Found: The Sculpture Garden at Villa Tirrena
In the heart of Etruscan Italy, equidistant between the bustling cities of Rome and Florence, sits a 16th-century estate that's home to a celebrated vineyard and vast landscaped grounds. Villa Tirrena is a remarkable property to visit, made even more extraordinary by what you'll find in its gardens.
Nestled into the manicured hedges and tucked between the fragrant blooms and shrubs is a collection of modern and contemporary art of a standard more often found in a gallery. The Sculpture Garden was dreamed up by its owners Paolo and Noemia d'Amico, passionate art lovers who wanted an open-air museum to house their ever-growing collection, and it was brought to life with the help of landscape architect Elio Cavallo and, later, artist Luca de Troia.
The design was conceived as part of the sculptural environment around it. The jagged canyons of the Calanchi Valley form a naturally rugged backdrop and are complemented by the striking manmade form of Villa Tirrena's recently restored 13th-century tower, Torre del Sole.
Wander the pathways and lawns, and you'll find works by celebrated artists tucked between rose bushes and lemon trees like a game of hide and seek. They include a mirror-finished, stainless-steel sculpture by Anish Kapoor (1998, pictured, second from top), Igor Mitoraj's classical-inspired "Centurione Pietrificato" (2007, above), one of Banksy's trademark rats, and a set of frames by Luca de Troia towering above the hedges. Other intriguing pieces, such as Salvatore Savoca's marble-coated resin wings and two wire-mesh anatomical forms by British artist David Begbie (all pictured, below) are tucked into the mazelike greenery.
In addition to their love of art, the d'Amicos have a passion for the world of cinema, and their daughter, who works as a set designer, has brought home pieces from the world-famous Cinecittà Studios in Rome, including "Testa di Livia" (2000), Empress Livia's head made by Roman artist and set designer Gianni Gianesi for the Ridley Scott movie Gladiator (pictured, top).
Within the garden is another garden devoted specifically to their friend Mark Shand, the late animal conservationist, travel writer, and brother of Camilla Parker Bowles, who used to visit the estate when he wasn't traveling the world. The animal sculptures on display, including Emily Young's "Madam Croco-Gold" (2011), were chosen by him, purchased at auction in Ireland, and now stand as a memorial to his life.
It's a remarkable array of art in a striking setting. To spend some time with the sculptures up close, book a stay at Villa Tirrena here.