How I Came to Make a Film in Italy

BLOG #3 DAY 2.  JUNE 11, 2015

Those who know me well, know that I enjoy a good swim in a hotel pool  (whether I’m a guest there or not..oops)  Perhaps not the most kosher of my habits but why would Italy be any exception?

I’d noticed that the Grand Hotel (across the street from the Hotel Columbia) had a lovely large pool and slipped in for a morning swim.  

I spied some nattily dressed Italian policeman (carabinieri )outside the hotel but fortunately my trespassing went unnoticed. 

The pool was cold but invigorating and I was now sufficiently awake for my next adventure but still needed caffeine!

Grabbed a cappuchino at a local bar (consumed standing , less expensive than getting a table…and learned that cappuccinos are not to be ordered after 11 a.m.) then walked through town to catch the funicular to Montecantini Alta!

I took the funicular car named Gigia (there’s a second car Gigio, both once simply known as Number 1 and Number 2) It’s a unique and characteristic transportation method which clearly hasn’t lost its charm since its inauguration on June 4, 1898, witnessed by Giuseppe Verdi himself!

Riding on one of the red cars with wooden benches, on the way up I was surrounded by lush growth and wild poppies and once in the town, I was amazed at the quaint town square, beautiful villas and intoxicating smell of jasmine.

Montecatini Alto, a medieval town set on two hills, does offer some historical sites.  

On one side you will find the Rocca di Castello Vecchio, the Church of St. Peter (the original church of Montecatini) and the Tower of Campanaria. On the opposite hill you will find the Torre dell’Orologio and the Church of the Carmine in a distinct Baroque style.

I wandered a bit, then had lunch al fresco overlooking a Tuscan valley  straight out of a Renaissance landscape painting. There was  light rain shower so in hopes of warming up tried the famous Tuscan bread soup, Ribollito. 

Maybe my gluten intolerance had just started kicking in  but this  – soggy bread and vegetables -wasn’t my favorite Tuscan meal.  However, it was followed by  a cup of Tuscan hot chocolate – cioccolata caldo – that was so rich it was like eating warm chocolate ice cream. Yum!  That was a favorite.

Feeling full and ready to explore some more, took Gigia back down into Montecantini Terme and did some shopping in an open air market.  Discovered some great Tuscan printed tablecloths for 5 euros and picked up several for Christmas presents.


I’m a big fan of matinees and was back in time to catch a 4:00 pm showing of Sin City with Bruce Willis – in Italian with no subtitles.   Although I don’t speak Italian I was able to follow the plot as the visuals told the story. 

Dinner time!  And wanted to try a local dish -ravioli with walnut truffle cream sauce -I ventured to Ristorante da Lorenzo popular with locals and very well reviewed. .

This is dish was as divine as it sounds and so so rich –  6 raviolis and a small salad were a feast!

A stroll around the town to wear off a bit of the walnut cream sauce, now fully satisfied and filled with all the experiences at Montecantini it was off to bed for the next adventure…..Florence!


The Art of Acting – Italy Acting Retreat


I was thankful for the small gym in the hotel, and after an early workout on the treadmill and a light breakfast at the Panoramic, I was ready to explore this lovely spa town.

First stop – Terme Tettuccio

Tettuccio is one of several spas set in a park inside the town of Montecatini Terme. The Tettuccio spring is on the property; the name Tettuccio refers to the little roof found over the spa’s source when the spa was being built to its modern configuration.

 The therapeutic properties of the waters in this area were already known about in Roman times, and many of these spas are built in Art Nouveau style. Il Tettuccio – one of the first establishments – is regarded as the symbol of the town.

 Known for their curative powers—and, at least once upon a time, for their great popularity among the wealthy—the mineral springs flow from five sources and are taken for a variety of ailments, including liver and skin disorders.


Those “taking the cure” report each morning to one of the town’s stabilimenti termali (thermal establishments) to drink their prescribed cupful of water. Afterward, guests can enjoy a leisurely breakfast, read the newspaper, recline and listen to music, or walk in the parks that surround these grand old spas.

I decided to taste (for 6 euros) one of these curative waters – and had the following four to choose from

  • Leopoldina Waters – “indicated for the treatment of chronic constipation. Normal bowel function is generally restored whenever treatment cycles are spaced at 4/6 month intervals.”
  • Regina Waters – “restores a regular bile flow from the liver to the bowels and are useful in the case of hepatic and bladder disorders.”
  • Tettuccio Waters – “effective in the depurative process of the liver, and can help reduce cholesterol levels.”
  • Rinfresco Waters – The “diuretic waters favor the process of waste elimination through the urinary system as well as the restoration of normal saline levels after prolonged sports activities.”

I decided on the Rinfresco as that sounded like it would have the least possible after effects (I didn’t want to spoil my trip with a regular bile flow (!) or mess with the depurative process of my liver (whatever that means:) –

The rinfresco water was god awful….warm, really salty, strong strong mineral taste.  The only effect I noticed was that it made me tired and thirsty.  Didn’t notice any diuretic properties, I mostly swelled up, particularly around my eyes!  Maybe you need to do it for 12 days in a row as suggested, but not an experience I wished to repeat.

But the spa itself (which only offers the waters, no spa treatments) is beautiful – romanesque buildings with gorgeous frescoes

and tuxedo clad musicians playing Puccini !

Being sleepy wasn’t too much of a problem as next stop was a mineral bath and hot stone massage at the hotel. 

