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A view of walking around OrvietoThe air smells of blossoms, earth, sun-warmed rosemary. It’s a verdant, grassy sort of smell that makes me smile. A mourning dove coos as a breeze rattles spring leaves. But for the American radio stations driving by, I could be in Italy. I love springtime in LA and for the most part I never want to be anywhere else. Except Italy.

One of my favorite things about our Orvieto writing retreat is the time in the mornings when I get to walk along the ring path that circles this little gem of a town. Sometimes I walk it alone as the cool of dawn drifts into the warmth of another Umbrian day. Sometimes I walk it with our program participants who, like me, want to start the day by stretching their legs, filling their lungs with fresh air, and getting their creative juices flowing. It’s a perfect meditation for a day of writing. And a great time to hear about plot or character breakthroughs they had in the night. We may just solve that act two problem before breakfast!

Orvieto cliff walkOrvieto is an exceptional hill town about an hour and half north of Rome. Built on a plateau of tufa that rises from a valley basin, the spot has been occupied since Etruscan times and boasts a rich history including underground tunnels and one of the most celebrated cathedrals in Italy. As we walk, I may point out the road to Florence, the little abbey across the valley, or the olive orchard in the distance where we might go olive oil tasting later. That is, if we get our work done.

We come back from these morning walks energized and filled with the spirit of la dolce vita all around us. Then it’s time to gather and do the day’s script workshopping, whether we’re on character breakdowns, story structure, or dialog polish. Taking this morning pause is just one of the things that makes our time here so productive and rewarding.

I pass by the billboards on Sunset Boulevard, a stolen stem of rosemary filling me with dreams of this year’s upcoming trip. I can’t wait to get writing.

Join us in Italy and see for yourself.