Italian Idyll


It is midday, and one of the great rituals of the Arniano Painting School is just beginning. Our hostess, Amber Guinness, of that famous brewing family, rings a tiny handbell. My fellow painters and I lay down our brushes and proceed like cardinals to a table shaded by lemon trees at the side of the 18th-c. Tuscan farmhouse. 

There is a reassuring pop and the first of the day’s bottles of Soave is opened. Guinness—whose new cookbook, A House Party in Tuscany (Thames & Hudson), is out now—drifts around dispensing wine into our rapidly drained glasses. “My father used to have a horror at seeing an empty glass,” she says. It is like being at a private house party. Only much more interesting. 

The other attendees on this week-long course are like characters in an Agatha Christie novel. A retired oil executive from Rochester, New York, is talking to the bestselling English author who arrived on the Orient Express; the daughter of a construction magnate is discussing art with an English poet; and the Swiss octogenarian is making merry with our painting teacher, William Roper-Curzon, a son of the 20th Baron Teynham, and a former tutor at the Royal Drawing School in London. Amber has already succeeded in creating a sense of esprit de corps in this group of strangers, who each pay for bed, board, and instruction from Roper-Curzon.

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This story appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of MILIEU.