The retreat

What are the stories you wish to tell? Do you dream of starting a writing project, unblocking your creativity, or giving your work-in-progress some much-needed time and care?

This is your chance to spend a week in the Italian countryside with three (yes, three) acclaimed writer-teachers: Elise Valmorbida, Tobias Jones and Alice Vincent. Your three writing guides have worked in various genres and media — non-fiction, novels, screenwriting, documentaries, journalism — and they’re big-hearted teachers of creative writing. They’re brilliant individually, and as a team. They’ll help you hone your voice, structure your story, tackle dialogue, build narrative drive — and advise on any writing or publishing queries that crop up.

Here’s an opportunity to share ideas and to experiment, maybe to reimagine a manuscript which has become a burden. You’ll feel at home if you’re exploring memoir, fiction, scriptwriting or non-fiction.

The week (14-21th October 2023) will involve morning writing workshops in small groups, daily one-on-one tutorials with each of our tutors, evening readings, plus — for those who fancy it — the option of yoga sessions, tennis, swimming and walking.

To be at Villa Pia is to join in: long lunches and traditional Tuscan four-course dinners at one big table, with good coffee, wine and Aperol spritz on tap. Villa Pia is naturally sociable, but you will also be able to enjoy solitude here, especially in our silent writing rooms. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration in the misted dawns and deep, star-studded skies. We look after the essentials so that you can concentrate on making space for your storytelling.

Consider this retreat a permission-granting to work on your words. Stimulating, creative and thoroughly relaxing, A Haven for Stories offers that rare thing: time to work out what story you want to tell, and how best to tell it.

For those writers who are keen to extend the Villa Pia experience, we are offering a second week at our historic town-house nearby, available only as an add-on if you book week one. During this second week (21-28th October 2023), there are no workshops, but you’ll have two tutorials with Tobias and Elise to help you with your work-in-progress. It’s the perfect way to build in intensive writing time after an inspiring and galvanising week of learning. The Palazzo is a two-minute walk to Villa Pia for main meals, but the town-house is also stocked with essentials if you want to be a writing hermit. This retreat extension is limited to eight places only.

The surroundings

Villa Pia is an award-winning family villa in Lippiano, a traditional Italian town on the border of Umbria and Tuscany. The area remains as beautiful and unspoiled as it was 500 years ago. Famed for inspiring the architecture, painting and sculpture of the Renaissance period, here civilisation and nature sit side by side.

The main house at Villa Pia is a 15th-century Italian country manor house, once the summer residence of a Florentine family. The large, rustic house plus converted barn and stables provide 17 bedrooms, all with private bathrooms. Every room is unique, retaining original and traditional features and furnishings. In the main house there are communal rooms for dining, and space for you to relax, chat with a fellow workshop member or curl up with a book in the library. The house opens out onto the courtyard–perfect for time outdoors, with an aperitivo.

Book your place

For the first week shared occupancy is priced at £1200, single occupancy with shared
bathroom at £1400, and single occupancy with en suite at £1700. This includes all tuition, meals, drinks and snacks 24 hours a day.

The second week is writing-intensive. There are no group workshops, but two tutors are on hand for tutorials. There are single rooms available for this week priced at £1200.

To book please contact

Alice Vincent

Alice Vincent is a writer. She is the author of nature memoir Rootbound, Rewilding a Life among other gardening books, and is currently working on Why Women Grow, a narrative non-fiction exploration of the relationship between women and the land, published by Canongate. A career journalist, Alice is currently the Features Editor of Penguin Books, but holds columns with The Telegraph and The New Statesman, as well as contributing to VogueThe Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Observer. She runs the Instagram account and newsletter noughticulture, which offer a closer look at the nature that surrounds us. Alice lives in South London.

Elise Valmorbida

Italian Australian author Elise Valmorbida won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award 2019 for her acclaimed fourth novel, The Madonna of the Mountains (Faber), published internationally in several languages. Other published work includes essays, articles, short stories, poetry, and three non-fiction books. Her latest is The Happy Writing Book, a guide to creative writing and wellbeing, inspired by 20+ years of experience as writer-teacher. Elise is also an award-winning indie film producer and script consultant.

Tobias Jones

TJ is the author of five works of non-fiction and three novels. He has written and presented documentaries for the BBC and for RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, and won the Daily Telegraph’s Football Book of the Year for Ultra. A regular contributor to the British and Italian press, Jones was the co-founder of Windsor Hill Wood (the subject of A Place of Refuge). He lives in Parma.