The Art of Travelogue: A Journey with Beth Nelson

The Art of Travelogue: A Journey with Beth Nelson

from 1,650.00

August 4 – August 18

Workshop Length:
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about the retreat

During this one to two-week artistic retreat, Beth Nelson along with her son Tennessee, will be conducting a class on The Art of the Travelogue, combining writing, illustrating, photographing, and recording one’s time in the beautiful walled village of Monte Castello.  During this time, participants will be encouraged to listen, to observe, and to write and illustrate their own personal travelogue, like those of bygone days.

Working in a variety of mediums, participants will be encouraged to find their own voice, their own perspective, and their own way of creating a visual record of the Italian landscape and story and adventure that they travel in. At the end of the stay, Tennessee will have produced in music, film and words, this same story, as a digital record, a souvenir, of the time there. 

A unique opportunity to find time to write, draw, paint, photograph and visit Italy, in an environment of encouragement for that which is beautiful. For beginners or seasoned writers and artists, a time to make by hand, a record of your living, a record more akin to the turn of the century than to now. 

Beth will supply a voluntary reading list before your arrival of famous and not so famous travelogues, as a way of introducing ideas. Students will bring their own drawing and painting supplies, or can buy from the incredible art supply shop at ICA. The format for each person’s Travelogue will be decided by the individual.

Does not include airfare. For more information, contact us.


Participants are responsible only for their work, as they are provided with:

  • Instruction

  • Excursions as identified below: Sibillini Mountains, Calici di Stella event, and Assisi/Lake Trasimeno

  • Double occupancy room in a restored twelfth-century convent (private apartments are available at an additional fee, please contact us for more information)

  • Three chef-catered meals per day in Monte Castello

  • Private/semi-private studio work space

  • Transportation to and from Rome Fiumicino airport

  • Access to the facilities of the ICA (including WiFi) and the assistance of their bilingual staff

  • End of the session exhibition in our gallery

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About the instructors

Beth is an artist, illustrator and stylist living in Northern California. She has published with Chronicle Books, Stewart, Tabori Chang and Printed Matter (London) Ltd. Her words and images have been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts, The Conran Shop London & Paris, Barnes and Noble, the archive of Harrods, Leo Burnett, and clients throughout the world. Her book “Postcards from the Basque Country “is a travelogue of the romance and beauty of a small town in the north of Spain, written whilst she was living there.

Beth’s son Tennessee Hildebrand, is a multi-instrumentalist, former student of the Academia Cremonensis de Cremona, (where he carved a violin in 2018), and currently is studying film, video and music production at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Together, Beth and Tennessee have worked on a number of visual recordings, combining music, words, and film. They have designed this course to bring people together who have perhaps never tried to record the world around them in an analogue way and to create a moment of repose in a busy life, for enjoying the peace, quiet and beauty of a singular Italian place. They look forward to meeting you.

Required forms

All ICA participants, whether coming independently, with a group or through a college / university, must provide the following completed forms and information to at least 2 weeks prior to attending their program. For detailed information and to download the required forms, please visit our Guides and Forms page.

Emergency Contact & Medical Information
Liability Waiver
Proof of Insurance / Travel Insurance
Itinerary and Passport

Included Excursions

The unique structure and location of the International Center for the Arts will allow us to travel to distinct locations in Italy as day trips and fully immerse themselves in an off-the-the-beaten-path perspective on Umbria, the “green heart” of Italy.

Assisi and Lake Trasimeno

Our first stop will be a Franciscan monastery in the hamlet of Spineta, above Monte Castello on a neighboring hilltop - here we will have some spectacular views of Monte Castello. At the monastery, the brothers will describe their unique lifestyle and their devotion to S. Francis and his teachings. It is a unique glimpse into the ancient connections between wine and community here in Umbria.  

Afterward, we will move on through the hills and explore the vineyards around the beautiful hamlets of San Venanzo, Rotecastello, and Marsciano. In San Venanzo, we will make a very special visit to the Conti Faina Vineyard and explore their ancient cellars. 

As we descend into the valley toward Torgianno, we will visit the village of Deruta, famous for its intricately painted ceramics. Here we will have a snack (not included in the trip cost) at one of the wonderful local bakeries, serving sandwiches and pizza, as well and wonderful baked goods and homemade gelato. Afterwards, we’ll learn about the painted ceramics for which Deruta is famous around the world!  We will meet our friends at the Maioliche Nulli ceramics studio – one of the most renowned in Italy – here, master potter, Arnaldo Nulli will demonstrate his pottery technique.  Our guests to can try their hand at the potter’s wheel, under the patient tutelage of the master.  

From Torgiano, we will move north to the spectacular town of Assisi. This spiritual center is famous as the home of S. Francis and S. Claire and they are remembered in the churches of S. Francesco and Santa Chiara. The view approaching Assisi is unforgettable, with the enormous church of San Francesco perched on the side of the mountain. Later, visiting the church of Santa Chiara, we will see some of the most beautiful stonework in Italy.  

After seeing the town, we will continue our ascent up the mountain to the Eremo delle Carceri, the Hermitage of S. Francis. Here one can truly feel a spiritual presence, strolling among the ancient Ilex oaks, in a forest considered sacred by the Romans. Passing through the monastery in silence, and finding the simple cave in which he slept, one can feel the presence of the saint who renounced worldly possessions and chose solitude here in nature. 

