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

Click or swipe to view the slideshow below!


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, September 3: 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, September 4: 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 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: at Villa

  • Lessons at villa, stamping lesson, drawing fruits and vegetables, fireside bruschetta
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

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 prepared by chef Lorenza, it’s time to 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. Sunset aperitivo follows, including a delicious bruschetta-making lesson and another delectable dinner.

DAY 4 – Wednesday, September 6: San Casciano dei Bagni

  • Vineyards and perspective, 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 our friend, you’ll make your way to an incredible archeological site with the remains of Roman baths and an ancient temple – all with a private guide/archeologist. Lunch follows in our friend, Daniela’s, chic restaurant, nestled beneath the walls of the town’s castle. 

In the afternoon, back at the villa, 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. Aperitivo follows, along with dinner prepared by chef Lorenza. 

DAY 5 – Thursday, September 7: Città della Pieve

  • Embellishing your sketch journal, walking tour Città della Pieve, saffron tasting and painting, sketching at a coffee bar, 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, it’s off to the nearby village of Città della Pieve for an after-lunch espresso at our favorite coffee bar. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to sketch espresso cups!

Afterwards you’ll take a fascinating walking tour of this medieval town, including a stroll through the narrowest avenue in Italy as you make your way to our friend, Alessandro’s saffron shop. Here, you’re in for a treat, as you get to taste his delectable saffron products – plus Elizabeth will be showing you her favorite ways to paint with saffron. Next, you’ll enjoy time on your own to explore, shop or sketch your way along the winding, medieval avenues, before heading to a private home for sunset aperitivo followed by wood-fired pizza are our favorite pizzeria.

DAY 6 – Friday, September 8: at Villa

  • Final instruction, gallery celebration
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast at the villa, you’ll enjoy a full morning of sketching and working on your journal, along with instruction and guidance from Elizabeth. After a coffee/tea break – and perhaps a dip in the pool – you’ll be able to work on your projects right up until lunch, prepared by chef Lorenza.

In the afternoon, you ‘ll be able to continue working on your project, or even enjoy some time on your own relax. In late afternoon, it’s time to finish things up as we prepare for a special gallery celebration and aperitivo. Plus Lorenza has prepared an unforgettable farewell dinner!

DAY 7 – Saturday, September 9: Departure

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


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 breakfasts
  • 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
  • Italian stamping lesson
  • 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: 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):
    • $3,970 USD, per person – single occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,670 USD per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)
    • $3,670 USD per person – double occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
  • A $500 deposit is required to book your space
  • Arrival and departure airport Rome Fiumicino
  • View our Terms and Cancellation Policy