IN PICTURES: Up one’s street: Five Italian towns with painted murals

From walls depicting shepherd revolts in Sardinia, epics of Saint Francis in Umbria, painted archways in Emilia Romagna or racing cyclists in Lombardy, there's plenty of art in some of Italy's lesser-known streets.

IN PICTURES: Up one's street: Five Italian towns with painted murals
A mural depicting Italian unification in Mugnano, Umbria. Photo: Alex Macbeth.

It's the land of Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. Yet beyond the walls of Italy's majestic galleries in cities like Rome, Florence and Venice lie art labyrinths that blend into the exterior facades of several historic towns. 

Once upon a time, art was confined to canvasses, church frescos and the palaces of the rich and powerful. But since the 1950s, several Italian towns have embraced art on their streets, making a name for themselves as open air galleries hosting dozens of painted murals. 

Here are five Italian towns where art blossoms besides architecture and tradition.

1) Orgosolo (Sardinia) 

Nestled high into the sinuous mountains near the east coast of Sardinia, Orgosolo is the most edgy of Italy's painted towns. 

In the late 1960s, an Italian anarchist movement gave birth to street art activity in the town, painting stories of the local farmers' battles against a brutal feudal system on the walls of the historic centre. Today, the city is a gallery of liberation murals, protest pieces, peace motifs and a visual history of Sardinian struggles against foreign occupation.

A shepherd is depicted raising his fist and weapon in protest on a mural in Orgosolo. Photo: Alex Macbeth. 

In the village once home to famous bandits, the local shopkeepers welcome tourists into their stores singing Sardinian folk tales. Some 15 miles south of the town of Nuoro, the landscape of Orgosolo was made famous by Nobel laureate Deledda's novel Doves and Hawks.

Political murals on the walls of Orgosolo. Photo: Alex Macbeth.

Orgosolo. