Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Artists Residencies in Italy

Italy is a very mysterious and beautiful place which everyone dreams of exploring, to experience the great food, the history and the art of this Latin culture.

Many artists and art students see it as a place of pilgrimage. Indeed it used to be a place of religious pilgrimage and it's still possible to walk through Italy, all the way from Canterbury to Jerusalem in the Holy Land.

While in Florence you are free to examine the great works of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Lippi and so many other great artists upon whose shoulders artists aspire to stand.

Artists residencies exist in Italy and it was surprising to discover that there are so many. They range from the very basic, almost monastic to the extremely luxurious. I'll describe a couple here, both of which recur annually.

The Relais Borgo Santo Pietro residency is the most luxurious I’ve experienced. Situated 35km from the town of Siena and very isolated from everything, it rests atop a hill and is surrounded by rolling farmland with just one small village nearby. Many guests arrive by helicopter and extremely luxurious vehicles, normally rare in Italy, litter the car park. It’s luxurious edge is softened by the numbers of creative people who visit and stay at the Borgo. Indeed although it’s design is opulent it
feels like a small village clustering around a large villa. This in turn is surrounded by miles of organic farmland. All owned and maintained by the same family. The hotel itself is small but in time I imagine the small cottages which guests stay in, will spread out into the vineyards and among the fields of wheat.

Not far from the main hotel, in an area unpopulated by anything other than a lilly pond and a solidly built foot bridge (reminiscent of Monets Giverny) there is a small gazebo framed by a mature weeping willow. This is the artists studio. Inspiring and in a quiet isolated place with only the sound of ducks and birds to interfere with the creative process, it’s a place of refuge for guests and artists alike who come here seeking inspiration and instruction in art.

Each month there is a new resident artist who remains in the Borgo, painting, sculpting, performing or writing. Artists have only a couple of obligations to fulfill, to exhibit their art in the hotel and to give an introduction to their art, to any guest who requests it.


The next is a magnificent residency near Rome. It’s a bit of a marathon in many ways because during the 4 days, there are hundreds of other artists who also paint but are not resident. Resident artists are given accommodation, fed, partied and shown around the town. They are generally toasted as heroes while they are there. It’s a very warm welcome in a very historical town which oozes history and more than a pinch of mystery. The town is Subiaco, in the region on Lazio. Also known as the city of emperors and saints is located 75km from Rome. It was here that Nero built his summer palace and here that Saint Benedict founded his order. The spectacular monastery is unlike any you will have seen before. Neros palace did not fare as well over the centuries but the remains of the palace can be found near the monastery.

Although part of Rome, the route is a long one through winding hills. Artists usually travel by rented car or public transport. The 2 hour journey passes through beautiful countryside and is dotted with interesting villages atop plateaus. If you decide to explore en route it might take you considerably longer to get there but it would be worth it.

This really is a working residency. You paint every day and it lasts for four days. Usually they give you a location to work in and request that you focus on a subject or topic and there will be other artists there too. International artists are encouraged to take part and work in media ranging from watercolors to ink, oil and drawing. At the end of the event there is a party and award ceremony in the Abbey of Saint Scholastica where the order and sponsors, judge the art works submitted. Prizes are substantial and I’m the happy recipient of two awards.

If you decide to remain after the event you will find yourself in Mount Simbruini Natural Park, the largest protected area in Lazio and one of the largest Italian Natural Parks. I’ll post more information as we move through the winter on different art events which painters can take part in while visiting Italy.

I hope this gives you a taste of what you have to look forward to.

To sharpen your artistic skills you can reserve a place with the Florence Studio to study plein air watercolor or oil painting this Spring.

Tom J. Byrne will guide you through traditional methods of painting and new methods of composing and drawing. 


The list of workshops are here.

To contact The Florence Studio.
Phone: +39 3891570276

Address: Borgo SS. Apostioli, 18

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