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 in-depth lessons with Elizabeth, opportunities to sketch in stunning sites, a vast variety of botanical inspiration (from flowers to herbs to Tuscany flora) plus exceptional side trips to medieval villages and and tucked away panoramic locations. 

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!


🌸  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 flowers!

🌸  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 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 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, 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.”


DAY 1 – Sunday, September 26: 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. 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 27: Puscina Flower Farm

  • Organic flower farm & flower arranging, sketching on site, journal-making lesson
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after a delicious breakfast at the villa, our drivers will be transporting you to an amazing organic flower farm, right 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 onsite sketching with Elizabeth. You’ll also get to pick your own flowers for an easy-going floral lesson lesson – plus you’ll be taking your arrangement back to the villa afterwards. Lunch is at one of our favorite locations, overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany.

In afternoon it’s back to the villa with Elizabeth, where you’ll enjoy an in-studio lesson focused on creating your own sketch journal. What fun! Afterwards it’s time for a super-fun bruschetta making lesson and apertivo with Paola, followed by a delectable, Tuscan style dinner.

DAY 3 – Tuesday, September 28: Poggia alle Trese

  • Stamp-making with Gaetano, Italian herb lesson and herb sketching
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

After this morning’s breakfast, get ready for a fabulous day of Italian inspiration, as you join Elizabeth, and local artist, Gaetano, for a fun and fascinating stamp-making lesson. Gaetano will show you how Italian’s have used stamped designs for centuries, plus he’ll help you make your own very own floral stamp – a beautiful addition to your sketch journal.

Lunch is served up right here at the villa, followed by free time for sketching or relaxing by the pool, before continuing your instruction with Elizabeth. In late afternoon you’ll be joined by chef Lorenza for a fascinating herb lesson, where you’ll learn about favorite Italian herbs – including wild varieties – and their uses for both cooking and wellness. Plus Elizabeth will guide you on her to approach sketching herbs. Aperitivo follows, along with another delectable chef-prepared meal featuring some of Lorenza’s favorite herb dishes.

DAY 4 – Wednesday, September 29: Città della Pieve

  • Excursion to Città della Pieve, onsite sketching with Elizabeth, market day, saffron tasting & painting, pizza night
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast at the villa, our drivers will be transporting you to nearby Città della Pieve where you’ll enjoy a walking tour of the town’s medieval avenues, including a stop at the local market to select a few gorgeous, fresh vegetables for sketching later. After a stop at our friends’ coffee bar, you’ll settle in with Elizabeth to sketch some of the charming flower boxes that line the winding alleyways – irresistible! Lunch is served at one of our favorite open-air cafes, before heading back to the villa for a bit of rest and relaxation.

In the afternoon you’ll join Elizabeth – and your vegetables from the market – for an in-studio lesson, focused on capturing the shapes of fruits and vegetables. Then later, it’s back to town for free time to shop and explore on your own. Be sure not to miss Francesca’s organic shop, Fabio and Giovana’s fashion boutique or La Fema – an artisan shop that sells exceptional local gastronomic specialties. Then you’ll be meeting up with the rest of the group at Alessandro’s saffron shop, for a delicious saffron-tasting (a specialty of Città della Pieve for centuries!), followed by painting with saffron! Plus Elizabeth will demonstrate how you can paint with saffron in your sketch journal. Afterwards, Lorenza has invited us to her restaurant for pizza-making and dinner.

DAY 5 – Thursday, September 30: San Casciano dei Bagni

  • Sketching with Elizabeth, excursion to San Casciano dei Bagni, visit to archeological site, aperitivo in the vineyard
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast, you’ll join Elizabeth for instruction, including a walk into the nearby vineyard and olive grove for a delightful onsite sketching lesson. Learn how to easily capture the color and form of grape clusters and grape leaves, along with the silvery, green foliage of the olive tree. Lunch is served back at the villa, followed by time to sketch on your own or relax poolside.

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 sketch your way  along a countryside lane to our friend, Daniel’s, family vineyard, making a stop along the way at an incredible archeological park to see the remains of Roman baths and a newly found Roman temple. Once at the vineyard, you’re in for a treat as we enjoy aperitivo right here, while gazing up at the town’s romantic castle. Dinner follows, in Daniela’s chic restaurant, nestled beneath the walls of the castle. What a special experience! 

DAY 6 – Friday, October 1: Chiusi 

  • Onsite lesson at green house/plant nursery, coffee at the lake, gallery celebration
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner

This morning, after breakfast at the villa, it’s off to the most grand, sweeping plant nurseries in the region where you’ll find enormous Italian cypress, along with citrus, flowers and herbs that will make you swoon. Here you will wander and sketch with Elizabeth to your heart’s delight, while taking a late-morning break at nearby Lago di Chiusi, a small fishing lake with an inviting shore-side coffee bar.

Afterwards, it’s back to the villa for a light lunch, followed by 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, 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
    • $3,640 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 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
  • Stamp-making lesson with Gaetano
  • Herb lesson with chef Lorenza
  • Free time for shopping and exploring
  • Aperitivo 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: 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
    • $3,640 per person – single occupancy room with shared bathroom (max 2 of same gender per bathroom)