The two-week Plein Air workshops took place in the heart of Italy's Tuscany area at an old olive oil plantation owned and operated by Enrico. Enrico, who had previously owned and operated 15 restaurants in Rome and was rated as one of the top chefs in Italy, called it quits, sold everything and moved his family to a hilltop plantation located near the mid-evil hilltop town of Seggiano and opened a retreat spa. Here the adventure began. The following words, written by Jeff Waters-workshop artist, expressed his impressions of the magic of Italy and the beauty of Tuscany:
"God loves Italy and proved it by dropping Tuscany right in the middle. If there is a more beautiful place on earth, I have yet to find it. Tuscany is a great, rolling, patchwork quilt of green and gold that yields only to the occasional, hilltop castle and surrounding medieval village. Enrico, hosted us at Le Casacce, an ancient olive plantation with stately manner. He is a gourmet chef who overfed us with wonderful dishes and "my olive oil" which he produces on the property. It could not have been more perfect. We all overate. I can still hear Kim, a wonderful oil painter, yoga instructor and conscience of the group, admonishing me. "Half portion!"
Each day, we painted in a different, hilltop village or major city, taking in the sights of Seggiano, Florence, and Siena. My favorite memory is sitting in a small restaurant in Siena, having been driven inside by a sudden and violent storm. Lightning flashed directly overhead and thunder rocked the building. Water ran several inches deep in the street. As we ate lunch, Joe taught his system of contour drawing, accompanied by good wine and sinful desserts. In lieu of a tip, the waiter requested my drawings and insisted that I sign them. The poor man has no taste. It doesn't get any better than that. Or perhaps, it does. I sat in brilliant sunshine, on a garden wall outside the main door of a magnificent abbey built in 861 and painted their beautiful garden while the monks filled the air with Gregorian chant. Would I go back? When's the next plane?"