experience Italy, off the beaten path


Looking for something extraordinary? Our annual collage retreat with Elizabeth St. Hilaire is an art-enthusiast’s dream trip! Open to participants of all artistic levels, each day brings delightful new lessons with recognized collage artist, Elizabeth St. Hilaire, on using hand-painted and found papers to develop imagery and form using light, shadow, and directional ripping – similar to traditional painting techniques. You’ll also have fun experimenting with hand painting, staining, stamping and patterning your own papers. Although some painting experience is helpful, it is not necessary! 

In addition classes with Elizabeth, you’ll enjoy exciting side trips to medieval hill towns and private visits with Italian artisans – including a marbled paper expert, hand-hammered coppersmith and Byzantine mosaic artist – plus private transportation in Mercedes Benz vans, delectable meals prepared by a Tuscan chef and 360 degree panoramic views of the gorgeous Italian countryside.

About Elizabeth St. Hilaire
Elizabeth’s love of collage started with a scrap box of mementos from her childhood. She decided to incorporate these memorable papers, notes and snippets of her family’s past into something both memorable and beautiful. Thus was born a representational collage “painting.” This piece, Looking in on Jane (a portrait of her mother), won Best of Show at Orlando Visual Artists League in 2005, and for a second time at the Women’s Caucus for Arts’ Matriarchs and Madonnas exhibit in 2007. The success of this piece plunged Elizabeth head-first into her love affair with collage. Her inspiring work has earned her a Signature Member status with the National Collage Society, a solo exhibit at the Maitland Museum of Art and can be viewed in numerous galleries across the US. You’ll also find Elizabeth’s paper paintings reproduced on everything from prints to comforters in stores such at Kohls and Pier One.

Her technique has evolved as a result of experimentation with hand-painted, hand-made, and a wide variety of textured and patterned papers, focusing on intense and vibrant colors combined with a sensibility of design. “My collages invite the viewer to look, and having looked, to linger,” says Elizabeth. “Layering and weaving, pushing and pulling the colors, patterns, and values makes collage liken to music. I go back and forth, alternating and overlapping until the rhythm creates something I love.”

BJ Gallanger, in her article for the HUFFINGTON POST, wrote this about Elizabeth:
“Once in a great while, an artist comes along whose work is so distinctive, so unusual, so imaginative, and so colorful that it stands out from the crowd, much like a peacock stands out in a colony of penguins. Elizabeth St. Hilaire is such an artist.”

Learn more about Elizabeth St. Hilaire by visiting her website PaperPaintings.com

TOUR details: At a Glance

  • Paper Paintings Retreat with Elizabeth St. Hilaire
  • June 10-16, 2018
  • 7 Days/6 Nights
  • Trip Price: $3,195 – no single supplement fee! All participants have their own private sleeping rooms with ensuite bathrooms! 
  • Companion Price: $2,790 (Upon booking, please indicate that you will be traveling with a companion, and we will email to you a separate payment link.)

A $500 deposit is required to book your space on this trip, $100 of which is non refundable.


DAY 1: Arrival

  • Mini-tour of villa and grounds, orientation, aperitivo hour and special welcome dinner
  • Dinner included

Benvenuti in Italia! Upon arrival at Florence Peretola Airport, sit back and relax as you are transported by private Mercedes Benz van service to the Italian countryside and Il Colombaio, your beautiful accommodations along the border of Tuscany and Umbria. After check-in you’ll have the opportunity to explore your surroundings and studio space before taking part in your first orientation and presentation with Elizabeth where you’ll get a preview of retreat, as well as an introduction to Elizabeth’s unique approach to collage. Afterwards it’s time for aperitif hour together before enjoying a delicious, regional-style dinner served up by the in-house chef.

