Wine, Women, and Watercolors – Painting in Italy – Part 1

Ciao Bella! If you follow my friend la Principessa Carolyne Roehm , you may know that we and a gaggle of gals have spent the last week in Porto Ercole watercoloring with Mita Corsini Bland, herself a watercolorist molto di talento. Between the eating, drinking, and cackling, we did manage a watercolor or two, and it was molto fun-o.

Who says I can’t speak Italian.

View of Porto Ercole, Italy
View of Porto Ercole, Italy, from my room at the Don Pedro Hotel. Not fancy but fine for us. Up the road is Il Pelicano, very fancy.

I will skip the New York part about forgetting my suitcase and having to double clear back to 61st and 5th from 57th and 1st during rush hour on the way to JFK. It was like if you were in Atlanta and said woops I left my pocketbook in St. Louis and having to go back to get it.  Principessa was a very good sport about this. I believe I would have strangled me.

One look at this beautiful place, and the dolce vita it promises, and all is forgotten.

Porto Ercole
Porto Ercole

The drive from the Rome airport is a bit under two hours. We were hosted for drinks by Mita’s sister Daisy, who has a charming townhouse in the old part of Porto Ercole, on the Piazza Santa Barbara.

Daisy's house in Porto Ercole
Daisy's house in Porto Ercole

Nearby was this charmingly festooned facade. You can buy these terra cotta decorations in the local market. I didn’t but I wanted to.

Terra Cotta decoration on a house in Porto Ercole
Terra Cotta decoration on a house in Porto Ercole

Mita’s is a recently renovated farmhouse on her family’s property, and it is perfect. Her husband, New York antiques dealer Gerald Bland, and their children, cousins, and friends spend many happy days here in summer. We were soooo lucky for her to share it with us for six days.

Mita Corsini Bland - Farmhouse in Porto Ercole
Mita's restored farmhouse on her family's property in Porto Ercole. Above the bricked-in window is the Corsini family coat of arms. In the doorway, a fellow painter gathers her supplies.

If you did not see the house in this May/June issue of Veranda, do see it. To die.

Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany
Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany
Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany
Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany

Heather Clawson did an excellent post on the Blands and the house in her much admired Habitually Chic here. (Btw yours truly had a piece in the same Veranda issue, on a Thomas Pheasant project, posted in Quintessence here.)

Lunches were relished beneath a wisteria-covered pergola.

Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany - Pergola
Lunch under the pergola, and it's artichoke season. Yum.

The wisteria must be as old as the Buddha. Look at the size of its branches.

Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany - Pergola
Mita and Gerald Bland Farmhouse in Tuscany - Pergola

Oh, right, the painting. Well the weather was a challenge on occasion, at first moving us indoors for an exercise in value–that is, working out the lights and darks. We sketched, then painted. Our teacher was the unflappable and extremely talented Patricia (“Tish”) Seligman, from London.

Tish Seligman leads watercolor workshop in Tuscany
Tish Seligman leads watercolor workshop in Tuscany. From left, barely there, is Judy Bernadete, Linda Dabney, Louisa Blodgett, Tish Seligman, Mita Bland, Adrienne Vittadini, and seated is Sarah H----Jones(?)

My sketch:

Ostrich eggs in a basket by Frances Schultz
Ostrich eggs in a basket by Frances Schultz

Carolyne’s painting:

Ostrich eggs in a basket by Carolyne Roehm
Ostrich eggs in a basket by Carolyne Roehm. (Photographed outside in dappled light, hence the "bubbles." Scusi...)


Ostrich eggs by Mita Bland
Ostrich eggs by Mita Corsini Bland

It is so interesting to see how different people portray the same subject. That’s half the fun of a workshop. May I add that although several of us were adept at drawing or painting in other mediums, none of us except Mita was an experienced watercolorist. But wow, look at what they came up with:

Weazy Blodgett's dovecote
Weazy Blodgett's dovecote
Dovecote by Carolyne Roehm
Dovecote by Carolyne Roehm
Adrienne Vittadini's dovecote
Adrienne Vittadini's dovecote
Tuscan dovecote by Frances Schultz
Dovecote by Frances Schultz

See what I mean.

Stand by for Part 2… After that Principessa and I are meeting our beloved bon-bons in Paris and are off on another bike trip… Magnifico.


  1. Dear Sis, I don’t believe you don’t have some of those terra cotta decorations hidden away in your suitcase…just saying!

  2. Frances! LOVE this post!!! looks like a painting workshop in heaven!! How wonderful… the food the wine the fabulous women, the landscape – loved seeing all the different visions and points of view in the paintings especially the egg ones! Enjoy La Dolce Vita!!!! CIAO

    1. Absolutely divine. I already suggested to a dear friend she should consider persuing her artistic talents in Italy…perhaps for her 60th. I am trying to connect with Lorette Kittle…she visited my home on the north shore of Long Island. I loved her comment when she walked up on my back lawn from the Long Island Sound (she and her husband came over by motorboat from Greenwich) Lorette said this is like Great Gatsby. Lorette email me at

  3. Never been to Italy and can’t paint but I live vicariously through your adventures.
    Thanks so much,
    Harriet Spencer

  4. Frances
    Love everything about this post! I am crazy about Daisy’s house. Those shutters and entrance..The art work is amazing…Thank you for taking your blog fans along on the adventure. Dying to see Part 2.

  5. Frances,
    Such an inspiring environment. I’d still be walking around mouth agape at the textures, colors, light plays, etc. Eat*, Paint, Love..(*drink, laugh) Best to you and Principessa! XO Pete

  6. Oh what a fab idea. I haven’t painted since my days at Parsons School of Design. I hope you had the best time!

    Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

  7. Francesca..!!!!!! How did you find time to so beautifully capture our week already ????

  8. And then there was Roberto our languid eyed cook who was only too happy to oblige everyone’s culinary passions not to mention JFK’s favorite pasta sauce! xx

  9. It was fun to read how clever and talented we were . Glad you didn’t see my dovecote painting from last year, Gaudi might come to mind. Mind the wine while bicycling.

  10. Aaaah… beautiful and thanks for cluing me in to the Veranda articles. I must say your photos of the farmhouse are every bit as inviting. Love seeing the different views on the dovecote. You have got trees down! Looking forward to “arm chair traveling” with you. CR is right- you are adept at posting from afar. (-:

  11. Ciao Bella! Your Eye tal is wonderful!! So are the drawings,pictures and you creative dolls are molto benne artists…such fun to Travel along with you!! Anxiously awaiting part two of the journey. Thanks again for being so wonderful to share with us home pigeons back in USA!!

  12. Imagine my surprise when seeing friends from Louisville! Knew Weasy was going to Italy and Linda does charming things. I got on to your fun blog through Blair Clarke, whose mother is an old friend. Very small world!!!

  13. OMG!! a)I want your life, and b) how do you forget your suitcase???? Looking forward to Part II!!

  14. sick jealous.
    That’s all I have to say.
    OK, maybe not…
    I went to a water colour weekend course all by myself once in Santa Cruz.
    Just wanted you to feel sorry for me.

  15. Ciao Bella!! What fun! The location is divine and the paintings are fantastic! I want to paint together soon..xoxox

  16. I would love the contact details of Patricia Seligman – do you know if she holds other classes or just special one-offs like the one you attended – you lucky thing. Wonderful

    1. Hi Jan, thanks for writing, and yes Tish Seligman does do other workshops in other places and I am delighted to put you in touch. I will send you her email via email. I enjoyed reading your blog as well!

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