Anticipating our Ruby Wedding, we decided to plan a 'holiday of a lifetime' to celebrate. Having decided on a photography course and Tuscany our research led us to Patrick Nicholas and Camera Etrusca. The six day course sounded just what we were looking for as we like getting off the beaten track as the web site promised. An ex-pat English tutor was reassuring as we knew we'd have no problem following the tuition. We even decided to have a go at learning some Italian in advance for the later part of our stay, dedicated to 'practice'.
We have never before experienced anything which undersold itself to such a degree. The description of 'off the beaten track' did not come close to what we experienced. We are used to going off road in our own Land Rover, but Patrick took it to a new level. He took us to places we'd be surprised if even the locals can find! His trusty Discovery may be a replacement, but it has soon learned the ropes of how to find hidden gems - and serve as a viewing platform - as well as transporting all the camera gear.
The small parties are limited by the capacity of the vehicle, but that is a great bonus and one of the things which attracted us. We were fortunate to meet some interesting and friendly fellow students and we bonded as a group, going out totgether for evening meals and comapring notes.
'Camera Etrusca' is not merely a nice name, but a theme for the tour. We visited many places with a rich heritage rooted in the Etruscans and their effects on the landscape. The stark beauty of the tombs was wonderful - and we got to have lunch in one. Now not everyone can say that, can they? The Viae Cave, sacred routes of the Etruscans, were a challenge to us, but how much more so for the Etruscans in creating them? How we ever got round the tours is a mystery as every step provided another incredible photo opportunity. The 'Sacred Glade' was just the most beautiful place, and we could easliy have spent all day there feeling it calm our souls with its aura and tinkling water and filling our lenses with beauty at every turn.
Oh, yes, and we did learn a lot about photography. This is such a beauriful place that you would be hard pressed to take a bad photo, but Patrick helped us get the most out of every opportunity, exploring panoramas and HDR and suggesting compositions. He clearly was equally able to help those who wanted to know more about their cameras and how the different settings work.
We expected a memorable holiday, but this exceeded all hopes and expectations. The accommodation was lovely, Patrick's input and willingness to go the extra mile - litrerally on several occasions - and the wonderful photo opportunities and tuition were al exceptional. Patrick clearly knows Orvieto inside out and suggested places to visit in spare time and evenings, possibly sparing us from missing the best a local will know about. Above all we shall remember meeting Patrick and his delightful family and their generous hospitality and kindness.
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