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.