It’s a special weekend for San Gimignano. From 5 pm on Saturday, the streets and piazzas of this tiny Tuscan town will light up late into the night with the annual Nottilucente festival. The day also offers an opportunity to visit to a new exhibition dedicated to 15th-century Florentine artist Benozzo Gozzoli.
The Nottilucente cultural festival is back for the fifth time in San Gimignano, a hilltop town famous for its artistic heritage and historic towers that rise up from the hills like a medieval Manhattan. But this year’s festival theme is nature, inviting visitors to look beyond this miniature medieval metropolis, peering out over its old walls and celebrate the rich landscape around them.
Horticulturists, artists, botanists, photographers, musicians and writers all come together in a varied programme of events to promote the culture of this turreted town and its nearby countryside. The evening starts with photography; various exhibitions open at 5 pm, all with a focus on nature, including Andrea Buzzichelli’s Imaginary World (Piazza della Cisterna) with its dramatic black and white scenery. Other displays include Stefano Parrini’s DivariaNatura, Rebecca Dyer Szabo’s Freaks, and A Tuscan Plot, a collection from Jacqueline Tune, a British photographer who has lived and worked in Tuscany since the 1990s.
Also on the cultural agenda are cooking shows, dialogues with authors and a selection of nature-themed short films from the Visionaria Film Festival in Siena. For children, there will be interactive “mini” gardening activities, creative music workshops, art classes and magic shows, while adults can enjoy aperitivo and concerts late into the night.
The musical programme features a performance by San Gimignano’s Giacomo Puccini Philharmonic Orchestra (6.30 – 7.30 pm, Piazza del Duomo), a DJ set from Carlo Simula (8 pm, Piazza Cisterna) and chamber music concerts headlining the Il Pentagramma Music Association (9 – 10 pm) and the Accademia dei Leggieri (10 – 10.30 pm) in the Piazza del Duomo.
Later into the night, the prestigious Galleria Continua (via del Castello) will host two special events beginning at 11.30 pm: Poetica del basso continuo, a performance by Ida Travi, one of Italy’s most unique contemporary poets, followed by Voicelessness, The Snow Has No Voice, a concert by pianist Chiara Saccone with six pieces that draw inspiration from nature. Closing the programme at 1 am, poetry, stories and sound come together in a remarkable multisensory experience (Rocca di Montestaffoli).
Another highlight is a guided art walk (5 – 8 pm). Patrizia Agnorelli, History of Art Professor at LUS leads visitors on a journey through the streets of San Gimignano, stopping off at the Duomo, the Pinacoteca and the Church of Sant’Agostino to explore the theme of nature in the work of Renaissance artist Benozzo Gozzoli. Until November 1, the Pinacoteca is hosting an exhibition devoted to this great painter whose masterpiece, The Procession of the Magi, a famous fresco cycle covering the walls of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi’s Magi Chapel, has become an icon of Florence and the Renaissance.
Benozzo Gozzoli a San Gimignano highlights, for the first time, the four years he spent in the medieval town and celebrates its historic link with the city of Florence. The protagonist of the retrospective is undoubtedly Benozzo’s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Augustine and Martha (1466). This altarpiece illustrates Gozzoli’s ability to depict rich and precious fabrics. It is this focus on decorative detail, combined with a strong knowledge of realism and an interest in nature, which characterises his style.
Open from 9.30 am to 7 pm, a visit to the show could be a starter to the vibrant feast of culture bringing to life the streets of San Gimignano this Saturday. For more information on the festival see the Nottilucente Facebook page; on the exhibition visit www.sangimignanomusei.it (poppy jackson)