Bella Botanicals with Elizabeth St. Hilaire

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Join Elizabeth St. Hilaire for Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy, her brand NEW water color sketching and journaling retreat in Tuscany!

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

Elizabeth’s extraordinary retreats sell out every year – primarily through word-of-mouth from students who’ve attended over the years. That’s because she delivers the ideal combination of extraordinary content, personalized art instruction and contagious inspiration. 

And speaking of inspiration, you can find Elizabeth’s creativity, sketches and color designs practically everywhere, from multiple how-to books to fun, floral stencils to aprons, pillows, clothing and so much more!


each day of Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy includes daily, in-depth lessons with Elizabeth, opportunities to sketch in stunning sites that are not open to the general public, a vast variety of botanical inspiration – from roses to herbs to Tuscany flora, as well as exceptional side trips to medieval villages and and tucked away panoramic locations. 

By the way, no former painting experience necessary on this workshop, as Elizabeth will be providing intensive, one-to-one instruction and guidance. That means all levels are welcome!


  • 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
  • draw roses!
  • achieve shading, depth and dimension
  • create a stunning sketch journal
  • 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 Italian tradition!)
  • incorporate essential light and shadow into your sketches
  • easily improve your sketching skills through daily practice
  • post your artwork on social media
  • pencil sketch your subject and keep it loose


Elizabeth has incorporated extraordinary experiences into the Bella Botanicals Retreat, including…

  • Maximum of 10 students for personalized, one-to-one instruction
  • Elizabeth’s sought after techniques for water color sketching
  • Visit and tour of an organic flower farm (includes picnic style lunch under the ancient olive tree!)
  •  Free-flow flower arrangement class (take away your own arrangement!)
  • Saffron paper painting with Alessandro (plus a saffron tasting!)
  • Private, exclusive-access visit to a historic basilica and abbey
  • Access to the gardens of a private residence (with aperitivo!)
  • Bonus marbled painting technique demo (an Italian artisan tradition)
  •  Private Facebook group for sharing and learning
  •  Morning vineyard walks (optional)
  • Ciambelline-making lesson with Paola
  •  Bruschetta-making lesson (delicious!)
  • Gallery show finale with special farewell aperitivo and dinner 


Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy with Elizabeth St. Hilaire is more than the average water color 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 carefully crafted, daily lessons with Elizabeth, you’ll enjoy excursions to picturesque, medieval hill towns, an extraordinary flower farm and private visits with hand-selected Italian artisans that are nothing less than extraordinary.

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, wine cantina and chef-prepared meals that will leave you speechless. Plus the entire villa is reserved exclusively for Elizabeth’s group. You’ll be saying, “Pinch me. I must be dreaming.”


Sunday, September 26: Arrival

  • Tour of Villa Poggio alla Trese, retreat orientation, aperitivo hour, special welcome dinner
  • Dinner

Benvenuti in Italia! Upon arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport, sit back and relax as you are transported by private Mercedes Benz van 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. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a delightful aperitivo with your fellow students, followed by a delicious, regional-style dinner prepared by talented Chef Lorenza.

Monday, September 27: Moiano

  • Private tour at organic produce farm, vegetable sketching, pasta making lesson
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner

This morning, after a delicious breakfast that includes organic yogurt, freshly baked pasties, cheeses, eggs, fruits, cereals, juices – plus made-to-order cappuccino, caffè or tea – it’s off for a special visit and tour at a nearby organic produce farm where our friend, Alessandro, and his team work tirelessly to discover and preserve heirloom fruits and vegetables. Here you’ll enjoy a private tour of the acres of gardens, vineyards and olives groves before sketching onsite with Elizabeth – with refreshments close at hand. Such a treat! After hand-harvesting some seasonal vegetables to take back to the villa, including artichokes and aglione (a sweet wild garlic), it’s time for a casual buffet lunch, followed by an afternoon drawing lesson with Elizabeth. Afterwards, get ready to roll up your sleeves for an oh-so-fun pasta making lesson with Lorenza. After all, tonight’s dinner includes pasta with aglione sauce – a regional specialty. But first, it’s time to gather together with your fellow students for a friendly aperitivo.

