A geologist at Villa Lena

Emily Ross is a young geologist and artist exploring the intersection of geology and art around the world as a 2017 Watson Fellow. After spending a month at Villa Lena, Emily gives us an hint about the geological analysis of the property and geological tips for the area.

The complex geology of Italy is largely responsible for Italy’s rich art history, from the renaissance marble of Carrara to the iron-rich clay of majolica pottery. The active tectonics of the region cause earthquakes, volcanic activity, uplift, and erosion, as the African and Eurasian plates collide.

In Tuscany, this constant change has created the dramatic hills and cliffs that surround Villa Lena.

The landscape is sculpted by the erosive power of water acting on young (geologically speaking), soft sediment left behind by an ancient sea. Evidence of this ocean environment can be found all around Villa Lena. Sculptural grey limestone concretions, fossilised shells, preserved casts of animal burrows, and sandy cross-bedding all indicate a calcium-rich ocean environment, in which rivers draining from nearby continents provided vast supplies of sediment.

Just as renaissance artists and scientists studied human bodies in order to better represent them, they studied the rocks of Tuscany in order to more accurately depict them and understand the way the Earth works. The drawings of da Vinci, in particular, demonstrate an interest in the sedimentary layers of the landscape and their interaction with water.

The Galileo Science Museum, in Florence, is filled with scientific instruments that dance with sculptural beauty and craftsmanship. The Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze hints at the wonders hidden in Tuscany’s loose sediments, reconstructing entire seafloor environments using fossils. Outside of institutions of science, pay attention to the building materials of local buildings in the small towns, which can give clues to the layers of harder bedrocks hidden under the soft erosive materials. Patient rock hunting along the beaches of Cinque Terre lead to more delightful surprises as natural and manmade objects alike are smoothed and rounded by the relentless tumbling of the waves.

In Siena’s Duomo, stunning marble slabs are framed and presented as works of art in their own right alongside marble works by Donatello and Michelangelo.


The rocks of Italy blend the divide between the natural and manmade universes that the Renaissance sought to reconcile, bringing scientists and artist to celebrate and fear Vesuvius, hunch over to inspect a pebble, or dig clay to reshape with their own application of geology’s ever-present ingredients: pressure and heat.

The Stinkhorn of Pisa by David Fenster and Laura Copelin

Former residents Laura Copelin and David Fenster, from Marfa, Texas,  spent their residency studying local mushrooms species. They explored the botanical gardens of Pisa and Florence and spoke to scientists there. This fuelled some interesting collaborative work, and helped them realising The Latticed Stinkhorn of Pisa documentary.

MUSEEUM LOVES VILLA LENA | Pick up their new travel guide for Tuscany

Bored of flipping through Tuscany tourist guides? Overwhelmed by the endless options? Pick up the brand new Museeum guide of Tuscany! In this short guide based on the senses you can find information for anyone.

In this guide you will find the top suggestions for an exploration of the main cities around Villa Lena: Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca, Siena!

From a connoisseur to food lovers, there are amazing tips for restaurants. Dine with a beautiful view at the café in Museo degli Innocenti, or try Italian comfort food with a twist at Michelin star gourmet restaurant ”L’imbuto” (The Funnel) in Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art. This is a great place for a change from traditional Italian cuisine and for a break from medieval art.

Breathe in fresh, calming Tuscan air in Florence while exploring the beautiful Gardens of Boboli, or get lost in a painting at the Uffizi Gallery.

Discover the top museums such as Palazzo Pitti, or get scared at the the Lucca Torture Museum, which is definitely not for the fainthearted.

In San Gimignano, this high tech Renaissance fairy-tale city will have you under its spell. Pinacoteca and its 3D audio-video guide will help you listen to the voices of the proto-renaissance geniuses in an incredible immersive experience for those looking to further their knowledge.

Take part in the ancient sewing workshop at Palazzo Mansi in Lucca, and create rustic Luccan textiles using only ancient tools and fine materials such as cashmere and Silk. Spend the afternoon walking on top of the medieval walls that still surround the city on a beautiful pedestrian promenade (Passeggiata Delle Mura) and see the entire city.

And what if you have children? See how our bodies work with wax human figures at the Museum of Natural History of Florence or play with the working models of Da Vinci’s inventions and show your child one of the great minds of the world at the Vinci Museum in Vinci!

The terms that will help you navigate and make the most of one of the most beautiful regions of Italy are SEE beautiful architecture, LISTEN to fun and educational events, BREATHE in breathtaking parks, TASTE delicious food, TOUCH local finds and shops, and family friendly activities with KIDS.

We invite you to immerse yourself in Museeum’s full cycle experience of Tuscany. Awaken your senses and start your journey with us at Villa Lena.

