Photo by Frederik Vercruysse
It’s surely not a coincidence that the ethereal Italian region of Tuscany once nurtured what was arguably the most significant art movement in all of history, the roughly 300-year Renaissance (14th – 17th Centuries). So the privilege even now to be inspired by its rarefied air and landscapes is one that should be taken with a certain degree of seriousness.
To wit, the Villa Lena, a countryside creative retreat in the Province of Pisa which dates to the late 19th Century. After a period of disrepair, in 2013 Russian art consultant Lena Evstafieva, her husband, musician and producer Jérôme Hadey, and Parisian restaurateur Lionel Bensemoun opened it anew, to much acclaim. And in addition to welcoming lucky guests, they also launched a high-profile artists residency program, selecting each year from an impressive pool of applicants – then offering the chosen one or two month stays, with studio space, in the hopes they will be sufficiently inspired, and perhaps that inspiration will rub off on other visitors to the villa.
Photo by Niklas Adrian Vindelev
This year’s artists have just been announced, among them Israeli actress Yanni Hen; British photographer Cyrus Mahboubian; award-winning American writer Julie Iromuanya; Russian painter Vladimir Logutov; American rapper Lewis Hakeem; British artist Florence Peake; Cuban sculptor Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova; and award-winning journalist / filmmaker Jenni Monet.
“The growing popularity of the artist residency makes this one of the largest of its kind in the world,” enthuses Evstafieva, “and I am delighted that we will have such a dynamic group of artists staying with us over the course of the year. The element of collaboration and exchange is one of the founding principles of the art foundation, with the hope that by bringing together different areas of practice, we will generate new creative outlooks, unparalleled research and exciting new impulses.”
The villa itself features charmingly rustic-minimalist suites, two swimming pools, a yoga deck, a kitchen overseen by notable visiting chefs (including Tuesday gourmet pizza nights), and 500-hectares of hills, woodlands and olive groves.
Still and all, as hotel “amenities” go, artistic inspiration is pretty tough to beat.