The Sculpture Garden of Palazzo Sertoli

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There is a place in the city of Sondrio, Valtellina, set back from others places, a small space enclosed by walls that is hidden from the eyes of inattentive passers-by. Seen from the outside, it could appear as a place that is not particularly interesting, a simple site for crossing a part of the historic centre. Yet, letting yourself be carried away by the inspiration of the moment and crossing its border, you are welcomed into a realm where art and nature coexist serenely.

This place is the Sculpture Garden of Palazzo Sertoli, a magnificent example of an art garden, a gem as small as it is brilliant, set in the heart of this Alpine valley. Its characteristics are two. The first concerns its character of “passage”; it is a garden which, while proposing a stop, is strongly linked to its practicable nature, uniting the two entrances, one at the end of via Zara, at the crossroads with via Gesù, and the second which gives directly onto the Giardini Sassi, another place focused on artistic exhibition.

The Sculpture Garden is therefore a place “to cross”, walking the paths with a wandering gaze, but without haste, in order not to miss the second of its peculiarities: obviously the collection of sculptures. The garden at the visitor’s entrance opens into a series of rooms delimited by hedges, as in a museum itinerary. Inside, creatures of bronze and stone gradually emerge, lying on the grass of the parterres, hidden by shrubs, exposed in plain sight or discreetly hidden in the vegetation, as if seeking relief in the shade of the trees.

A magical menagerie of benevolent entities populates this garden, pursuing a lost narrative, a story that only the visitor can try to retrace step by step. The exhibited works are by national and international artists, of the most diverse styles, but they all have a common trait, namely the ability to dialogue with the place in which they are inserted, pretending to be inhabitants and not just guests of the garden, born in that place and not just for that place, integral parts of a whole of trees, hedges, gravel, water, and art.

Turning our gaze, Novello Finotti’s Turtle Woman (1994) enjoys the coolness under the fronds of a magnolia, with her carapace that seems to become a veil, covering the absurd anatomy of the hybrid.

A little further on, The Sleep or the sleeper (1931) by Arturo Martini enjoys her rest cradled by the sound of the jets of water breaking on the rocaille of the central fountain.

Just after the entrance, some Nests (2014) by Sergio Fistolera tell of animals yet to be born, mysterious rusty cocoons that only the imagination can hatch.

Speaking of animals, one of the silent guardians of the place has its refuge in a quiet corner, from which it can observe that the peace of the garden is not broken; we are talking about Night (2009), a bronze hound by Velasco Vitali.

Through a strange futuristic homage to the existing trees, The petrified forest (1993) by Antonio Recalcati transforms the trunks into bizarre coat hangers, with leaves of clothing that lean limply, almost hastily thrown by other inhabitants of the garden.

The time of an instant and from one entrance we are already to the other, but leaving this garden, the mind can only wander along its short paths, already thinking back to the particular, somewhat mysterious encounters we had, wondering if at night, when the gates are closed, the magical menagerie will come to life in the dark.