When I moved to New York, I finally realized why everyone is so crazy about Italy. Born and raised in Tuscany, I always took for granted so many small things, those you are more likely to miss once you live abroad. Think olive oil, very good wine for a cheap price, the comfort of a short ride to get to a beautiful beach or a sunny Sunday lunch in a restaurant surrounded by the countryside. Truth is, as cliché as it may sound, Italy is beautiful and Tuscany is even better.
For this reason, and to remind me of the beautiful place I come from, I decided to put together this itinerary dedicated to contemporary art in Tuscany.
My homeland is not exactly famous for contemporary art. Renaissance maybe, the Middle Ages and the beautiful cathedrals, these are our main attractions. But few people visit Tuscany to discover what it has to offer when it comes to art from the 20th century and beyond.
This is why I put together a list of my favorite spots to enjoy contemporary art, while wandering around the region and indulging in good food and wine.
This is basically a coast-to-coast (north to south) contemporary art itinerary of Tuscany and these are my go-to places whenever someone asks me for recommendations. As you might notice, I won’t mention Florence, Pisa, Siena or any other major city. The reason is very simples, we all know those cities and everyone embarking on a trip in this lovely land is likely to have them on their bucket list.
So here is my tour of places that you shouldn’t miss while in Tuscany.
Picture the perfect day at the beach, an aperitivo while enjoying the sunset, and then a gallery hopping in small Pietrasanta. Doesn’t it sound perfect? Well, it is.
Pietrasanta, located just a few kilometers away from the sea, nestled between the coast and the beautiful Alpi Apuane in Versilia, needs no introduction for all the Italian contemporary art lovers. The fame of this small jewel of a city dates back to the Renaissance when artists such as Michelangelo came here to buy the precious Carrara marble for their statues. Fast forward to today, Pietrasanta is now the cultural center of Versilia, with its art galleries and the many art-related events that the city hosts especially in summer, when people gather here to enjoy the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Here you can find collectors and dealers, art lovers, and artists, many of whom chose the small city to establish their studios.
Whether it is because I grew up spending my summer holidays in Versilia with my family, or because I find this small city a thrilling place to visit, I love to walk around the narrow streets of Pietrasanta to check out the galleries and exhibitions. A real must for any art lover in Tuscany.
Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato
Driving east from Pietrasanta towards Florence, the second stop of this contemporary art itinerary of Tuscany is the Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato. Founded in 1988, it is the first center in Italy build from scratch to collect, exhibit and preserve contemporary art. The original building was designed in 1988 by Italian architect Italo Gamberini, later expanded and renovated by architect Maurice Nio. The museum hosts a collection of Italian and international artists, ranging from the 1950s to today, but also a movie theater, a library and an art archive, a restaurant, and lastly an outdoor auditorium. Exhibitions are generally interesting and well designed, the program is rich and the building itself is weird and beautiful in its own way (people from Prato call it the spaceship!). It is definitely worth checking out.
Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci
Viale della Repubblica, 277
Open Thursday through Sunday, 12 – 20
Tickets 5€ – 7€
Galleria Continua, San Gimignano
Galleria Continua is another place that needs no introduction for Italian art lovers and collectors. I guess we can safely say it is one of the most important galleries in Italy, if not the most important at all, and among the top galleries in the world. It was originally opened in San Gimignano by Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Maurizio Rigillo in 1990 and now has branches in Beijing, Les Moulins (Paris), Havana and a newly opened gallery in Rome. The gallery works with some of the best international artists alive, think of Antony Gormley, Ai Weiwei, JR, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Cai Guo-Qiang, and the list goes on. In San Gimignano they have three different spaces: the original gallery, hosted in a former theater, and two smaller spaces, all of them overlooking the main square of this beautiful little city.
If the gallery is not enough for you to plan a stop here, you might want to know that San Gimignano is not only beautiful but is also famous for its tasty white wine “Vernaccia di San Gimignano”. And what is better than a gallery visit, followed by a tasty glass of wine?
Via del Castello, 11
53037 San Gimignano
Info and opening hours
Giardino dei Tarocchi
The last stop of this contemporary art itinerary, in the very south of Tuscany, is Giardino dei Tarocchi. Located near Capalbio, by the beautiful southern coast of the region, it is a sculpture garden founded by French artist Niki De Sainte Phalle. Inspired by Antoni Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, and Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, Niki de Saint Phalle acquired this piece of land in 1979 and started building her garden. The main theme is that of tarots, with their magical and esoteric figures. It contains 22 concrete sculptures, covered in mirrors and ceramic mosaic. It is a perfect spot for a quirky Instagram shot, but it is also an amazing place for kids and grown-up kids, to enjoy the sunshine, the beautiful garden and take some perfect Instagram photos!
Giardino dei Tarocchi
Pescia Fiorentina, località Garavicchio
Info and opening hours