Among the idyllic landscapes and ancient wineries of Tuscany, startling new treasures await discovery. Join two thrilling art tours at Belmond Villa San Michele and see our sylvan setting in a new light. Article | 14 February 2018

Belmond Villa San Michele peers over one of the richest artistic cities in the world. While embracing our exceptional Renaissance heritage (where else would you find a hotel façade designed by Michelangelo?) we’re always looking to enthrall guests in innovative new ways. Following our display last year of site-specific works by the city’s hippest street artists, and the urban art tour you can still enjoy in Florence this season, we have devised two fantastic new experiences for 2018. Combine the two for a full day absorbed in art. If you’re a contemporary art fan, a wine connoisseur or a nature lover, you’re in for a spectacular treat.

Our first experience is the Chianti Sculpture Park in the tiny village of Pievasciata. Drive through gentle hills, vineyards and olive groves, passing stone farmhouses and lofty cypresses, before turning down a strade bianche, an unpaved white road characteristic of the region. You’ll find yourself in Piero and Rosalba Giadrossi’s wonderland, an enchanting 1km sculpture trail winding through a 17-acre oak wood.

Having spent 20 years travelling and collecting contemporary artworks, Piero decided to share his love of sculpture with visitors to Tuscany by creating a permanent exhibition. He invited a selection of artists from all over the world to choose their preferred location in the forest for a site-specific work harmonising with the trees, sounds, colours and lights of the woodland. The artworks embrace a wide variety of materials, from traditional marble and granite to super-modern neon lights, glass and sound.

The concept reflects the ancient tradition of creating site-specific works for the outdoors, which began with the Boboli Gardens in Florence. As at the Boboli, the works range hugely in size and style. You can’t fail to notice Jeff Saward’s Labyrinth, for example, an octagonal maze made entirely from Florentine glass tiles. Elsewhere you’ll find yourself picnicking next to Ichwan Noor’s modern homage to Rodin’s The Thinker, bedazzled by Federica Marangoni’s Rainbow Crash, a mélange of Murano glass and neon lights, and queuing up at Kei Nakamura’s House in the Woods behind a line of tourists waiting to buy a ticket.

Also like the Boboli Gardens, there’s an Amphitheatre, where concerts and other cultural events are held in the summer. In this version, the wings are crafted from white Carrara marble and black Zimbabwean granite, and sitting in the audience are permanent spectators, among them Federico Fellini and Charlie Chaplin.

The fun doesn’t stop when you leave the park, as the entire hamlet is now a designated Borgo di Arte Contemporanea. As you drive away, keep your eyes open for enchanting surprises such as Yu Zhaoyang’s Metropolitan Ostriches, two giant figures dressed in bright red bending towards two towering cypress trees, and Antonella Farsetti’s Colours of Chianti, vibrant glass panels evoking different aspects of the region—grapes, olive oil, blue sky.

Our second stunning experience was the brainchild of art collector Luziah Hennessy, of luxury conglomerate LVMH. ART of the Treasure Hunt, now in its third year, combines her passions for art and fine wine, and explores the powerful impact contemporary art has in a traditional setting.

“Tuscany is full of unexpected secrets,” explains Luziah. “There are some very small, charming wineries that make excellent wine for those in the know. As an art addict, I wanted to add art into the equation and make it a surprise. We all have the soul of a child and a delight in discovering the mysteries of new places.”

She enlisted the help of Kasia Redzisz, senior curator at Tate Liverpool, to select works to be showcased in prestigious Tuscan wineries. Each winery was chosen for its historical significance, magnificent location and excellent wines—all have a rating of at least 90 points.

“Participants of the treasure hunt travel across the area relishing its aromas, colours and scents,” said Kasia. “Their experience oscillates between the old and the new—they contemplate contemporary art in the shadow of ancient cellars while savouring new oil and tasting ageing wine.”

The juxtaposition of highly contemporary works against centuries-old buildings and luxuriant gardens is breathtaking. In 2017, visitors were treated to Not Vital’s 25 highly polished stainless steel lotus flowers gleaming in the sun on the ancient terrace at Castello di Brolio, and to Bob Wilson’s La Traviata LED light installations illuminating the wine cellars at Felsina. Every corner turned revealed a new surprise. A flock of birds in an ancient chapel; bright swathes of fabric blowing in the wind as if on a washing line.

The surprises of 2018 are largely still to be revealed, but six wineries are involved. They are:

Colle Bereto, owned by avid art collectors Leonardo and Franca Pinazauti. Enjoy a lazy lunch next to Kiki Smith’s fountain as Jan Fabre’s The Man Who Measures Clouds soars towards the sky.

Castello di Brolio, the oldest winery in Italy. Home of the aristocratic Ricasoli family, including 19th-century Prime Minster Bettino Ricasoli. Works on show in 2018 will include Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Bambini.

Felsina, formerly a resting place for pilgrims en route to Rome. At the entrance are 10 enormous handcrafted barrels holding 10,000 litres of wine ageing to perfection. This equates to over 80,000 bottles!

Villa Geggiano, a monument to love, where a nobleman once gave up his position and inheritance for the woman he loved. Bernardo Bertolucci filmed Stealing Beauty here in 1996.

Castello di Volpaia, once home to clockmaker Lorenzo della Volpaia, who crafted the clock on the Palazzio Vecchio. His friend Leonardo da Vinci often gave him technical tips.

Borgo San Felice, a medieval village surrounded by vineyards. In 2018, Stefan Brüggemann will install a surprise conceptual work here.

We recommend adding a seventh winery, Castello di Ama, to your list to make the experience complete. Owners Lorenza and Marco Pallanti have been showcasing exciting contemporary art here since 1999. Most recently, a new installation by the celebrated Korean artist Lee Ufan has been unveiled in the cellars. Entitled Topos (Excavated), it comprises a single form painted on the rough concrete ground, framed by a gravel walk of Carrara marble.

This year, for the first time, Belmond Villa San Michele’s new winery will also be involved in the project. Look forward to an intriguing immersive experience with Michele Spanghero’s sound sculptures. Michele is famous for his Monologue Project—ambient recordings from empty historic Italian theatres. Stealing the noiselessness of an empty auditorium and translating it into sound, he achieves the unimaginable—making sonorous art out of silence.

Visit Belmond Villa San Michele