Parco Sculture del Chianti

I absolutely ADORE sculpture gardens – the idea of very creative people making something none of the rest of us could ever imagine, and putting it in a setting that opens their idea to all that nature has to offer. So when Alan came across a past New York Times “36 Hours in Chianti” article that mentioned the Parco Sculture del Chianti near Siena, I immediately put it at the top of my “To Do” list for our short visit to that area.

I was not disappointed. It’s FABULOUS!!!! What is disappointing, though, is that no one we talked to knew much about the park…..including the people around Chianti….even though the National Geographic had it as one of “The 10 Best Sculpture Parks” in the world. I presume those in the art world are familiar with it, but since I think it deserves a MUCH wider audience….an audience I’ll call “everyone I know”….I now consider it my duty to tell you, as well as anyone I might meet, all about it. In fact, I was able to start spreading the word the night of my visit, describing it to strangers at the table next to ours during dinner, even though they were heading back to Scotland the following day. No one will escape my enthusiasm!!

First — all the background I know…..which, lucky for you, isn’t much. The park is on 17 heavily wooded acres – a parcel that was bought by contemporary art lovers Piero and Rosalba Giadrossi for the express purpose of turning it into a sculpture garden. The land was absolutely perfect because it had been a wild boar farm, and therefore was already completely fenced. Although not a large property, the 1 kilometer path meanders down a hill, over a bridge crossing a small ravine, and up the other side…..the perfect distance for even non modern art lovers to enjoy a nice walk with wonderful surprises tucked among the trees.

How were the pieces on display chosen, you might ask.  Well, the goal was to have works from artists in countries not usually associated with large sculptures, and who, though known in their country, were not particularly well-known outside. So while many came from the US and Europe, they also have artists who call Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, S. Korea, Turkey and Singapore home.

Another consideration to the decision process was that the materials be different, resulting in pieces made from rough stone

Keel -- a self-explanatory name

Keel — A self-explanatory name

and rust-coated metal

Chianti

Chianti — Think wine barrel without the barrel, and with wine making miscellany suspended inside

to highly polished stone

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I don’t know the name of this one, and I really can’t explain it except to say that I was in a narrow space where the outside is reflected in the stone.

and finished metal,

Off the Beaten Trail

Off the Beaten Trail

wood,

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Teak — This one had even me scratching my head. It’s pieces of teak tied to the indigenous oaks. Perhaps it’s meant to represent “2 diverse cultures tied together”.  Still….as a work of art, it’s certainly not going to have the same longevity as Keel….meaning at some point in the future, it will represent “2 diverse cultures disintegrated by time”.

glass,

Energy

Energy — This was by far my favorite, and there’s no way a photo can do it justice. Think of it as a glass cypress tree. It had to be constructed on the spot, with its central pole being buried over 6 feet in the ground. Its only problem: it’s impossible to clean.

plastic,

Rainbow Crash

Rainbow Crash — After all the pieces that blend into the woods, it was a pleasant surprise to come upon this.

and combinations of all of the above.

Balance

Balance

The Giadrossis live across the street from the park in a gorgeous home/museum/gallery built out of a former terra cotta factory. Each artist came to stay with them to visit the park, soak up the atmosphere for inspiration and decide exactly where they wanted their piece to go. I was lucky enough to speak with Dr. Giadrossi when I visited the museum/gallery and he said there were very few of the artists’ ideas he and his wife turned down. He also mentioned that while the artists were completely different from each other, the one common thread they had was that all 25 enjoyed drinking. He didn’t exactly say that it was a requirement, but I got the impression that he felt inspiration was considerably enhanced when sitting around the table enjoying a glass or 2 of Chianti Classico.

I asked how the pieces were installed. Some were built back in the artist’s own studio and shipped whole to the park, while others came in pieces with explicit directions for assembling. I picture this as bringing home a box for an Ikea cabinet, but with a vastly more interesting finished product. In several cases, the artist had to come back to supervise the installation, and in a few (like Energy), the pieces themselves had to be produced on the site.

The whole point of a sculpture garden is that the setting itself is an integral part of the artist’s work. So while I have shown you photos of a few pieces, a photo can never represent more than about 1/8 of the actual experience. Imagine walking up the drive to the museum/gallery and coming upon this:

The Milk Factory

The Milk Factory

or this in the back yard of the house:

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Of course, it’s nice to have a “back yard” that’s big enough for these giant peppers….

The Chianti region of Italy, between Florence and Siena, is one of the most iconic and most visited, and since you need a car in order to enjoy its lovely small towns and drop-dead gorgeous countryside, plug Parco Sculture del Chianti into your GPS. I’m betting that night at dinner even those of you who normally hate regular museums willl be pestering the people at the next table….telling them that they simply MUST go.