My title 

Damiano does karaoke... italian style.

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Accountant by day and entertainer by night!

Everyone loves our host at Montestigliano – Damiano Donati on our Singing in Siena and Italy events!



Finding a voice by Claire Scobie

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Travel articles are often seen as easy but they’re surprisingly difficult to write. You need to balance practical information, anecdotes and a few facts and figures, with literary description. The voice is generally more informal than for a feature article because it’s personal and written from the first-person point of view.

For a travel memoir, there are many more voices to choose from. Yes, everyone’s written about the cafes of Paris or the beaches of Bali, but how you tell the story—how you choose to narrate it—can make an old tale sound new. Simply put, the narrator is the voice of your story.

Voice is the combination of:

    Style – what words you choose, how you structure your sentences and paragraphs

    Personality of the author

    Tone – this includes mind-set, opinions, feelings and attitude behind the words.

It often takes time to find your own voice (and if you want to explore it further, sign up for my upcoming 7 day travel writing course. While there is a cross over between styles, it helps to ask, is it conversational or formal, intimate or lyrical? If you’re genuinely funny, write humorous prose. If you’re reflective, go for depth. It’s much easier to write in a way that is natural and aim for consistency to give your narrative a smoother feel.

At the moment I’m reading (and loving) Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. It’s a novel but the second half, set in Varanasi, reads like travelogue. Dyer’s tone and language reflects the narrator which he has cultivated to tell this story. In another book, he may have a very different voice. The narrator is funny, outrageous, dark and occasionally, sublime. His voice crackles with energy and slips between poetic phrases, conversation and personal revelation. Swearing, slang and informal patter are all fair game, so too are invented words, repetition and colloquialisms for used for emphasis.

Here he is talking about Varanasi.

‘The action on the road was first matched and then exceeded by what was happening on either side of it, by the blare and frenzy of display, of frantic buying and selling, loading and unloading… Everything was piled up. Everything was excessive. Everything was brightly coloured and loud, so everything had to be even brighter and louder than everything else. So everything blared. There was so much of it all, blaring so loud and bright, that it was impossible to tell exactly what this everything was made up of, what it comprised. It was a totality of bright, noisy, blaringness…’

Like, dislike? Let us know— how did you find your voice?

If you wish to fully immerse yourself in a writing course this year, Claire Scobie will be our teacher for Travel Writing in a Palace in August. Palazzo Donati has now made it possible for us to extend the Early Bird past our cut off date and we will be able to offer single rooms without having to pay a single supplement but you better hurry and book now.

Click the link button here to read up and book your place.   

I knew I could paint but who would have thought I could sing!

by: Oana Deac on

It was two years ago when I came to that point in my life when I was feeling stuck and not able to take a decision about my next step in life, about my future, about moving towards happiness. I knew it existed and I knew it was up to me to go for it, but I guess I was not ready for it yet.

My days in Amsterdam were getting darker and darker, in all aspects, and I could not find any substitute for the light and the sun I was missing so badly from my external and internal existence. Too long in the same corporate company having to cope with the politics, a personal relationship going wrong, insomnia and severe back problems, the all inclusive package, like it was Christmas in hell.

We all have our limits I guess, our timing and we’re all quite different in that matter. It took me one year to realize I had to stop complaining and do something. But what?

I knew I had to leave my life in Amsterdam but I wasn’t prepared for the journey. I could not imagine letting my guard down by making the wrong decision and disappointing everyone, failing, as that was a possibility and my brain tended to hang onto that negative thought.

But then a sense of surrender came over me and I knew it was time and OK to ask for help, so I got myself a coach. After only two sessions the word painting jumped out of my notes and brought me back to my childhood when I saw myself as an artist, only to be told that success wasn’t easy to reach in that world. I used to love drawing, dancing and even singing sometimes. Where did all those joys go? Who scared them away?