Tuesday, September 28: Poggia alle Trese

  • Lesson at villa, herb walk and herb sketching, ciambelline-making lesson with Paola, sketching in private gardens
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After this morning’s abundant breakfast, get ready for a fun-filled day of sketching with Elizabeth! First, you’ll join our very own Chef Lorenza for 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! After a buffet lunch, served up at the villa, you’ll have on-your-own time for sketching or relaxing by the pool. In late afternoon, it’s time for an oh-so-fun ciambelline-making lesson (a favorite Italian “wine” cookie with delightful, Paola. Then it’s off for a stroll down the nearby lane to sketch with Elizabeth in a neighbor’s private, poolside garden. They’ve also invited you for a special apertivo, before you return to the villa for another delectable chef-prepared meal featuring some of Lorenza’s favorite herb dishes.

Wednesday, September 29: Puscina Flowers

  • Organic flower farm, flower arranging mini-lesson, sketching on site, studio instruction, bruschetta lesson
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner

This morning, after a delicious breakfast at the villa, you’ll head off with Elizabeth to an organic flower farm in the heart of Tuscany’s wine country. Sisters, Mara, Laura and Teresa will give you a personal tour of their incredible farm (where they grow more than 500 varieties of flowers), followed by an easy, floral arranging lesson. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch under the ancient olive tree, as you soak in the atmosphere of this authentic, family-run farm. In afternoon it’s back to the villa with Elizabeth – and your own flower arrangement – where you’ll enjoy a studio lesson with Elizabeth as work on your sketch journal. Afterwards it’s time for a bruschetta making lesson and apertivo with Paola, followed by a delectable dinner.

Thursday, September 30: Città della Pieve

  • Saffron tasting, sketching with saffron, flower boxes, botanical garden visit, faux marble demo
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner

After breakfast this morning, you’re off to explore Città della Pieve (Elizabeth’s favorite medieval town!) where you’ll enjoy an onsite lesson as you sketch the gorgeous flower boxes that line the town’s winding medieval avenues. Next, you’ll meet up once again with Gaetano, to visit the town’s duomo, with its beautifully preserved paintings by Perugino, along with the natural history museum, housed in historic Palazzo della Corgna. Here you’ll find colorful, frescoed rooms that feature a variety of Renaissance floral motifs. Afterwards, it’s on to our friends’, Alessandro and Gianni, saffron shop for a light, buffet-style lunch of scrumptious dishes made with saffron – from cheeses to frittata to Gianni’s grandmother’s torta (delicious!). Afterwards, Elizabeth will demonstrate how you can paint with saffron in your sketch journal, before you continue on to visit the botanical gardens of nearby Castelluccio Palusse. In afternoon, you’ll enjoy some on-your-own time back at the villa, followed by a faux marbling demo with artist, Louis Degni. Then it’s time to gather together with your fellow students for aperitivo, followed by dinner under the stars.

Friday, October 1: Villa la Foce

  • Villa Foce gardens tour and onsite lesson, sketching roses
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

This morning, after breakfast at the villa, it’s off for a private visit of the gardens of Villa Foce, one of Tuscany’s most historic gardens, overlooking the picturesque Val d’Orcia. After a tour of the gardens, created by Iris Origo in the 1920s, you’ll enjoy an on-site sketching lesson with Elizabeth, as you take in the spectacular views of winding, cypress lanes and rolling hills. Afterwards, it’s back to the villa for a buffet lunch, followed by your final afternoon lesson with Elizabeth. This evening, get ready for a very special celebration of a week spent learning, sketching and enjoying Italy together.

Saturday, October 2: Departure

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


  • Bella Botanicals: Sketching in Italy with Elizabeth St. Hilaire
  • Dates: September 26 – October 2, 2021
  • 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):
    • $3,790 per person – single occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,690 per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)



Your accommodation 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 van service to/from Rome Fiumicino Airport on arrival and departure dates. 
  • Private van service to/from all cities, towns and sites included in the itinerary
  • All abundant breakfasts, featuring fresh-baked Tuscan pastries, organic sheep’s milk yogurt, local cheeses, seasonal fruits, organic cereal, fresh eggs and cold cuts 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
  • Bonus marbled technique demo
  • Saffron “water color” painting and saffron tasting
  • Private visit to historic gardens of La Foce
  • Exclusive access to a “medieval garden”
  • Exclusive access to a private residence and garden (with aperitivo!)
  • Visit to organic flower farm 
  • Hands-on flower arrangement class
  • Ciambelline-making lesson 
  • Bruschetta-making lesson
  • All entrance fees
  • Local guides and experts
  • Evening aperitivo hour for chatting, sharing and relaxing
  • Free wifi 

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 26 – October 2, 2021
  • 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):
    • $3,790 per person – single occupancy room with ensuite bathroom
    • $3,690 per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)