Heart of Tuscany ~ Maremma Region of Tuscany

The Heart of Tuscany

Connecting Heart and Mind promotes creativity. This important connection is essential if creative energy is to flow smoothly. Experiential learning provides a quick way to reclaim forgotten creativity.

This year’s Tuscany Retreat focuses on the heart of Tuscany. Known as the Maremma region, this heart shaped area connects miles of rocky coastline and beautiful beaches with the mountains.

Heart of Tuscany ~ Maremma Region of Tuscany

The Heart of Tuscany ~ Maremma
The Heart of Tuscany ~ Maremma

Walking in the past ~ Civilizations dating back from the Bronze, Neolithic, and Copper Age, followed by Etruscan and Roman make this region the heart and soul of Tuscany.

Check out the sites on my interactive map to discover more about the heart and soul of Tuscany.

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Thermal Baths at Saturnia

Going with the Flow?

Entice your Creative Spirit. Jump into the CreativSOUP and relax. Let the flow go around you. What a powerful way of looking at the world!

Ancient hot springs still flow from the earth at Saturnia, and are open free of charge. Bring your bathing suit, water shoes, and a towel!

Learn more about the thermal spas>

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Maremma National Park

Connecting with the Landscape

This important connection with earth grounds creative energy, enabling it to flow. Without it, the creative circuit shorts out. Energy is lost, drained out. A walk, bike ride, horseback ride, boating, swimming, touching nature in whatever way that appeals most ~ will automatically reconnect.

Maremma National Park has 14 hiking trails, some for master hikers, some novice. Panoramic views stretch from the park mountains, along the coastline to the Monte Argentario peninsula and out over the sea toward the isles of Giglio, Montecristo and Elba. Hike to Medici look-out towers or the ruins of a medieval monastery. No hiking shoes? Try the cycling path!

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Canoes leave from the “La Barca” near Alberese, a section of the river where—until forty years ago—there was a ferry. The banks are initially covered in thick vegetation though it thins out slowly as you head toward to the San Mamiliano farm. Near Spolverino are the remains of an ancient Roman bridge, called “the devil’s bridge.” Once you arrive at Torre Trappola, about 3km from the sea, the river widens and you can see local trees including willows, poplars and tamarisks.
Horseback riding
Horseback riding excursions are another fun way to get to know the park and spend time in contact with nature. There are a variety of possibilities for everyone from beginners to experts throughout the protected area. During the rides it is easy to run into local wildlife like deer, wild boar, cows and maremmani horses.
The “Romitorio” itinerary, about two hours long, is a relaxed ride through a forest of oaks and it is appropriate for beginners. If you have more time, take the three hour itinerary to the Abbey of San Rabano. Experienced riders can take the full day (six hour) ride which moves through a variety of the park’s environments.
Expert riders can also learn about the local cowboy activities. Information and reservations can be made through the office of the Alberese farm (+39 0564 407 180).
Mountain biking

Leave your car in town, and take a relaxing ride along the road that leads to Marina di Alberese. Along the way you’ll pass the breeding area where you can see cattle and horses grazing in the large fields along the sides of the road.

When you arrive at the intersection about 500m from the seaside you can turn right, following the directions for the A7 itinerary which leads to Ombrone. On the return take the main road to the beach. You can also take a longer itinerary which departs from Alberese, through the countryside to the southern extreme of the park and the town of Talamone. If you don’t have your own bike you can rent one from Il Rialto. More info>


Jim and I visited Capalbio for the first time last year. Watercolor journal in my satchel, we sat in the village and made several sketches.

capalbio watercolor painting
flowers flowing from windows and balconies
capalbio watercolor paintings
flowers flowing prolifically from windows and balconies

I sat just below the wall in this video to make these watercolor sketches in my journal. There was a park bench where Jim and I sat in the small piazza. The village was quiet and we had the piazza to ourselves! From the top of the wall ~ a spectacular view of the sun setting over the sea.

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The Tarot Garden

A hint of Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture garden stands at the entrance of the walled city. Jim and I sat beside the towering beauty and ate our gelatos!

Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture at Capabilo

There is far more about Niki de Saint Phalle. Learn more>


I’ve always had a fascination with ancient civilizations. The Etruscans in particular ~ since making small red terra cotta replicas of Etruscan black painted vessels in high school! The opportunity to walk among the ruins, to feel the place, the earth, ~ well, I think I’ll take the watercolor journal and see what emerges.

Magic of the Maremma

For more information about this year’s Tuscany Creativity Retreat, Download Tuscany Retreat Brochure>

Creativity Retreat at Archaeological Site

OMG! I just received a confirmation note from Luca!

Castle Ruins, a Medieval Bridge, and an Archaeological Dig are on the Estate where we’ll be painting next fall!

dig 2
This year’s dig at Monteverdi

Creativity Retreat at Archaeological Site

The 2500 acre Monteverdi estate is in the Maremma part of Southern Tuscany. I just booked it for our 2018 retreat!

It has a Medieval bridge, castle ruins, and it’s own chapel Sant’ Antonio!

Family Chapel at Monteverdi
Family chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua from the 18th Century

I am SOOOOOOO excited! I can’t wait to paint this magical place! The rolling hills against the backdrop of Monte Amiata (an extinct volcano), the ruins, and it’s so close to the rocky coastline of the Tyrranian Sea! I so enjoyed painting the rocky coast of Brittany ~ this will be wonderful.