Quite divine, a truly relaxing experience (evidenced by the nap immediately after), then enjoyed a quiet dinner at the Panoramic and a second night’s deep and restful sleep.


The Art of Acting – Acting Retreat in Italy 2019

I am an acting coach who owns Acting Professionally, a San Diego acting studio which offers on camera acting classes  and an annual showcase.  

From October 19 – 26,2019 I will be on location at Castello Ducale, Gubbio, Umbria making a short film with 12 actors and a crew from San Diego.  A week long actors retreat has been a dream of mine since my first trip to Italy in 2005 and though it’s taken 14 years to get here, the journey has been well worth it!!  

This blog will take you on the long and windy road  to – and the process of – making   “A Castle in Umbria.”

Click here to learn more about the film



 My first trip to Italy in the summer of 2005 happened by chance.  At the time I was an adjunct professor for the M.F.A. Actor Training program at the Old Globe and for the theatre department at the University of San Diego, as well as running my own private San Diego acting classes.  The summer holiday at USD begins in mid-May and it just so happened that my brother, who had a trip planned to Tuscany in June, staying at the gorgeous estate of La Foce with a group of friends, and one of his traveling companions  had  to drop out of the week due to back surgery. He asked if I’d like to take their place and I jumped at the opportunity.   I mean I’d read Under the Tuscan Sun and dreamed of staying in a Tuscan villa – who hasn’t?

Wanting to make the most of this first trip  (and at that time thought it might be my only trip to Italy) made plans to combine the one week at La Foce with  three days  in Montecantini Terme, a combined week of language study and tourism in Florence, and four days in Rome following our week at La Foce .  I should add that at this point in my life – althoughI had directed and acted in many plays – I had never made – or even contemplated —making a film  and nothing could have been further from my mind as I embarked on this three week trip of a lifetime to Italy!


JUNE 10, 2005:  With no sleep on a cramped 15 hour American Airlines flight from San Diego, I arrived excited and wired around 10:00  Rome Fiumicino. Thankfully, this extremely busy and huge airport had great signage in several languages with easily identifiable pictures (someone’s good at Pictionary) — so it was pretty easy to navigate.  After going  through customs (very lax, they barely looked at my passport), and getting my luggage, I boarded the Leonardo Express headed to Rome’s main train terminal, Termini.  I had train transfers which I’d purchased in the U.S. with a specific time to catch the train to my next stop so I needed to navigate quickly through the terminal.  

Some things that surprised me on arriving in Rome – the beautiful and healthy looking cafeteria style restaurants in the airport, the fact that you had to pay to use the restroom in Termini (carry lots of change!), that the toilets had no seats and the bathroom stalls were very small and almost impossible to put your luggage in.  Most importantly, some had no toilet paper so was glad to be carrying Kleenex (which I recommend doing!)

The train from Rome to Florence was great, especially the air conditioning as with all that running around with my luggage in Termini (more on that later) I was hot and sweaty.   I’m pretty sure I ended up in a first class car with a second class ticket but no one said anything. It felt luxurious having all that leg room after none on the plane.  The luggage issue, however, was not so brilliant on the local train from Florence to Montecantini Terme, – had to sit on it in the doorway in the back of the train car.  The local trains are not designed for carrying large luggage pieces – note to self – Pack lighter!!  (This became abundantly clear as the trip continued)

The train ride to Montecatini Term-Monsummano was about 5 hours through beautiful countryside.  I still had not slept- must be going on 30 hours by now without shut eye but didn’t want to miss a thing on my first Italian adventure!  I’d chosen Montecantini as my first stop because 1) I love a good spa!   2) it looked beautiful and historic; 3) I’m a huge Fellini fan and scenes from Fellinis 8-l/2 had been filmed there – watch this video to see a scene at the spa

 and 4) seemed like a good location to get some rest, relaxation and a great jumping off point for this three week vacation!

Montecatini Terme is considered to be the leading spa town in Italy,

with a long tradition in using thermal water, pure and rich with precious elements. Unlike American spas, where one soaks in the mineral waters,  drinking the water is a main component of the therapeutic experience – more on that later.The town is situated in the province of Pistoia with nine thermal centres immersed in the extensive thermal parkland. 

I chose Hotel Columbia for my stay – an affordable, beautifully appointed, centrally located and historic Art Nouveau hotel (complete with spa and workout room).  All the rooms are singularly decorated and in 2005 single rooms went at the very reasonable price of $65.00,  which included breakfast in the Panoramic Restaurant. The rooms as of this writing are still quite reasonable starting at only $87.00!

My first night is a blur -skipped dinner passed out at 6:30  and slept soundly til 5:30 the next morning.  

Now accepting enrollment for showcase and intro adult class until October 15!

Open enrollment for our annual showcase is available in the following classes:




INTRODUCTORY TEEN – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

INTERMEDIATE TEEN – 1 pm to 3 pm












AP’s 13th Annual Actor Showcase March 13 at Horton Grand Theatre!

Acting Professionally’s unique actor showcase will occur on March 13 at 8:00 p.m. at the Horton Grand Theatre.  Featuring 55 actors on stage and film, this year’s theme is “And the Nominees Are….”  with scenes from film and television which have been nominated by the Academy, Golden Globes, SAGEmmys and more.

Industry professionals including agents, casting directors, managers and independent filmmakers will be in attendance at this popular “standing room only” evening with a meet and greet following the event at the Horton Grand lobby bar.