DAY 2: Il Colombaio 

  • Collage class, paper painting session, vineyard walk with cantina tour and wine tasting
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

After breakfast this morning, get ready for an fun-filled, inspiring day! You’ll be heading to the onsite studio with Elizabeth to learn a plethora of methods for painting paper, from stamps to rollers to stencils – and so much more. You’ll also learn Elizabeth’s expert techniques for developing imagery and form. After a chef-prepared picnic-style lunch you’ll continue painting papers, while preparing to begin your special Italy-inspired paper painting project. In late afternoon it’s time for a break – and perhaps a dip in the pool – before walking to a nearby winery for a private tour of the vineyard, followed by a special wine tastings with our friend, Paola. Back at the villa another delicious dinner will be prepared by the talented chef.

DAY 3: Orvieto

  • Side trip to Orvieto, private session with paper artisan, collage class
  • Breakfast and dinner included, lunch on your own

This morning after breakfast you’ll be heading to gorgeous Orvieto, a medieval hill town layered in 3,000 years of history. First stop is the historic center of town where you’ll find one of Italy’s most beautiful cathedrals, followed by a very special visit with a marbled paper artisan (in his 15th century workshop!) for a demonstration and lesson all about paper. Afterwards you’ll have some time for shopping and exploring (Orvieto is famous for its hand-painted ceramics and fine lace), as well as lunch on your own at one of the town’s charming restaurants. Then it’s back to the villa for some extensive class time and paper paintings instruction with Elizabeth. In evening you’ll enjoy aperitif hour and another fabulous dinner together.

DAY 4: Montepulciano

  • Side trip to Montepulciano, private demonstration with copper artisan, private demonstration with mosaic artist
  • Breakfast and lunch included

This morning after breakfast you’ll join Elizabeth in the studio to work on your project while you learn new collage techniques using the papers you have painted yourself or discovered on your outings. After lunch, served up on the panoramic terrace, it’s off to the spectacular hill town of Montepulciano where you’ll enjoy a private demonstration with an amazing copper artisan, followed by a visit with a local mosaic expert for an up-close look at this ancient art form used by the Etruscans and perfected by the Romans. Talk about artistic inspiration! Afterwards you can explore, shop (so many beautiful leather hand bags!) find an inviting spot for dinner on your own and enjoy the magic of a medieval village on a summer evening!

DAY 5: Il Colombaio 

  • Collage class with Elizabeth, pasta-making lesson with Signora Antonietta
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

This morning, after breakfast, you’ll be heading to the onsite studio for instruction and one-on-one assistance from Elizabeth with your project. Then it’s time for a break and a fun-filled pasta-making lesson with delightful Antonietta who will be teaching how Italians really make pasta, as well as how to pair a pasta with the right sauce (an Italian art form!). Lunch will include (you guessed it) the pasta you’ve made – and a few other goodies. In afternoon you’ll head back to the onsite studio with Elizabeth to continue working on your project. After aperitivo hour together, the chef will be serving up a dinner of seasonal specialties.

DAY 6: Fabro & La Scarzuola

  • Guided tour Convento La Scarzuola, final collage class and project celebration with Elizabeth
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

This morning, after breakfast, it’s off to the nearby convent, La Scarzuola, (founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1218) for a guided tour of the ancient convent and adjacent theatrical sculpture garden – an evocative, artistic marvel – created between 1958 and 1978 by an renowned architect from Milan. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a special, regional lunch at our friends’ charming restaurant in a nearby medieval village. In afternoon it’s back to the studio with Elizabeth to finish up your project and take part in a celebratory aperitivo hour together! Naturally, the chef will be serving up a delectable farewell dinner.

DAY 7: Departure

Our drivers will be transporting you this morning to Florence Peretola Airport.

