Friday, August 1, 2014

Isola Pescatori: A Local Artist's House, Studio & Secret Garden

**Updated 30/03/2015 with opening dates/tour times**

Yesterday afternoon Luca and I were fortunate enough to have a couple of hours to go to Isola Pescatori and visit the newly opened gallery of local island artist, Andrea Ruffoni (1925-1990). The visit is guided and free and really is a must see for any visitor to Isola Pescatori.

The ferry arriving on Isola Pescatori
The gallery is in an island house which makes it a unique experience. The average visitor (myself included!) doesn't normally get to visit an island house and it is so much bigger than you think it will be. With such narrow lanes and higgledy piggledy buildings, you can't imagine what is inside. The rooms are light and airy with amazing views over the lake and down the lane that runs though the centre of the island. You will see Isola Pescatori from a whole different perspective!

View from the front balcony
Your guide is Monica, whose family are from Isola Bella. She has lived in England for 30 years but always loves coming back to "her islands". She remembers Andrea Ruffoni from when she was growing up and is the perfect local guide to show you around the gallery. It was a wonderful tour with just the right amount of information and explanations about the artwork and the artist. Monica has her favourite spots in the house and is keen to surprise you with her favourite views of the island.

Entering the house/gallery you immediately climb a spiral staircase and in the first room Monica gives a short introduction about Andrea Ruffoni and how he lived and worked.

At the age of 30 he travelled extensively in Europe to study modern art, including an extended stay in Vienna, and it was on one of these trips that he met his wife. They were on a train and both noticed that they were each reading a copy of the catalogue from the same art exhibition. Returning to live permanently on Isola Pescatori, Andrea set up his studio in 1976. His first works were in plexiglass, black lacquered plaster (which gives it the look of ebony) and drift wood from the lake. He then started using rubbish, mianly discarded plastic bottles, which he melted onto metal mesh and used concrete, sand, ashes and burning to create the effects you see in many of the artwork hanging in the gallery. In many of his works he tried to reflect the mark we are leaving on the earth.


Your tour continues throughout the house with the chance to step out onto the balconies and see snapshots of the island: across the tiled rooftops, looking down on the narrow lanes, or watching the hustle and bustle of the boats coming and going below.

The gate to the secret garden
Monica then takes you next door to visit the artist's simple but beautiful home before taking you further down the lane to the island's secret garden. Now, I must have walked past this gate a thousand times and never imagined what was behind. It isn't fancy, it isn't ornate and there are no exotic plants, but it is the most wonderful little green oasis on Isola Pescatori. It was once the vegetable garden belonging to the artist's parents when they had a bar/café on the ground floor of the gallery building. In his will, Andrea insisted that the garden must remain and garden and never be built on. Along with his artwork, I think this was an outstanding legacy to leave to the island and its visitors.

I urge you to go and visit the Andrea Ruffoni Gallery and Museum - it is a unique experience and Monica is a fabulous guide. The tours are free and take place every day (except Monday) from 1st June until 2nd October 2016. Tours are limited to eight people at a time, first come, first served every hour 11.00-17.00.

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

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