Discovering historic and museum gardens
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Discovering historic and museum gardens

Spring is the region’s most beautiful season and a wonderful time to discover historic and museum gardens as well as outdoor sculpture parks.  It is also an opportunity to explore contemporary art.  Here are three reasons to venture beyond Florence and enjoy art outdoors.   A

Thu 31 May 2007 12:00 AM

Spring is the region’s most beautiful season and a wonderful time to discover historic and museum gardens as well as outdoor sculpture parks.  It is also an opportunity to explore contemporary art.  Here are three reasons to venture beyond Florence and enjoy art outdoors.


A garden worthy


La Foce

Strada della Vittoria, 61

Chianciano Terme, Siena

Guided tours only: Wednesdays, 3pm–7pm,  April–September(3–5pm, October–March)

Travel time: one hour drive

Phone/fax: (39) 057/869101


La Foce is one of the most important 20th-century gardens in Italy, a horticultural masterpiece. It was created by Iris Origo, an Anglo-Amercian who spent most of her early life at the Villa Medici in Fiesole. (Her mother, Lady Sybill Cutting, owned the villa).

In 1924, when Iris married Marchese Antonio Origo, her grandmother gave them  the gift of La Foce, in Val d’Orcia, near Montepulciano. Originally a pilgrim’s hospice, the estate’s vast, solitary, unspoiled setting enthralled Iris and her husband. It became their life’s work and they added a model farm, school and as well as a hospital for their tenant farmers. Because she loved the order and symmetry of the Florentine gardens, in 1927, Iris employed English architect Cecil Pinsent, who designed the gardens at Villa Medici and I Tatti, to transform her property. His simple design of elegant boxwood-edged beds and green enclosures gave shape to the shrubs, perennials and vines. It took 11 years to complete the garden, which includes soaring cypress walks, cyclamens, lawns, and wildflower meadows. Today the estate is run by Iris’s daughters Benedetta and Donata. Along with a visit to the gardens, you might enjoy reading Iris Origo’s War in Val D’Orcia and Images and Shadows, along with Caroline Moorehead’s excellent biography, Iris Orgio, Marchese of Val d’Orcia. La Foce hosts a chamber music festival each summer called Incontri in terra di Siena. This year it runs from July 20 to 30.


Art alfresco


Fattoria di Celle

via Monalisi 7

50130 Santomato di Pistoia

35 km from Florence

Guided visits only upon written request: weekdays, May–September

Phone: (39) 057/3479907/8

Fax: (39) 057/3479486


On 25 hectares of a 17th-century estate, owner and collector Guilliano Gori created a park of contemporary sculpture during the 1980s. In a magnificent setting where nature dominates, each large-scale piece is specific to its site. The green and white marble bands run through Richard Morris’s stone labyrinth. A small army of 33 bronze humanoids by Magdalena Abakanowicz invades the landscape. Beverly Pepper’s stunning sculptured theater is used for summer dance, music and theater performances. The exciting international collection also includes works by Alice Aycoch, Sol LeWitt, Anne and Patrick Poirier, and Dennis Oppenheim—and more.

It is a living museum, where art often takes its first breath. Indeed, Fattoria di Celle is one of the most vital art centers in Italy. ‘Site-specific’ is a concept fundamental to Celle. The work, once made, is permanent; it becomes part of the landscape. Unlike work created in a studio, this art is made not only for the park but for a particular area of the park. The artist, who must be invited, chooses the place where he or she will develop the project, analyzes the site and its relation to the entire park. ‘The projects in the Gori Collection originate at Celle and for Celle’.

The guided tours, which take three to four hours, are conducted by experts.


Forty minutes into the future


Center for Contemporary Art ‘Luigi Pecci’

Prato, viale delle Repubblica 291 – permanent collection

Prato, viale delle Repubblica 277 – temporary exhibitions

Tel: (39) 057/4570620Guided tours: Monday–Friday, 10am–6pm

Regular entrance: 10am–7pm (closed Tuesday


The museum, which opened in 1988, was designed by Florentine architect Italo Gamberini.  It is best known for exhibiting broad artistic views on cultural situations and for individual shows of the most important figures in contemporary art. Over the years it has introduced young Italian and international artists. With its broad definition of art, it also exhibits installations, photography, fashion, cinema and costume. The permanent collection of works by 100 major artists of the past 30 years is shown on a rotating basis.The museum houses a hub of international research on artistic production, the Information and Visual Arts Documentation Center.The museum’s garden holds large sculptures by Enzo Cucchi, Ann and Dennis Poirier, Mauro Staccioli, Sol LeWitt, Bizhan Bassiri, Eliseo Mattiacci—some of the same artists whose work can be found at  Fattoria di Celle.

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