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A Tuscan Retreat with Gretchen Peters

Oct. 18-25, 2023 • Villa Il Paradisino • 6 Miles Outside of Florence, Italy


Please Email Lydia if you’d like to be added to the cancellation list.

Guest Songwriting Teacher: GRETCHEN PETERS


Sometimes the universe likes to take the wheel during our life’s winding road trip, throwing the map out the window and daring us to just trust. It’s during these times our challenge is to simply say yes and show up. That’s when magic is given permission to do its thing. And by being present and completely open, something inside us shifts, so when it’s time to take the wheel again we’re rested and a little more clear of purpose and direction.

That’s exactly what Italy did for me.

After I folded the magazine in 2009 and had no idea of what to do next or who I was without the identity it had given me, I was reminded of a dream I once had of walking and eating my way through Tuscany. So I said yes and showed up, cracked open and ready for something to make itself apparent.

Six miles outside of Florence, I walked through the gates of Villa Il Paradisino — The Small Paradise — and felt the shifting begin. It was what 14 acres of heaven must surely be like, complete with lemon trees, olive groves, and grapes that were soon to be enjoyed as wine. The colors were from a palette I’d never seen. Food was experienced with all the senses. And the history in each inch of ground or piece of art was beyond my imagination.

Costanza and her sister Serena, who are the fifth generation of the villa’s family, welcomed me into their home and taught me to cook meals that were their grandmother’s recipes, using ingredients grown on their property. When they talked about food, it was like the air around them—that they punctuated with their hands—sat straight up and sighed.

Francesca showed up each morning to take me on an adventure—long walks in the countryside, tours of museums and churches, historical sites and magical villages. Having someone share their knowledge and enthusiasm with me was such a gift, and Francesca did that with a huge smile and wonderfully dry sense of humor. The sweetest part was that she always introduced me as her friend. I was never a tourist.

After a few days in this Tuscan heaven I felt a shift inside of me, and things did indeed start making themselves apparent. The day before I left I told Costanza I could envision bringing songwriters over one day for a creative retreat, where we could show up, be present, breathe, and let the magic happen.

Exactly five years later that vision became a reality, and I took my first group over in October of 2014. Now this is my eleventh retreat there with different guest teachers, and the opportunity for that same magic I experienced to happen in your life.


Any questions, email Lydia Hutchinson.


All-Inclusive Week of Music, Food & Friends • Limit 10-12 PSCW Alumni

About The Experience

As a small group of 10-12 PSCW alums, we will stay at the 15th Century Villa in Sesto Fiorentino, in the breathtaking countryside just six miles outside of Florence. The beautifully restored apartments are spacious, open and look out over gardens and olive groves.

Each morning there will be a breakfast of breads, eggs, jams and yogurts—all homemade and locally grown. Enjoying it together in the family’s dining room is the perfect way to begin the day.

We will have songwriting workshops on four of the mornings, taught by award-winning artist and songwriter Gretchen Peters. She will lead inspiring morning classes to help you tell your story in a compelling way.

You will each enjoy a cooking lesson with Costanza, preparing meals from her grandmother’s recipes, and we will have dinners each night that are nothing short of events—pizza in the gardens cooked in the outdoor wood oven, a traditional Tuscan barbecue, and so much more…

Francesca will guide us through an afternoon in Florence where history will leave you speechless, and the Statue of David will move you to tears. She’ll lead countryside walks, and we’ll spend an afternoon in the Chianti region where she has wonderful surprises planned and we’ll end the day with a wonderful authentic Tuscan dinner in a restaurant in the region. We’ll also spend an entire day in the northernwestern part of Tuscany visiting a breathtaking marble mine and ancient village.

There’ll also be plenty of time to wander around the town of Sesto Fiorentino, walk to the train station from the villa and catch a 10-minute ride into Florence, or spend a planned free day visiting Lucca or Sienna … or even hang out at the villa and help pick olives.

And of course, there will be music … inspiring songwriting classes on four of the mornings, free time to write and have a one-on-one session with Gretchen, and treats from some local musicians.

So the universe is ready to take the wheel for a week in Tuscan paradise. Say yes and show up. And then let the music, food, culture and friendship begin to work its magic in your life.

Details and Price

Once you’ve arrived at the villa, you will be completely taken care of. You won’t need a car, and the train station and town of Sesto Fiorentino are all just short walks. All of your meals are taken care of except for one afternoon that you have on your own.

Here is a list of few of the things that are included:

  • Transportation to the Villa from the Florence airport or Sesto Fiorentino train station
  • 7 nights in an apartment at Villa Il Paradisino: Arrive Wednesday Afternoon October 18, 2022, and leave Wednesday Morning October 25
  • Four mornings of songwriting classes with Gretchen Peters, and a one-on-one session with her
  • Breakfasts of homemade jams, breads, yogurts, and fresh eggs
  • Light lunches of Panini, stuffed focaccia, and other delights
  • A cooking lesson with Costanza in the main house, creating meals from their family recipes that we’ll enjoy that evening
  • Four evenings of dinners and wine served in the dining room of the main house, as well as an opening night dinner on the villa patio (weather permitting) of pizza cooked in the wood-burning oven, and a closing night Tuscan barbecue
  • An afternoon in Florence, accompanied by Francesca as your guide. It will include your train ticket and pass to the Academia museum as well as dinner in a local restaurant
  • A afternoon in the Chianti region with Francesca, a walk through villages, wine tasting at a local winery, and dinner and wine at an authentic Tuscan restaurant.
  • A day in northwestern Tuscany with a tour of a marble mine, lunch, and dinner at a village restaurant.
  • Musical performances by Italian musicians.
  • … and many more surprises.

All-Inclusive Pricing (except for airfare):

  • $3,495 Per Person Double Occupancy Room With Private Bath (Available for 6 People) NOTE: You’ll need to have your roommate planned—we won’t be assigning people to room together.
  • $4,495 Single Occupancy Room With Private Bath (Available for 4 People)


  • $1000 Deposit (Plus $1000 Single Room Supplement if Applicable) Upon Registration
  • Second Payment of $1000 Due June 1, 2023
  • Third Payment of $1000 Due July 1, 2023
  • Balance Due August 1, 2023

Must be 21 Years or Older

Cancellation Policy:

  • All payments and deposits are non-refundable if we are not able to fill the spot. If we are able to fill the spot, however, you will be refunded all but $500.


Registration and Deposit

Registration is on a first-come basis, as well as room availability for the breakdown of single and double occupancy. You are not confirmed until the deposit is received, and you receive a direct email from Lydia confirming it and addressing any questions. If you end up not being confirmed after your deposit is paid because of the event and rooms being filled, you will be immediately refunded in full.

  • NOTE: For double occupancy rooms (that have 2 single beds) you’ll need to have your roommate planned—we won’t be assigning people to room together.

Please Email Lydia if you have any questions.