A few summers ago, I was offered to opportunity to stay for a week at an artist residency in Italy called "Villa Lena". Perched high on a Tuscan hill the house greets you in grand style from it's long drive way. Inside things are very much more back to basics, there's a weird almost sensual feeling of a place that once hosted an elegant an array of glitterati yet today stands paired back, spartan almost, with it's huge stone staircase empty of gowns and tiaras.
Although the creature comforts of the big house are minimal, the energy isn't. It's halls are filled with the echoing eccentric sounds of it's motley crew of artists, each using the time space and home cooked meals to allow them to develop new ideas, finish concepts or build out big dreams in the grounds. It's an escape from so much of reality that it almost feels a little bit like a peaceful (and sometimes not so peaceful) Lord of the flies.
For less artistically minded, humans with children, or just those who don't want to sing for their supper by creating a great work. There are much more modern and charming private villa's that you can rent. While still mingling with the resident artists pool side or in the wonderful pizza restaurant on site.
Companion: If you are on residency I suggest you go alone, as you just might want to do some bed sharing with an artist down the hall.
Drink: ALLL the red wine, from local vineyards.
Safety: There is something a little creepy about the Villa, but nothing to worry about that Scooby Doo couldn't fix.
Pack: Long loose shirts, warm sweaters it gets cold at night and the strongest bug repellent you can find.
Must: You must take a stroll to the abandoned village above the villa, and you must eat pizza while playing ping pong.
Awful: It's cold and echoey and loud in the main house.