Art and travel have become charmingly entwined in the last decade, and now travellers to Italy can truly indulge their creative desires by enjoying immersive art experiences in beautifully presented design-led art hotels. Tom Riby reports.
Italy’s adoration of the arts is all around, from medieval village museums through to vast modern gallery installations, historic relics and graffiti murals, hidden frescoes and imposing sculptures. The seamless link between travel, art and luxury can be further explored by staying in an arts-inspired property. Hotels across Italy are embracing the concept of art installations, private expositions and even creating their own unique galleries and art-inspired events calendars.
One property that supports and cherishes artistic creativity is Borgo Pignano which opened the Pignano Art Gallery in 2016 and has since presented a collection of stimulating exhibitions since, from painting to sculpture, photography and creative design. Borgo Pignano has always encouraged art and culture by offering scholarships and residencies to promising artists, thanks to a long-established relationship with the Royal Drawing School of London. Alongside the gallery’s seasonal exhibitions, the hotel also hosts art, wine and cultural events cleverly presenting visual arts in a magical and historic environment. Partnering with the Velathri Art Gallery (San Gimignano and Volterra) and the cultural association Vitalità, Borgo Pignano’s calendar of exhibitions highlights the work of an impressive list of both Tuscan and international artists.
Similar inspirational surroundings can be found at Castello di Ama, not just an art hotel, but an internationally acclaimed winery situated in an eighteenth-century hamlet about 12 miles northeast of Siena in the hills of Gaiole. Here, the owners and ardent collectors Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, who is also one of the most respected winemakers in Tuscany, have been collaborating with Galleria Continua, an international organisation dedicated to contemporary art, to create the project “Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art”. The collection mainly consists of site-specific art installations conceived by the most expressive artists such as Daniel Buren, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
The growing collection started with a piece by Michelangelo Pistoletto called Tree of Life, a split tree trunk with mirrors inserted into its gut, creating refracted images. The common denominator of all the installations is the commitment of the artist to the surrounding context; each piece must integrate with the land or with the architectural complex where the wine is produced. Every artist, in this sense, is asked to create an unrepeatable opera “in” and “for” that specific place in line with the soul of a land that emanates grandeur, elegance and authenticity.
With the identical vision of creating an experience that arouses charm, sentiment and knowledge, Michael L. Cioffi bought and renovated, side by side with Ilaria Miani, a series of villas near Siena, in Castiglioncello del Trinoro, and a boutique hotel named Monteverdi Tuscany, not only because of the surrounding green mountains but in honour of one of the greatest humanists and artists of the sixteenth century.
Here, concerts, exhibits and lectures, all free of charge, are organised throughout the year. Events feature internationally acclaimed painters, sculptors and high-calibre international musicians and singers who perform in an intimate environment (most performances are held in the fourteenth-century Romanesque church Chiesa di Sant’Andrea at the heart of the village). Among all the artists who left a trace, is the American film maker Wes Anderson, who gave a lecture just before a screening of Grand Budapest Hotel, maybe even taking inspiration from this picturesque location.
Monteverdi is a place where body and mind are enlightened by a profound passion and fascination second to none – “an ideal place for thinking, for conversation, for the arts and the humanities” as the owner asserts.
A completely different scene, yet so similar in its essence, is offered by the spellbinding Hotel Capri Palace, a spectacular luxury property located at the heart of the Mediterranean, in the peaceful town of Anacapri.
Tonino Cacace, in 1975, shaped the destiny of this place and forged it to become a temple of hospitality. The Capri Palace is characterised by bright interiors dominated by arches, vaults and big columns.
When you take a stroll through the hotel, it’s easy to be captivated by the Elmo sculpture by Mimmo Paladino next to the main entrance, or by the Giorgio De Chirico painting hanging near the reception desk, not to mention the Arnaldo Pomodoro installation Rive dei mari, which was transported to the site and assembled piece by piece. Other Italian artists, such as Plessi, Constantini and Tonelli, contributed to the realisation of the hotel. Guests can also visit the White Museum – the name of Tonino Cacace’s collection of original art.
In the magical village of Castel di Tusa, only a short distance from Cefalù, in the Messina province, sits the art hotel Atelier sul Mare, one of the most iconic hotels in the world.
The rooms are in themselves pieces of original art. Each suite has been created by globally acclaimed artists such as Danielle Mitterand, Mario Ceroli, Renato Curcio and Antonio Presti. Guests are provided with a choice of 40 rooms, 20 of which are dedicated art suites, meticulously created in such a way to offer a true meditation journey.
In this sense, art is not only displayed here but literally surrounds the guest and becomes an essential part of the artistic conception. In order to achieve the fullest experience, the Atelier sul Mare encourages its visitors to sleep in a different room each night.
With an equal level of artistic appeal is an enchanting property located in the fabulous Veneto region, near the romantic city of Verona. Here sits Villa Amistà, a sumptuous combination of modernity and classicism.
The central part of the Villa Amistà which was originally designed in classic Venetian style has been reinterpreted, seamlessly contrasting historic and contemporary pieces of furniture, enlightened by the presence of several artworks by well-renowned artists such as Philippe Starck, Ron Arad and Ettore Sottsass. Architect and designer Alessandro Mendini’s creativity together with contributions by designers such as Anna Gili, Bruno Gregori and Beatriz Millar have truly transformed Villa Amistà into a serious art-inspired hotel.