Bella Botanicals with Elizabeth St. Hilaire

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Open to students of all artistic levels, each day of Bella Botanicals sketching and journaling retreat includes a variety of botanical inspiration (inspired by the Tuscan countryside) as you create your own personal sketch journal with in-depth instruction from Elizabeth. 

For years Elizabeth has been using watercolor sketch journaling to document her own personal trips to Italy and now she’s thrilled to share with you her process, techniques, approaches and vast variety of tips!


🌸  create your own sketch journal from hand-made Fabriano paper 

🌸  use Elizabeth’s empowering approach to begin or improve your water color sketching

🌸  sketch in virtually any location

🌸  break your subject matter down into simple shapes

🌸  arrange a simple floral still life

🌸  incorporate vibrant color into your work

🌸  achieve shading, depth and dimension

🌸  add text to your journal pages to document your trip and your Tuscany experience

🌸  sketch in your journal while staying within a desired palette

🌸  compose a compelling page layout in your journal

🌸  incorporate borders as a design element

🌸  find your own personal style 

🌸  embellish your watercolor with fine line detail

🌸  develop imagery and form for depth and interest

🌸  spotting basic shapes in flowers

🌸  painting with saffron (an ancient Italian tradition!)

🌸  incorporate essential light and shadow into your sketches

🌸  easily improve your sketching skills through daily practice

🌸  pencil sketch your subject and keep it loose

🌸  post your artwork on social media


Bella Botanicals – Sketching and Journaling in Italy with Elizabeth St. Hilaire is more than the average watercolor sketching workshop. It’s a week filled with fellowship, camaraderie and fun beyond your wildest dreams – all situated in the gorgeous Italian countryside. In addition to in-depth daily lessons with Elizabeth, you’ll enjoy excursions to picturesque medieval hill towns, an extraordinary flower farm and private visits with local Italians.

And your accommodations? Well, once you get settled into your room at 17th century Villa Poggio alla Trese you won’t ever want to leave. Think swimming pool, sun-sets over the Tuscan hills and chef-prepared meals that will leave you speechless. Plus the entire villa is reserved exclusively for your group. You’ll be saying, “Pinch me. I must be dreaming!”


DAY 1 – Sunday, June 12: Arrival

  • Arrival Villa Poggio alla Trese, retreat orientation, welcome dinner
  • Dinner

Benvenuti in Italia! Upon arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport, sit back and relax as you are transported by private transportation service to the Italian countryside and Poggio alla Trese, your 17th century villa accommodations near the Tuscan town of Chiusi. After check-in you’ll have the opportunity to explore your surroundings and take part in an energetic orientation and overview with Elizabeth St. Hilaire, as you begin making your watercolor sketch journal. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a delightful aperitivo with your fellow students, followed by a delicious, regional-style dinner prepared by talented Chef Lorenza.

DAY 2 – Monday, June 13: Puscina Flower Farm

  • Sketch journal, organic flower farm, floral arranging mini-lesson
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after a delicious breakfast at the villa, you’ll join Elizabeth in the studio as she guides you through making your own watercolor sketch journal with hand-made Fabriano paper – so special! Learn ways to embellish your pages and cover – including wine and coffee washes – as you prepare to document your special time in Tuscany. After lunch, served up at the villa, you’ll have some free time to continue sketching or relax by the pool.

In the afternoon our drivers will be transporting you to an amazing organic flower farm, right in the heart of Tuscany’s wine country, where you’ll enjoy a personal tour of the flower gardens, followed by sketching with Elizabeth in this beautiful location. After cutting some flowers to take back to the villa, you’ll enjoy an easy-going floral lesson with Teresa, before gathering together under the ancient olive tree for an unforgettable aperitivo and dinner overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany.

DAY 3 – Tuesday, June 14: at Villa

  • Lessons at villa, herb sketching, drawing fruits and vegetables, fireside bruschetta
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

After this morning’s abundant breakfast, get ready for a fun-filled day of journal-making and sketching with Elizabeth! First, you’ll enjoy a fascinating herb “walk”, where you’ll learn about favorite Italian herbs – including wild varieties – and their uses for both cooking and wellness. Then you’ll take part in a lesson with Elizabeth, all about how to approach sketching herbs. Yep, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! Lunch is served up right here at the villa, followed by free time for sketching or relaxing by the pool.

In the afternoon, you’ll gather poolside for a special lesson with Elizabeth on identifying simple shapes and using color in imaginative ways to capture seasonal fruits and vegetables from the region. Then it’s time to gather together for sunset aperitivo that includes a delicious bruschetta-making lesson, followed by dinner prepared “alle brace”.

DAY 4 – Wednesday, June 15: San Casciano dei Bagni

  • Vineyards and perspective, excursion to San Casciano dei Bagni, visit to archeological site
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning after breakfast you’ll join Elizabeth in the nearby vineyard for a delightful onsite sketching lesson. Learn how to easily capture the form of grape clusters, as well as the romantic leaves of the grape vine. Lunch is served back at the villa, followed by time to sketch on your own or enjoy a walk along the countryside lane.

In the afternoon, it’s off to the charming village of San Casciano dei Bagni, situated on a picturesque hill, teeming with hot springs that have been used as thermal baths for centuries. Here you’ll make your way from the village to our friend, Daniela’s, family vineyard, making a stop along the way for a private visit of an incredible archeological site with the remains of Roman baths and an ancient temple. Once at the vineyard, you’re in for a treat as we enjoy aperitivo, while gazing up at the town. Dinner follows in Daniela’s chic restaurant, nestled beneath the walls of the castle.  

