With one of Italy's highest rates of unemployment and an unparalleled reputation for urban eyesores, Favara, which is just 8km from Agrigento's monumental Valley of the Temples, has never featured on any tourist map. Nor was it ever likely to. But since Farm Cultural Park (farm-culturalpark.com, free entry, closed Mondays) opened in 2010, the town has attracted artists and visitors from all over the world.The project is a contemporary art complex that occupies the entire historic centre of Favara. The idea is to draw visitors in to a handful of structures entwined together like an art gallery – there's a design corner, a tea garden and a bookshop, a sandwich shop, a champagne bar, and a concept store.
Exteriors of buildings are used as canvases for huge paintings and sculptures by artists such as Fabio Melosu; courtyards feature installations, including Fabio Novembre's giant pot-chairs; and one building houses the world's biggest permanent collection of work by US fashion photographer Terry Richardson.
The idea came about when Bartoli bought several empty dwellings in Favara's semi-abandoned centre. Inspired by places such as Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech, he thought that the maze of stone houses, with its alleys, central square and small castle were a perfect setting for an art marketplace, rather like a Sicilian kasbah."We were tired of always having to go to places like New York or London to see anything interesting," he says. "We wanted to find a way to transform and improve the area we were living in, for ourselves but also for our kids.".
Bartoli's brainchild deliberately presents art in a manner and style that relates and speaks to anyone, regardless of whether you're a worldly traveller, an art expert or someone who has never even left the town.
"In Italy nobody does anything before securing public funds," says Bartoli. "But if you're always waiting, what's the difference between you and those you are criticising?"
Alla corte di Andrea Bartoli e del Farm Cultural Park (su Agrigento Notizie). Una vera e propria galleria d'arte all'aperto fondata dal notaio Andrea Bartoli e dalla moglie Florinda Saieva. Il progetto si articola in sette cortili del centro storico favarese, tutti collegati tra loro, totalmente recuperati e trasformati in un centro culturale e turistico“