Writing Holidays at Villa Pia with Kay Dunbar
Kay Dunbar is a literature festival director and runs the popular Art and Writing Holidays at Villa Pia every year.
In the first of our new Q&A series, Kay tells us about her experience of being a regular guest and course instructor at the villa.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
We run a company called Ways With Words that organises 3 major literature festivals a year: a 10 day festival at Dartington Hall in Devon which has about 100 events and with about 17,000 ticket sales; a 10 day festival on the banks of Derwentwater in the Lake District which is a similar size to the Dartington festival and a smaller festival in Southwold, Suffolk – 5 days, about 25 events and with ~ 5000 ticket sales.
How long have you been running the workshops at Villa Pia?
About 17 to 18 years.
What kind of writers and students come to the workshops?
All kinds are welcome: beginners, experienced and published writers, those who just want a convivial holiday in Italy and those who want serious advice about getting on with their books. A healthy mix of all these types attend the courses.
The group workshops are aimed at students at all stages with their writing. This seems a tall order but seems to work. I suppose no two people are ever at the same stage – even two published writers. Individual tutorials are arranged for those wanting specific advice. We also run art courses and discussion groups.
How did you discover Villa Pia?
Through a writer who recommended the place to us.
What do you find special about this place?
It’s perfect for our groups: relaxed, informal, idyllic setting, very Italian. Also professional, well-organised, amazing food.
What is the best thing on the Villa Pia menu?
I love the pasta course each evening and I’m particularly fond of the gnocchi.
Anything you would add… ?
If there was one thing you could change about the villa?
Maybe the funny little square deep baths in the ensuite bathrooms.
What is your favourite time of year to visit?
Our courses are at the end of the busiest season so mid to late September for 2 weeks.
What things do you like doing outside the villa?
Not much! There are amazing places close by with stunning art and architecture but it’s good to be settled at Villa Pia. Probably worth going to one of the markets in nearby towns – Citta di Castello on Saturday is fun.
Who do you think Villa Pia is best suited for: a) families b) couples c) seniors d) backpackers e) your own choice?
Everyone – for different reasons.
What will be your best or most entertaining memories of Villa Pia?
Sunshine through the wisteria; the huge spread at the buffet lunch; the communal table for good conversation with the delicious meals; the deckchairs in the courtyard for having a glass of wine, reading, talking, snoozing.
To find out more about Ways with Words and to book your writing holiday at Villa Pia, visit www.wayswithwords.co.uk