"Writing Italy" with Helena Attlee and Julian Evans (September 2023)

From €1970 per person
Monday, 4th September to Sunday, 10th September 2023

Join us this September for 6 days of writing masterclasses deep in the Tuscan countryside. 

In its third successful year, Writing Italy: Potentino is designed for writers who want to capture lived experience in their writing, to find the story they want to tell, and to strengthen their voice on the page. 

Over a week of activity-based workshops, writing and discussion, bestselling author Helena Attlee and acclaimed biographer and travel writer Julian Evans will help you discover new writing skills and new ways of seeing and experiencing your surroundings, whether you think of yourself as a writer or are just beginning to write. We focus our workshops at Potentino on life writing but because each day is based around an activity (more on those in a moment), the course is an ideal time to work on any new project based on lived experience, or look at an existing one with fresh eyes. That might be autobiography, biography, memoir, or travel, landscape, food or nature – any form of creative non-fiction.

During your stay in the delightful comfort and bohemian atmosphere of the restored 13th-century Castello di Potentino, you’ll join Tuscan shepherds making cheese, taste wines from the castle’s vineyards, explore its unspoiled landscape, make pasta with the fabulous food writer Rachel Roddy and visit the beautiful hill town of Pienza: experiences you’ll capture on the page and use to inspire your writing. Helena and Julian will work with you in small groups, introducing new approaches to strengthen your writing voice and helping you find the most compelling way to tell your story. You will also have two one-to-one tutorials, where you can discuss your writing in detail with us both.

Our special guests at Potentino this year will be Rachel Roddy, whose books and weekly column in the London Guardian have won her a legion of fans, and Derek Johns, who recently stepped down from running London’s oldest literary agency.


Helena Attlee’s latest book Lev’s Violin: An Italian adventure was published last year and broadcast as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’. Her bestselling The Land Where Lemons Grow: The story of Italy and its citrus fruit has been translated into several languages and won the Guild of Food Writers’ Book of the Year 2015.

Julian Evans is the author of the acclaimed biography Semi-Invisible Man: The life of Norman Lewis and Transit of Venus: Travels in the Pacific. He has presented radio and TV documentaries, reported from central Europe and written about the war in Ukraine from the frontline.

Monday 4th September

Arrive in good time to settle in before meeting the tutors and other writers for an aperitivo followed by dinner

Tuesday 5th September

Using our senses as a way of expressing experiences and connecting to readers, we explore rooting our writing in the physical
world to bring it alive

Activity: Walking the Potentino valley with a local botanist

Sensory writing Aperitivo and dinner at castle

Wednesday 6th September

Today is about building skills to commit real people to the page, using their appearance, body language, behaviour and other closely observed details

Activity: Visit to the local market

Free time for lunch in local town

Workshop: Writing people, their settings and voices

Aperitivo and dinner at castle

Thursday 7th September

We focus on framing a process or an event to make it interesting to anyone, even to those not specifically interested in it

Activity: Local shepherds making ricotta cheese, followed by cheese tasting

Workshop: Finding the universal strand

Tasting the wines of Potentino with Charlotte Horton, followed by dinner with Rachel Roddy

Friday 8th September

Today is led by Rachel Roddy, acclaimed author, Italian food expert and Guardian columnist

Activity: Learning to make pasta with Rachel in Potentino’s 13th-century kitchen

Lunch is home-made pasta –
of course!

Workshop: Armed with our
flour-covered notes and thoughts, we will talk and do three generative
exercises. We’ll also look at strategies for writing about food and practical tips for recipe writing, and to conclude will talk about how to find a sustainable, enjoyable writing process and how to balance messy creativity with structure, form – and dinner

Feedback session with Rachel, Helena and Julian

Aperitivo and ‘Getting published’, a question-and-answer session with Derek Johns, drawing on his career as an editor, publisher and leading
literary agent

Dinner at castle

Saturday 9th September

On the final day we take you through a series of invaluable techniques for revising and polishing your work

Workshop: Ultimate editing: putting it all together


Free time to work on your writing

Celebration and sharing of your work

Dinner at a local restaurant

Sunday 10th September


[We reserve the right to make changes to this timetable if necessary]


“I learnt so much, about my voice, my style. I enjoyed just writing – the different approaches we worked on each day helped enormously”

“I loved the setting, the learning and in particular meeting such a fun and interesting group of people. It seems like it attracted women at different points of exploration in their lives”


“Julian and Helena worked beautifully together in creating a transformative learning experience. Taking part has raised my standard of what I expect from my writing dramatically”

“I came to Potentino without an agenda, but I leave Potentino inspired to share my stories”

Board and lodging at Castello di Potentino

All sessions with Julian and Helena

Pasta-making Workshop and talk with Rachel Roddy

"Behind the scenes in publishing" discussion with Derek Johns

Trips for planned excursions

Last night's dinner at a local restaurant

What's not included


Transfers to and from Potentino (can be booked as an extra)

Meals on planned excursions


Prices vary by room choice and number of guests sharing the room.

A single person is € 2510

Two people sharing a room is € 2105 per person.

Three people sharing a room is €1970 per person.

Please note

If you would like to pay a deposit

The payment system asks for payment in full. If you would rather pay a non-refundable 25% deposit at the time of booking, please enter the code DEPOSIT25 at checkout. The final payment will be due one month before the start of the course.

If you have any issues booking

Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to clear the cart if you need to make any changes to your room selection etc.

If you have any issues at all, please contact Alexander Greene alexander.greene@potentino.com

"Writing Italy" with Helena Attlee and Julian Evans (September 2023)

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