From Dante to Decameron

A 7-day summer retreat in the heart of rural Tuscany

Sunday 29th August – Saturday 4th September

Celebrating the greatest poets of Italian literature, Dante Alighieri & Giovanni Boccaccio

led by UK theatre practitioners Justin Butcher & Rupert Mason, in collaboration with Julia Holden, for J. Productions, Milan.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita … in the middle of the journey of our life …

It is the eve of Good Friday, 1300, and Dante is 35 years old. He is both author and the Pilgrim at the heart of The Divine Comedy’s journey through Hell and Purgatory to Paradise where his beloved Beatrice awaits him.

700 years on from Dante’s death, his epic narrative poem The Divine Comedy continues to grip the imagination of countless artists, composers, film-makers, writers and academics across the world. Translated into more than one hundred languages, The Divine Comedy stands alongside the Bible and the works of Homer and Shakespeare as one of the greatest literary creations in human history.

Hard on its heels came Giovanni Boccaccio’s great work, The Decameron, written immediately following the Black Death of 1348, which ravaged the city of Florence, killing more than half the population. Ten storytellers flee the misery of plague-stricken Florence for the tranquil beauty of the Tuscan countryside, where they create a new community, and collaborate in a festival of storytelling – a glorious, ribald, subversive cornucopia of tales celebrating the heroic adventures and comic misadventures of lovers, the body and its pleasures and the perseverance and ingenuity of women who get what they want in a man’s world.

A magnificent and original monument of prose literature in its own right, marking the transition from the mediaeval to Renaissance periods in Italian cultural history, The Decameron has provided the source material and inspiration for an astonishing range of European literature over more than six hundred years since its first publication.

Following the success of our ‘Decameron 2020’ summer retreat, J. Productions, Milan, is delighted to present a new 7-day residential creative programme, From Dante to Decameron, celebrating the astonishing legacy of these great works. In the tranquil beauty of a Tuscan villa in the heart of the Val d’Elsa, award-winning playwright and classical scholar Justin Butcher and renowned British actor Rupert Mason, in partnership with Anglo-Italian theatre producer Julia Holden, will lead participants in a stimulating and engaging holistic exploration of the texts – reading and reenacting episodes from Divine Comedy and Decameron, reflecting on wider themes and influences in cultural history, and exploring our own creative responses. Each day’s workshop will begin and end in the open-air with meditative and refreshing classes in yoga and ‘brain gym’, led by expert dancer and academic historian Natalia Tatulli. Each evening the group will prepare and cook delicious Tuscan meals from fresh local produce, served al fresco under the stars, followed by singing and dancing, or midnight dips in the pool.

The group will also experience the beauty of walking through rural Tuscany, on stretches of the Via Francigena and the Cammino di Dante, taking in mediaeval abbeys, castles, orchards and forests along the way – an experience very familiar to Dante, Boccaccio and their readers – as well as wild-swimming visits to the Torrente Farma, near Solaia, Siena – a breathtaking stretch of wild river flowing between steep-sloping forests and astonishing rock gorges, with deep emerald pools and crystal clear water.

For further information, or to book, please contact