DAY 5 – Thursday, June 16: at Villa Chiusi

  • Sketching peperoncini, embellishing your sketch journal, walking tour Chiusi, pizza night
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning after breakfast at the villa, it’s time to gather together for a colorful sketching lesson with vibrant peperoncini plants – classically Italian, and oh-so-fun to sketch! Plus Elizabeth will be sharing creative ways to enhance the pages of your sketch journal with memorabilia. After lunch here at the villa, you’ll have some time on your own.

This afternoon our drivers will be transporting you to the nearby village of Chiusi to explore two amazing parks filled with ancient relics, along with a visit to the town’s spectacular 12th century cathedral and exceptional archeological museum. After capturing photos of the sunset over the Tuscan hills, it’s off to our friend, Pino’s, pizzeria where you’ll enjoy a delectable Tuscany-style pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.

DAY 6 – Friday, June 17: Città della Pieve

  • Sketching at a coffee bar, shopping, saffron tasting, gallery celebration
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after coffee at the villa, it’s off to nearby Città della Pieve for breakfast at our friends’ cozy coffee bar, and a delightful, onsite sketching lesson with Elizabeth. Next you’ll have the opportunity to see inside the town’s 14th century cathedral with paintings by Renaissance artist, Perugino, followed by a visit to a one-room museum featuring one of his greatest masterpieces. Afterwards you’ll enjoy time on your own to explore and shop before we meet up for a special saffron lesson and lunch, featuring a saffron painting lesson with Elizabeth.

In the afternoon, it’s back to the villa for your final afternoon session with Elizabeth. This evening, get ready for a very special celebration of a week spent learning, sketching and enjoying Italy together!

DAY 7 – Saturday, June 18: Departure

Our drivers will be transporting you this morning to Rome Fiumicino Airport.


  • Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy with Elizabeth St. Hilaire
  • Dates: June 12-18, 2022
  • 7 Days/6 Nights
  • A $500 deposit is required to book your space
  • Arrival and departure airport is Rome Fiumicino
  • Trip Price (choose your room configuration upon booking):
    • $3,840per person – single occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,670 per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)



Accommodations for the Paper Paintings Retreat with Elizabeth St. Hilaire is beautiful Poggio alle Trese, a 17th century villa, nestled along the border of Tuscany and Umbria, near the town of Chiusi (Tuscany). The villa boasts an ample studio space (available 24/7), sweeping terraces for dining or lounging, swimming pool and elegant breakfast/dining hall. Sleeping rooms are furnished with family antiques are offer either an ensuite bathroom or shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom). Rooms options are made available upon booking. View photos of Villa Poggio alle Trese here. 


  • 7 days/6 nights at elegant Villa Poggio alla Trese, situated in the picturesque countryside near the charming Tuscan hill town of Chiusi.
  • Group transportation by private service to/from Rome Fiumicino Airport on arrival and departure dates. 
  • Private transportation service to/from all towns and sites included in the itinerary
  • All abundant breakfasts, featuring fresh-baked Tuscan pastries, yogurt, local cheeses, seasonal fruits, organic cereal and more…plus Italian caffè, cappuccino and herbal teas.
  • All lunches  
  • All regionally inspired dinners with local wines 
  • Elizabeth St. Hilaire’s in-depth lessons, demonstrations, presentations and one-to-one instruction
  • Water color sketch set
  • Sketch journal
  • Saffron “water color” painting and saffron tasting
  • On-site sketching with Elizabeth in medieval hill towns
  • Private visit to enormous plant nursery
  • Visit to organic flower farm 
  • Hands-on flower arrangement class
  • Ciambelline-making demo 
  • Herb “walk” and lesson with chef Lorenza
  • Free time for shopping and exploring
  • Aperitivo and dinner in the vineyard
  • All entrance fees
  • Evening aperitivo hour for chatting, sharing and relaxing

Not included: Airfare, meals, alcoholic drinks, buses, trains or boat transportation outside of that which is specifically listed in the trip package, gratuities for villa 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 a site has an unscheduled closing, we improvise to include something equally as wonderful and interesting. The quality of the retreat is never at risk, as our team is committed to excellence, along with our vast, local, Italian connections.


Elizabeth’s love of art began in kindergarten, which is her first memory of painting. “Art gave me the self confidence that no other subject in school did.” Elizabeth explains, “When the art teacher would hold my work up and tell everyone in the class how wonderful it was, my confidence soared and I was boasting with pride in a way that I can still remember very vividly today.”

Elizabeth went on to earn her BFA at Syracuse University and has been a self employed artist for over 20 years. Her formal fine art education provided her with the opportunity to study many different mediums from sculpture to watercolor and everything in between, and she has been using watercolor sketch journalling to document her own personal trips to Italy over the past five years.

In her article for the HUFFINGTON POST, BJ Gallanger 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


  • Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy with Elizabeth St. Hilaire
  • Dates: June 12-18, 2022
  • 7 Days/6 Nights
  • A $500 deposit is required to book your space
  • Arrival and departure airport is Rome Fiumicino
  • Trip Price (choose your room configuration upon booking):
    • $3,840 per person – single occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,670 per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)