And so I joined a painting class and from then on I felt that it was my own movie and I was writing the script at the same time. My first step in the studio was firm and in a hurry, afraid that I might waist even seconds from my time for painting. I knew I had reached that moment when good energy was picking up by minute and building up a strength in me. I enjoyed each and every class and at some point painting became my meditation. As it was an intuitive painting class, we were painting with our hands, even dancing and singing in the same time. There was color in the sounds, in the moves, in the visual space, there was color everywhere and I LOVED IT!

Close to the end of the course I knew I wanted more of what my life was missing, it was COLORS. Loud vibrant radiantly striking colors! I knew they were inside, I just needed some sun to get them blooming. At the same time something got triggered in me at a deeper level and suddenly my fear was gone. I remember the moment of acknowledging not having that heavy feeling of “what if” anymore and next thing I knew that I was ready to leave.

When telling one of my best friends about my plans, he nodded “This is it, you’re on your way! This is the type of passionate energy that drives you and you just need to ride and pay attention. From now on it will be all a pleasant journey”. And so it was and so still is. Bali here I come

I was in love with Bali even before I landed, as “I love Bali” became my mantra when logging in at work every day for my last two months of work. I am sure the Island of the Gods shared the same feelings as she saluted me with a strong earthquake the next day I stepped on her beautiful fields. What a welcome that was!

Sometimes I feel there are no words of describing the beauty of this place. I paint with joy and I breathe it all in, as Bali is my forever green canvas, which changes by light, sounds, smells from a day to the other. Every day is a new painting for me and I absorb and take it all in with gratefulness.

I had the chance to work with painters from Bali, walk into their studios and absorb the knowledge they have to offer and they do it so openly. One of my teachers, I Wayan Karja, has opened his door for me in such a humble way, that I feel honored to be so lucky and have him as my mentor.

But my journey didn’t just get the painting flavor though, as Bali seems to be one of the most abundant places when it comes to expressive arts. People sing, people dance, people create a lot here!

And yes, I never thought I could sing the way I sing. I figured that out when joining the Singabout choir for a week and a new type of energy fueled my body. I did toy around with kirtan for a while since I came to live in Bali, but apart from a one time lifting experience, not too much happened around it, or not enough to get me wanting more of it.

Singing in a choir was empowering, it was lifting, it was joyful and above all meaningful. I felt I was  part of a higher power, maybe of the group, maybe of the Gods within us. I could hardly sleep that week, because of the excitement and high elevations I was exposed too. But still, the energy to do it over and over again every day was there. And what got me more, was the fact that I could hear my voice and I could hear I can sing, something I would have never considered I can do well.

I used to be judgmental about gospel before, but this entire experience delivered music to me in another type of envelope. The joy of singing for God was somehow different when being part of the group. Or maybe it was because I realized I was singing to myself, to my God, to Me God.

I’ll keep that singing week in my mind as a great experience, which nourished my soul, my voice and my inner voice. It helped me express a different part of the artist in me and I am grateful for that.

So here I am, living my life in Bali the way I want, painting and creating, investing time and energy in what I love to do and what has always been inside me waiting to come out and smile to the world. I feel lucky enough to have met and worked with people who believe in me and encourage me to go on, I feel like I have started all over again.

What my story has taught me is that the truth can’t be held down and sooner or later it’s taking you over and brings you to where you belong, HOME.

Living in Bali now seems so natural like I have been doing this all my life. I guess I have been living here all the , in my imaginary mind.

I am thankful each and every day for my choice, for rediscovering painting, dancing and singing and finding the space in Bali to become what I always wanted to become, an artist.

Maybe you don't have to be as radical as I was but I really recommend that you go out and find the artist within you, it was the best decision I have ever made!

Love Oana xx

The Donati family history

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Our partner for our Italy events, Luisa Donati shares some of her family history in this unedited clip I took of her in Montestigliano last August.

I hope you enjoy hearing the history dating back from the 1200's in Florence then on to Marche and back to Tuscany as much as I do.

We will explore more of this story and visit the Castello della Pieve where Dante was held in exile during our Travel Writing in a Palace workshop in August this year.

Luisa and the Donati family host Singabout in their beautiful family residencies at Palazzo Donati in Marche and Montestigliano in Sovicelle, Tuscany.