For anyone who dreams of Tuscany’s majesty, there’s nothing quite like Villa Lena—an isolated 1,200 acre hilltop destination, anchored by an 18th century villa-turned-hotel. Views extend across the countryside, offering woodlands and olive groves for miles. For guests, there is an array of rental options—from guest rooms to apartments in a converted stable and entire houses. A pool sits atop one of the highest points and the cuisine at the destination is fresh and inspired. And while it’s a worthy destination for anyone seeking all-inclusive peace and quiet, it also features an artist residency program that’s now accepting applications for the 2017 season.
Helmed by the Villa Lena Foundation, a non-profit founded by a trio of Parisians (who also own the villa) including art collector Lena Evstafieva, nightclub owner Lionel Bensemoun and musician Jérôme Hadey, the residency aims to encourage the production of international contemporary art—but art in a broad sense. The foundation welcomes musicians, filmmakers, writers and beyond for two-month long stays. Those selected receive accommodation, a studio space, complimentary breakfast each morning and research assistance in their projects under the guidance of a board of advisors. The only onsite requirements are allowing for studio visits, engaging with the local community and participating in artist talks. Altogether, it’s a wilderness escape—with the option for engaging with or opting out of the villa’s lush summer social scene—that’s inspiring and supportive.
Whether staying beside the villa, less expensive rooms (which actually happen to be poolside) or one of the independent houses a few minutes walk into the woods, every room is designed for ease and comfort. Though there’s certainly a bohemian chic energy, incorporating everything from vintage pieces to art produced during past artists’ residencies. Hiking trails abound, with vistas and animals plentiful. The restaurant features ingredients grown in the garden beside the villa. And even when we visited, as the season began winding down, there’s a charged creative energy to a place where one can easily slip off and find serenity. It’s what visitors loves about Tuscany, in one comprehensive destination—though, it’s also something entirely its own.
Villa Lena, located at Strada Comunale di Toiano, 42, Toiano, Palaia PI, Italy (a little over an hour outside of Florence), is open again from 1 April 2016 to 30 November 2016. Applications are available for their 2017 residency program online.
Images by David Graver