See the full version of the guide at www.museeum.com Interested in a tailored guide just for you? Email : info@museeum.com

Photos: Louise Palmberg

On a body (6/6)

garden tuscany villa lena agriturismo tuscany

Lauren Ellis Matthews – 2016 diary by an ex-resident – 6 of 6

29 Maggio

Something I’ve finally learned is, when you can choose, be sure to LIKE ALL PARTS. Everything is ultimately seen – all layers – so choose very carefully, should you disrobe from warmth or they shine through from light. And also if you like each little thing it’s endless hidden presents for yourself. A joyous reveal, claque! claque!, chaque bitty petit pois fois.

We had this mad search hunting for this lonely wolf, visiting artist tells us, through truffle and terrain.
I love visiting artist. Nikki? Are all invitées so pale? I adore such ghosts.

Giugno 4

Jump in my grave, why don’t you! says Laura when Soph confesses she tried on her shoes.
Hugo and Reza waltz up and Reza has truly the most lovely and poetic body I have ever seen.

In terms of nature and inheritance: my grandmother gave me my tempting catching contagious laugh which I call a cackle but others seem to like. My mother gave me my flailing dance moves, incoherent and levitated. People don’t seem to mind them either.

Should we do an angel wing, Cecilia asks before toothbrushing my hair blue on my last night.

Oh yes forever.
Here’s whom I’ll miss: everyone. Everything.

Is the cake dry. Laura
It looks dry. Me
Why’s the cake always gotta be dry? Laura
It’s breakfast cake. Me
Why’s breakfast cake gotta be dry? Her

Last night I dream of 2 nurses telling me the only way to cure my inky yeast infection is by invasive and painful excavation, a long strange tube traveling through my left shoulder, or was it right, no left I can see that curse – burst – nurse, snaking down to my itchy vagina to fix it. I feel dirty and ashamed and upset and confused. Shouldn’t it be easier than this? Did I do something wrong? Am I not just allowed to be with boys and wear wet swimsuits?

But then I’m in the kidnappish van with Paul who stops short to not kill a “big green snake”, to which Laura replies, oh I hate snakes I would banish them OLL from the earth if I could. I don’t want to kill them I just want to banish them.

Ciao Palaia

Cycling and wife roads
Scars on our bellies and hearts
And the clouds the clouds oh what clouds

Good night, we said in italian. Good day, thanks a million, please do, tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

It’s not lost on me that it’s all well and good to tout the values of love & happenstance at a Tuscan villa enclave, you know with farm-to-table slow food and yoga and organic natural wine, but it’s a very different exercise in the Pisa Galileo airport waiting for an Easyjet flight to a sunken city.

SUNSET Tuscany


Wisteria in April

villa-lena, tuscany, palaia, wisteria, glicine, flowers,

April is the month of the dreamy wisteria blossoming on the gates of our villa.

April is the month for flower arranging, with wisteria branches being the sculptures.

April is the month when bees buzz around our main road, in and out of the wisteria’ grapevines.

April is the month when the sunset is caught seeping through the purple, falling down flowers, glowing.

We love our wisteria in the month of April.


On a Body (4 / 6)

Richard Lockett Villa Lena artist residency

Lauren Ellis Matthews – 2016 diary by an ex-resident – 4 of 6

7 Maggio
Claire, clairvoyant, is the moon. Wild, translucent feminine. And Carlos the fool. It is not lost on me that when I see him today he has a walking stick just like the man on the card, that he goes everywhere, forgetting his tongue, talking, taking, moving. And his luminous moon, silvery tall like a crescent bent over him and all-knowing through all-feeling. They have a flesh-pet, their dog, and a spirit-pet – a baby soon.

It is not lost on me that as soon as I was at last ready to plonger, the rain had begun in earnest, smattering the terra cotta leopard. Personne à la piscine, except me, Pauline à la Plage. It is the card La Lune, the tarot come true again. All water and a lone female. Water below, a strange lonely pool-dwelling creature, here a floating inflatable horse & on the card a lobster – who mates for life, soft inside their carapace. Water above, from her eyes, exploding. Sipping, sopping, freedom.

It is not lost on me that as I do laps I find in my body the wish cast in West Hollywood: get me out of here, take me further. I think of the War of Art: you get out what you put in. I put in. Even exchange. And I got so much out.

26 Maggio

Richard spent Christmas in the hospital when he was 14. He only could go home for 4 hours. Because of a blood disease, maybe meningitis. I had a rash everywhere. It can weaken you, he says, i’m still getting stronger. I can’t remember it. I remember having to be in this room on my own. My sister coming with her friend. A sickly child. And then my friend visited too. Put on a Michael Jackson cd – Earth Song I think – I had my own tv, though, that was quite good.

Laura had a bike accident, had her spleen out. It also makes you a bit stay-inside as well, never go out & play with horrible children, she explained.

It’s not lost on me that I lost my keys. Now I must engage with the world in a different way than planned. Locked from internal room. You’re enfermé dehors, dit Paul. He understands “lost things” – go back the exact path you walked, he tells me. Jupiter is the biggest closest planet, he tells me also. These are in his repertoire. We will make posters, he mimes. Ok: WANTED, Lauren’s keys.

I hear the wind in my room as I walk past, barred and banned. It’s furious.

