Bella Botanicals with Elizabeth St. Hilaire - September 3-9, 2023

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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 in this popular workshop she shares with you her process, techniques and approaches – plus a 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 a medieval village, surrounded by the gorgeous Italian countryside. In addition to in-depth daily lessons with Elizabeth, you’ll enjoy exciting excursions, private visits with locals and delectable food.


DAY 1 – Sunday, September 3: Arrival

  • Arrival, retreat orientation, welcome dinner
  • Dinner

Upon your arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport, our private drivers will transport you to the Italian countryside, and your boutique hotel accommodations in the unspoiled village of Città della Pieve. After check in, you’ll enjoy a walking tour of the historic center of the village, with trip facilitator, Pamela Haack, followed by a workshop overview with Elizabeth. Afterwards it’s time to enjoy a welcome aperitivo, followed by a delectable, Tuscan-style dinner.

DAY 2 – Monday, September 4: Puscina Flower Farm

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

This morning after breakfast, you’ll join Elizabeth in the off-site 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 nearby at our friend, Cristian’s, bistrot, you’ll have some free time to continue sketching or to relax and recharge.

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 have 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, September 5: Ceramics & Sketching

  • Ceramic painting class, drawing fruits and vegetables, pizza night
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast, it’s off to our friends’ ceramic laboratory for a oh-so-fun ceramic painting class, where Elizabeth will guide you in designing your own ceramic piece with a simple floral design.

After lunch at Cristian’s bistrot, you’ll join Elizabeth for a lesson on identifying simple shapes and using color in imaginative ways, as you sketch seasonal fruits and vegetables from the region. Afterwards we’ll gather together for a classic Italian aperitivo, followed by dinner at our favorite, family-owned pizzeria.

DAY 4 – Wednesday, September 6: Stamping and Saffron

  • Stamping lesson, embellishing your sketch journal
  • Breakfast, lunch

After this morning’s abundant breakfast, get ready for a fun-filled morning of stamp-making with our talented friend, Gaetano. You’ll learn the history of stamping in Italy, then have the opportunity to carve and print with your own stamp with Gaetano’s guidance. Afterwards, you’ll be able to add your stamped pages to your journal – creating special memories of this exiting experience.

After lunch you’ll head back to the studio with Elizabeth for a lesson that includes how to embellish your journal using a variety of creative techniques. In late afternoon we walk to our friend, Alessandro’s, saffron shop for a special saffron tasting and painting, along with a delicious aperitivo. Dinner this evening is on your own.

DAY 6 – Thursday, September 7: Roman Sanctuary

  • Excursion to San Casciano dei Bagni, visit to archeological site
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast, 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. After a stop in the village to meet up with our archeologist friend, Ludivico, you’ll make your way to an incredible archeological site with the remains of Roman baths and an ancient temple. Lunch follows in our friend, Daniela’s, chic restaurant, nestled beneath the walls of the town’s castle. 

In the afternoon, after some time to relax and recharge, you’ll join Elizabeth in the studio for instruction, as you apply new techniques to your journal. This evening you’re free for aperitivo and dinner on your own – and perhaps a stop for gelato at our favorite gelateria.

DAY 6 – Friday, September 8: Pastries and Cappuccino

  • Sketching pastries and cappuccino, gallery celebration
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning you’ll meet up with Elizabeth at a cozy, family-run coffee bar for a delicious  lesson on sketching cappuccino and Italian pastries. Then it’s on to the studio to continue working on your journal, along with Elizabeth’s expert guidance. Lunch today is at Cristian’s bistrot, followed by some free time.

In the afternoon, you ‘ll continue working on your project in the studio, then in late afternoon it’s time to finish things up as we prepare for a special gallery celebration and aperitivo – plus an unforgettable farewell dinner!

DAY 7 – Saturday, September 9: Departure

Early morning departure to Rome Fiumicino Airport.

VENUE: Boutique Hotel Vannucci

Hotel Vannucci began as a project of Vittoria Spinola, daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele II, who fled Pisa (and an arranged marriage with her elderly husband) to start a new life with her lover in Città della Pieve. Here, she and her soon-to-be new husband, Paolo, built two villas that became luxurious holiday accommodations for wealthy Romans vacationing in the countryside. In 1903 one of the villas became Hotel Vannucci, and today it maintains the elegance and refinement of its inception, with luxurious sleeping rooms, marble bathrooms and inviting gardens. A stay here is truly special, nestled just outside the medieval walls of the historic, and unspoiled, village of Città della Pieve. 

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  • 7 days/6 nights stay at luxury, boutique Hotel Vannucci
  • 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 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches  
  • 4 dinners with local wines 
  • Elizabeth St. Hilaire’s in-depth lessons, demonstrations, presentations and one-to-one instruction
  • Water color sketch set
  • Sketch journal
  • Italian stamping lesson
  • Ceramics class
  • Saffron “water color” painting and saffron tasting
  • Hands-on flower arrangement class
  • Free time for shopping and exploring
  • All entrance fees
  • Evening aperitivo hour for chatting, sharing and relaxing

Not included: Artist brushes (bring your own brushes!), 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: September 3-9, 2023
  • 7 Days/6 Nights
  • Trip Price (choose your room type upon booking):
    • $3,670 USD per person – Single Room – single bed with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,970 USD per person – Classic Room Single Occupancy – double bed with ensuite bathroom
    • $4,150 USD per person – Deluxe Room Single Occupancy – double bed with sitting area and ensuite bathroom
    • $3,670 USD per person – Deluxe Room Double Occupancy – double bed or 2 twins with ensuite bathroom (Companions are welcome! Non- participant companion fee $2,670 USD)
  • A $500 deposit is required to book your space
  • Arrival and departure airport Rome Fiumicino
  • View our Terms and Cancellation Policy