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Montverdi landscape
Montverdi landscape

Monteverdi is dominated by a late 15th Century borgo with an 18th century church dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. Bought in 1904 by Luca’s grandfather as a hunting estate, it presently covers over 1000 hectares (2471 acres), with olive groves, vineyards, woodlands, rivers and arable farming land.

Olive groves at Monteverdi
Olive groves at Monteverdi

Our host is Luca Savelli, an Italian-English archaeologist and owner of the estate. His team is studying  the Castellaccio of Monteverdi. It appears as a deserted medieval village, with a few structures still visible in the vegetation. It faces the river Ombrone and overlooks the ruined Medieval bridge connecting the NW shore to Sasso d’Ombrone.

Luca Savelli
Luca Savelli

The estate appears in early maps: in fact it is the location of several important sites, including at least one Roman site, a still very visible Medieval bridge over the River Ombrone which is overlooked by a ruined castle known as Il Castellaccio; the main Villa with its current origins from the 1490’s, and a family chapel dedicated to St Anthony of Padua from the 18th Century.

Maremma map
Monteverdi estate in located 2 hours north of Rome near the coast

The Maremma is a large geographical region of southern Tuscany and northern Lazio, half way between Rome and Pisa/Florence. An Etruscan heartland and Roman colony in Ancient times.

And the unspoiled rocky coastline of the Maremma with its beaches and islands are close enough to make day trips!



Plein Air Painting in Tuscany ~ Loro Ciuffenna

Plein Air Painting in Tuscany

Abstract Cityscape in Oil

Plein air painting in Tuscany

Captivated by the red clock tower that dominates this Etruscan village and it’s colorful patchwork of villas, I just had to paint it. I love the juxtaposition of old and new. The way Loro Ciuffenna overhangs the gorge took my breath away. But where to start?

How to create a painting that captures the spirit of this magical village?

Since I had been in this village a week ago, I had time to reflect on my experience of it. Going back to capture the palette en plein air, I took with me a clear vision for my painting. I didn’t want all the information and details of the scene. I wanted only it’s essence.

When we visited a week ago, we walked the town and took photos. I painted a couple small studies at home. Today I came fully prepared to paint the abstract cityscape I envisioned.

That’s where I began ~ with my vision ~ NOT with the view of the town. This is the important part which many people don’t realize. The painting is INSIDE the artist.  I began creating my painting when I visited last week. Today I have the opportunity to complete it.

The center of my vision is the tower, all other structures are drawn in relationship to it. It’s  vertical shape anchors the composition. The buildings in front of it extend it’s vertical lines downward, completing the vertical axis of the painting. This makes the rooftops, mountains, and sky function as a horizontal elements in relation to the clock tower.

I began by blocking in the warm tones.This ties all the warm tones together ~ in my mind and on the canvas. Notice the way the warm tones cluster together.

The cool tones are opposed to the warm ones. That is, they balance the warm areas. Some are massed together. Others step into the warm areas creating a playful dance.

I am working with oil paint thinned with Gamsol Solvent Free Gel. It doesn’t run like thinner mediums, though it is not at all stiff. Using the medium helps me block in my colors quickly. This quickness helps capture how I feel ~ without thinking too much. I love the resonance of the transparent colors on my white ground, energetic and spontaneous.

The stage is important as well. Another part of my work is done long before I even arrived in Tuscany. I designed special custom painting panels which would make it easy for me to work on location.

I prepared my painting panels with 2 special gessos. The first is toned with a warm sienna color. The second is Sennelier Heavy Body White Gesso. When this heavy body gesso is brushed over the first, it creates wonderful brush stroke textures. The two tones create depth. So when I paint my thinned oils on it, they run into the deeper areas and are thinner on the peaks. This creates a wonderful vibrancy of color.

Once my warm and cool tones are blocked in, I switch to a smaller brush and develop color tones. Using heavier paint, I mix colors on the palette and on the panel. This is where the rich textures develop in contrast to thinner glazes of underpainting.

Adding details is the last part. This is where the painting process slows down considerably. Details are not part of the vision, so it is essential to slow down and take time finding them. Choosing only to include the ones that complete the vision is important. Including too many overcrowds the painting and obscures the vision.

As I was finishing the painting, a lady stopped by to admire it. She pointed excitedly at the red house in the center and told me it was her house! How fun! It’s amazing to me how much Italian I can understand without speaking ten words ~ and how a painting speaks thousands in any language!

I was delighted to be able to include a line of laundry against the side of one of the villas. Italians don’t use electricity to dry clothes. Clothes lines are everywhere. To me this small detail in the painting speaks volumes.

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I love the way this painting turned out! The palette is warm and inviting, yet pastel. Earth tones accent the play of neutrals and reds. I think it would look fabulous in a living room or den. It’s different, refreshing ~ a blend of old and new.

With this vision in mind, I have designed a Canvas Print of Loro Ciuffenna.  I will publish it in November when I return from Italy.
24″ x 30″ Canvas Print on Deep Gallery Wrap Stretchers
Wired & Ready to Hang without a frame.
The image goes around the edges.

plein air painting in tuscany
Loro Ciuffenna, oil
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this special editon of
Loro Ciuffenna

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