I hear Mati and Soph murmuring. Together, I think, but don’t know, twin hearts, he goes into her room every morning still. I look for toilet paper. Jerome leads a meeting in the office and Paul sits at the dining room table dusting his fossils.


Villa Lena pool tuscany

Welcome to the new baby piglets

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We have new arrivals! New baby cinta senese piglets were born yesterday and they are doing well.

We keep a small population of cinta senese at Villa Lena because they are cute but also they make very nice prosciutto down the line. The Cinta Senese is a breed of domestic pigs from Sienna, Tuscany, hence the name. They actually have the coveted DOP status, which means Denominazione di Origine Protetta (literally “Protected Designation of Origin”) – so just like the champagne, they can only come from certified geographical regions. The pigs have characteristic black short fur with white stripe running through just off the shoulders. Locals say their roots come from wild boar, hence their size and hard wearing fur.

In fact, these pigs are rare. After Second World War their population fell almost to extinction levels and to this day remains very low. So, we are not in the hurry to eat them yet!

Guest’s diary: Jenny

villa-lena, tuscany, palaia, design, design-hotel, pool, swimming-pool, family-friendly, kid-friendly, kids-friendly, toddler,

Visiting Villa Lena for two nights after a trip to Florence, our very short stay didn’t feel so at all. We came with our children, aged six and one. This is what we remember:

  • driving up the hill: the Tuscan scenery
  • swimming, swimming, swimming!
  • watching the fireflies at night outside our bedroom window
  • pizza night and meeting the local pizza master
  • dancing on the yoga deck
  • visiting the artists’ studios
  • painting by the swimming pool with Oliver and Luna
  • finding a unicorn
  • making friends with Margot (the chef-in-residence)
  • evening meals altogether
  • a heart made of flowers
  • colouring in at breakfast time
  • making a daisy crown on our walk to Toiano Vecchio
  • gifts from new friends

In short: magic and community.

Villa Lena 11

Villa Lena 3


Thank you Jenny for visiting us. It was a real pleaseure to welcome you. We hope to see you very soon!

On a Body (3 / 6)

Artist in residence Villa Lena art foundation

Lauren Ellis Matthews – 2016 diary by an ex-resident – 3 of 6

2 Maggio
I am starting slowly to process the massive quantities of information from Louise, in French, on tantra:

You have to go places you don’t want to. This is the clé to open all the doors. You have to be entirely self-serving, it is only about you. We lose our root chakra which is what roots us, because of society, after age 2. And then after 2 years of being with someone we lose sexual desire for them.

All of my suspicions have been confirmed! The dancing as release and connection and authenticity and a clue. Bossy body body! That when you have no inhibitions about your body and its intention and connection, it changes the people around you.

I touch Sophia’s lovely flesh and want to touch deeper, skin to skin, but my saboteur retains me. Here is what it is:
At once,
You are just a body (not totemic)

At the most perfect dinner in Florence, squash blossoms and rabbits and the real deal cozy italian corner, Sophia explains that what she most doesn’t want is to feel Confined and defined.

Because we all create rules and taboo and society, even at a villa. Freedom seldom comes.

Violet everywhere, says Martin at sunset, snow and mountains both. This place is so charged. Now I feel the nonsense. I’m turning mystical here. Your face looks different, he tells me. Florence has changed you. I think it was the tantra, I reply.

Villa Lena drawing chair

On a body (2/6)

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Lauren Ellis Matthews – 2016 diary by an ex-resident – 2 of 6

11 Aprile
On body and brain: what can you trust and what will lead you astray? No rubric here I fear – it’s gray like embryonic sludge, like all matter. It is not lost on me that Morgane gave me a 6cm x 6cm x 6cm block of chocolate at the bar last night, wrapped in a napkin, for 4:30am when i’d sit stained and alone and free and sad and happy. It is not lost on me that yourself and your work are inescapable. Artful dodgers, shadow hidden, always a step ahead or behind.

18 Aprile
Niklas – I got into a really good workflow and then suddenly I realized oh! My body exists.
Sugar literally IS like air  – Sophia on her period.

25 Aprile
The wisteria is dying. Oh Miss Judgement Skirt, wild violet crown chakra, is it lost on you that today you made crowns and everywhere is purple? Tuscany is one endless lavender vegetable garden: San Giovese vineyards, organic olive groves.

It’s not lost on me that I’m sitting on the floor and Martin just read my tarot to say stop confusing flesh, la chaïr, I prefer the floor to sitting in a chair, with Le Vrai Amour. Learn to compartmentalize. Stop imagining a magic corpse savior – stop building towers of flesh to reach the heavens, stop trying to glean spirituality through a naked teammate scenario. Le but for you right now is the masculine and feminine in their purest forms. Accept that what you want is this mélange, is this man-energy who never stops walking and doesn’t look where he heads, to penetrate your moonliness, your gorgeous inevitable femme fatality, with honest outcome.

Saturday night after the rain, cozy in trainers indoors against each other and our wooden tables. Red wine, lips, meat.

2 Michairkka, Flesh Series