After we leave Assisi, we will pass along the shores of Lake Trasimeno, crossing into Tuscany and continue to the town of Montalcino in order to visit its vineyards and sample one of the most famous wines in the world: Brunello di Montalcino(D.O.C.G.). This extraordinary wine is made from only Sangiovese grapes and it is a real treat to experience it in its native environment, however - we’ll also visit a museum devoted to just this wine alone! Here, we’ll also sample the -still excellent - but much less expensive Rosso Montalcino, and both sparkling and still versions of the regional white wine:  Moscadello di Montalcino (D.O.C.).

Later in the day we will experience the outstanding wines of the town of Montepuciano. Here the presence of its great wines is found throughout the city- the star of which is the renowned, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

As we begin our route back to Monte Castello, we will pass through some of the charming villages along the beautiful lake.  While we are here, it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to sample some of the local fish. With this in mind, we’ll stop at a great local fish restaurant, Ristorante Da Faliero on the lakeshore and enjoy a great meal before heading for home.

Calici di Stella Event

A very special excursion: in honor of the feast of San Lorenzo, vineyards around Italy open their doors for the romantic Calici di Stella – the “glass of stars.” August 9 and 10 are particularly significant because these nights mark the height of the Perseid meteor shower (a cloud of debris that forms the trail of the comet, Swift-Tuttle) – the sparkling, “tears of Saint Lawrence.” This year is particularly special, because it falls on a new moon. In the absence of moonlight, the night will be particularly favorable for the observation of the shooting stars (meteors) and planets: “This year, four planets will keep us company on the beautiful nights of August: the planet Venus, the brightest: Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of the Virgin; Jupiter, in the constellation of Libra; the red Antares, the "heart" of the Scorpion; in Sagittarius we find Saturn (with telescopes we can admire its stupendous rings); finally, in South-East, Mars, in Capricorn (Source: Italian Astrophile Union).” We will visit several vineyards on this excursion and the Caprai vineyard, typically has telescopes set up for this purpose.

Sibillini Mountains and the Vini del Sagrantino Wine Trail

We will leave immediately after breakfast on our trek to the spectacular Sibillini Mountains. Our path itself follows the routes familiar to the ancient Umbra people and then later by the Romans. We’ll explore a spectacular landscape that includes abandoned castles, ancient hamlets, and extraordinary vineyards.  Passing through the rolling mountains on our route, we pass through ancient villages such as Gualdo Cattaneo, Bevagna, Montefalco, Giano dell’Umbria, Castel Ritaldi, Bettona, Cannara.  On our return, the sight of the vineyards and olive groves cloaking these rolling hills - on the opposite side of the mountain range- in the late afternoon light is unforgettable! In this landscape you can truly see Umbria as the “green heart of Italy.” Here you find arguably the most Umbrian of Umbrian landscapes.

The full-day tour today takes us on a broad overview of the area and we will see a number of spectacular sites. We will pass by the famous mineral water sources of Sangemini and Aquasparta. At the base of the mountains, we will see one of these springs, well known to the ancients: Fonti del Clituno. Through the majestic limestone cliffs around the valley, rainwater filters down through the earth and pulses to the surface in these crystal-clear springs.   As one writer describes: some of these underwater "craters…seem to give access to the earth center.”  Ancient writer, Pliny the Younger wrote of: “many and different veins” that “give life to a pond so pure and crystalline that you could count the coins thrown into it or the stones glistening at its bottom.” We’ll pause only briefly at the beautiful spring, but long enough to sample its water (the Romans believed would make one a good orator) and to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino on its banks. Along the way, we will also see one of the most truly impressive sights in Umbria, the Ponte delle Torri, outside of Spoleto.  The 230-meter-long and 90-meter-high medieval bridge has an obscure history - as Domenico Pacieri writes, “If you ask the story how, by whom and when it was erected, the story remains silent.” 

From here we will continue along the valley to the extraordinary town of Norcia. Renowned since the middle ages, the village was a center for surgeons, and also for butchers. Its cured meats are among the most famous in Italy, and as we stroll through the city we will tour the various shops and sample their delicacies – and bring along some samples for a great, picnic lunch in the mountains! As we leave Norcia we will continue to ascend into the mountains to the ridge, from which we have amazing views.  Crossing over, we enter the Piano Grande (great plane) of the Sibillini Mountains. The great plane itself is a large plateau that boasts one of the most spectacular displays of wildflowers in the world in June and July. Ascending on the other side of the basin, we arrive at a spectacular high point, from which – on a clear day – it is possible to see both eastern and western shores of Italy! Around you, in the distances, you see a place with a remarkable and mythic history- you’ll see in the distance, the Cave of the Sybil, and Pilates Lake (believed to turn blood-red at certain times) – the valleys in the distance were home in the middle ages to magicians and necromancers. We’ll pause at this mystical and beautiful place and enjoy a picnic lunch of cured meats and cheeses from Norcia as well as some of the other local produce – including renowned truffles and mushrooms – all accompanied by the wines of the vineyards we will visit on our return home.

After lunch, we will return to Montefalco - about an hour away. As we see the town in the hills above us, we’ll tour vineyards producing the Sagrantino grape. Perhaps our most unique stop will be the Cantina Fongoli: owned by the same family for generations, it is one of the most atmospheric – and oldest – cantinas in the region.  We will talk with the oldest member of the family and experience the breadth of his knowledge and his connection to the wines the family produces, as well as his perspectives on the challenges of bringing an artisanal product, with a familial heritage, into the contemporary market.

 We’ll be back in Monte Castello in time for dinner, and reflection on a remarkable day.