of my Tuscan village paintings.

Tuscan Village

Following the trail of paintings is how I will know what to write. While I have ideas about the story, it is the paintings that guide me. Bouncing back and forth between words and paintings speeds the creative process.

Here are two oil paintings inspired by the village where my story takes place, Poggio Alla Croce. A tiny hilltop village with one road running along it’s crest. Views of the Arno Valley on one side, vineyards and Florence on the other.

TUSCAN village
Villa Rossa, oil, 20 x 24

The bright Vermilion house at the main intersection captured my imagination the day we arrived. I have been trying to paint it ever since. I love the way it contrasts with surrounding earthy colors. In the oldest section of the village, rustic textures and irregular shapes juxtapose the brilliant blue sky that slices between them.

In the top painting, I am using a limited palette. Earth pigments such as Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, and Gamblin’s Warm Gray contrast well with Vermilion, Holbein’s Violet Gray, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cobalt Violet, Ultramarine and Viridian.  The pop of hot pink is Sennelier Rose Brilliant with a touch of White.

I am trying to keep my brush and palette knife work rough intentionally. There is a drawing quality that I like in this approach. I like the visceral color and texture. Rooted in a deep emotional response to this place, I don’t know why I am so fascinated with it. Perhaps getting it on canvas, over and over again, I will begin to understand something essential about it.

tuscan village
Porto Rosso, oil, 20 x 24

This doorway has the same quality to me. I don’t know if this painting is quite finished yet. It still sits on the easel in the studio waiting for an answer to that question. Every now and then, while painting on something else, a brush load or two of paint finds a place on it.

Download the first chapter of Discovering Joy’s Garden below.