INCLUSIONS Paper Paintings Retreat with Elizabeth St. Hilaire

  • 6 nights stay nights stay at Agriturismo Il Colombaio, nestled along the border of Tuscany and Umbria. No single supplement fee! All participants have their own private sleeping rooms with ensuite bathrooms! 
  • Group transportation by private Mercedes Benz van service to/from Florence Peretola Airport on arrival and departure dates. Please note that although group transportation is only provided to/from the airport Florence, some of our guests choose to extend their stay in Italy before and/or after the retreat. After you’ve registered, we’re happy to provide contact information for our favorite hotels in Florence, Rome and Venice – as well as a link to book train tickets.
  • Private Mercedes Benz van service to/from all cities, towns and sites included in the itinerary
  • All family-style breakfasts with a multitude of delicious choices, plus teas, juices and made-to-order Italian coffee
  • 3 lunches served with local wines   
  • All regionally inspired dinners by our fabulous, in-house Tuscan chef, served with local wines 
  • Accommodations for special dietary requirements, including gluten free, dairy free, Paleo and Vegan
  • Introductory presentation on Elizabeth’s renowned collage process
  • How to create a high quality drawing and under-painting
  • Demonstration of a multitude of paper painting techniques, including stamping, rolling, pressing, imprinting, overlapping and much, much more 
  • Step-by-step instruction on paper painting for variety and interest
  • Group and one-to-one instruction on various ripping and tearing techniques to create a “painterly” effect (a must-know for Elizabeth’s collage process!)
  • How to choose and glue papers to achieve the right shading and tonality 
  • A plethora of demonstrations by Elizabeth on various paper painting processes and techniques
  • Daily one-to-one instruction to help you achieve the very best results with your project!
  • Access to art studio space outside of instruction times
  • Fluid acrylic paints and acrylic collage adhesive
  • Canvas panels
  • Paint brushes
  • Paper history and hands-on lesson with Renaissance paper artisan
  • Demonstration with copper artisan
  • Visit with mosaic artisan
  • Tour of Convent La Scarzuola and sculpture gardens
  • Private winery tour and tasting with a local sommelier
  • Italian pasta-making lesson
  • Time on your own for shopping and exploring
  • Evening aperitivo hour for chatting, sharing and mingling
  • Free wifi 

Not included: PAPER! (Elizabeth prefers that you bring your own personal papers), airfare, plus any meals, alcoholic drinks, buses, trains or boat transportation outside of that which is specifically listed in the trip package, gratuities for hotel staff and drivers

The Unexpected is Part of the Journey: At Strada Toscana we weave amazing, authentic experiences into every trip, but sometimes unexpected things come up. If Mario calls to tell us they’re pressing olives at just this moment, off we go (I mean, we wouldn’t let you miss his newly pressed olive oil!), and if a site has an unscheduled closing, we improvise to include something equally as wonderful and interesting. On that note, if our usual boutique hotels or B&Bs can’t accommodate us (which rarely happens), you can rest assured you’ll stay somewhere of an equal or higher level. The quality of our tours is never at risk, as our team is committed to excellence, along with our vast, local, Italian connections.

Paper Paintings Retreat with Elizabeth St. Hilaire

  • June 10-16, 2018
  • Trip Price: $3,195, per person – no single supplement fee! All participants have their own private sleeping rooms with ensuite bathrooms! 
  • Companion Price: $2,790 (Upon booking, please indicate that you will be traveling with a companion, and we will email to you a separate payment link.)

A $500 deposit is required to secure your space on this trip, $100 of which is nonrefundable.


Have questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions Page

REVIEWS : What Peoples Are Saying

What a fabulous time! Elizabeth’s class was…there are no words. I learned so much, new techniques and new ways of seeing my art. Elizabeth gave every one as much one-on-one time with her as needed and she was open to any and all questions. I took this trip to Italy alone with one goal in mind, to take my art to the next level. I left with friendships, confidence in my art and a love for Italy. The food was amazing and the side trips were beautiful!”
June F. ~ Jacksonville, FL

“This was the most wonderful trip! Every detail was exquisite! Our villa was stunning, the cuisine was amazing, the excursions and day trips were perfectly planned and the art classes with Elizabeth inspired our creativity tremendously. The entire trip was the vacation of a lifetime! I can’t wait to go to Italy again!”
Kathryn K ~ Simi Valley, CA