The Joe Papaleo Writers' Workshop in Cetara, Italy




Cetara, Italy

COVID-19 Update

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot run the Joe Papaleo Writer’s Workshop in Cetera, Italy in 2021. We very much hope that it will be possible to return to Italy together in 2022.

Join The Writing Institute for a seven-day exploration into writing and painting in Cetara, an hour’s drive from Naples, on Italy’s resplendent Amalfi Coast. Daily sessions will be held in the grand Torre di Cetara, with generative writing exercises led by author Kathy Curto and afternoon painting sessions with our host, Bill Papaleo and artist Elizabeth Tepper. Both Kathy and Bill credit Bill’s father Joseph Papaleo, head of the Sarah Lawrence College writing program for thirty years, with their own creative passions.

There is a strong bond between the realms of writing and painting. During this special week, writers will have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the senses to embolden, color, and enliven their own writing acumen. This exploration into the seaside palette and its many textures will unleash feelings and emotions sure to migrate to the pages each of us will write in this Italian coastal haven.

The Basics

The Joe Papaleo Writers’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy is limited to 20 participants (over 18 years of age). Travel to and from Cetara is not included. The town of Cetara is historic with cobblestone streets, ancient stairways, and a picturesque stony seaside. It is not easily accessed for those needing special assistance. Morning writing sessions will be held on the top floor of the Torre di Cetara. Elevators are not available and much of the town will be visited on foot. Good walking shoes and sunscreen are recommended.

Participants may bring a guest to share their room for an additional cost and guests are invited to join the group for breakfasts and dinners. Lunch is not included, allowing participants the opportunity to roam the picturesque town of Cetara and experience local establishments.

Internet access is limited and not guaranteed.

Transportation to and from tours and painting sites is included in the workshop cost for participants. Course materials and painting supplies will be provided.

Who Should Attend

The Joe Papaleo Writers’ Workshop in Cetara, Italy is recommended for writers of all skill levels. No painting experience is needed. This is a week for beginners, as well as for the more mature writer. It is for those who envision being writers, for people who aren’t sure if they have their words ready, and for writers who know that quiet away time in a natural setting is a gift. Just as we will unpack upon arrival, our daily workshops and painting sessions will help writers unpack their own words and creativity waiting to emerge.


Kathy Curto teaches at The Writing Institute and Montclair State University. She is the author of Not for Nothing-Glimpses into a Jersey Girlhood, published by Bordighera Press. Her work has been featured on NPR, in the essay collection, Listen to Your Mother:  What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, and in The New York Times, Barrelhouse, La Voce di New York, Drift, Talking Writing, JunkThe Inquisitive Eater, VIA, Ovunque Siamo and Lumina. She has been the recipient of the Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship, the Montclair State University Engaged Teaching Fellowship and also serves on the faculty of the Joe Papaleo Writers' Workshop in Cetara, Italy. Kathy lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and their four children.

William Papaleo is an American artist who has lived and worked in Italy for more than twenty-five years. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in Europe and the United States. He has received various awards in international and juried shows in Italy and America. Since 1981, Papaleo paintings and ceramics have appeared in Europe, the United States, Naples and Salerno, Italy in large exhibitions dedicated to art and immigration. Recently, Papaleo had a large retrospective at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in New York, as well as, notably, one man shows at the Columbus Citizens Foundation and has been included in group shows at Sindin Galleries with emerging artists shown alongside Picasso, Diego Rivera, and Matisse. Papaleo is represented by Wohlfarth Galleries in Washington DC and Massachusetts. He is an instructor of painting at the Truro School of the Arts Castle Hill, Truro, Massachusetts, and he conducts art workshops for American and European Universities in Italy. Learn more about Bill

Elizabeth Tepper is an artist and faculty member for The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College's program in Cetara, Italy. She brings a helping hand to students, assisting painting instructor Bill Papaleo. Based in New York City, Liz is currently the director of an established art gallery in Manhattan. She has her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Connecticut and has exhibited her works in the New York and Connecticut area. In her spare time, Liz is a voracious reader and loves to explore the hidden gems of her neighborhood while counting down the days until Cetara.  

Cetara, Italy

Cetara offers a quiet and beautiful environment in which to progress current work and to begin new stories inspired by the culture and spirit of this unique setting. Using each writer’s own history, memories, and themes, as well as these new surroundings, our faculty will work with writers both individually and as a group to uplift and enlarge their personal canon of stories.

In Honor of Joe Papaleo

Joseph Papaleo (1925–2004) was an Italian American novelist. An alumnus of Sarah Lawrence College, Joe was the Writing Department Chairman and faculty member from 1960 to 1992. Joe was a prolific writer of memorable, honest fiction, and a teacher with wisdom, generosity, and humor. He was a central figure in the development of the Sarah Lawrence writing program, and he was mentor and friend to generations of students, including E. L. Doctorow, William Melvin Kelley, and J.J. Abrams.

As a student at Sarah Lawrence, Joe was mentored by W. H. Auden and Horace Gregory, who had great faith in the budding poet, as did his other Sarah Lawrence teacher Marguerite Yourcenar. As a translator, he was the first to translate Eugenio Montale, Domenico Rea, and Dario Fo into English.

Joe published two novels, one novella, and over 40 short stories. The short story collection, Italian Stories, won the American Book Award. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York State CAPS award.

His poems and fiction appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Dial Press, Playboy, Continental Drift, and various anthologies. He was awarded the Ramapo Poetry Prize at Ramapo State College.

His former student and current Writing Institute instructor Kathy Curto said: "In those first few months as an undergrad at Sarah Lawrence, I was trying to stay afloat in a new place that felt nothing like the Italian American household I left behind. Joe Papaleo, one of my first writing teachers there, was the perfect combination of familiar and comfortably eccentric. He read my stories. I asked him questions. He called me a writer. I found my voice."


Program Cost
Fee Amount
Full tuition $4150 ($500 deposit required after acceptance to program)
Application fee $50 (non-refundable)

Participant Testimonials

What was odd-and thoroughly wonderful-is that we immediately formed our own community in the classes we held. And almost just as fast, we all became part of the community of the town outside the castle walls in which we met daily.
That would be the Mediterranean in the distance ... Tell me you can't find inspiration in this town.
Every day in town felt like a party (to which all of us were invited).
All genres and styles. Thanks writers for your courage and for all that you shared. I’m honored to have spent the week with such a remarkable community of artists. Grazie, grazie, grazie! PS: Stay in touch!
Attendee David Masello wrote that on the day the students toured a museum in Paestum, he felt “an infusion of joy that comes only upon seeing a certain work of art that affects us for reasons we can't fully articulate.” Read more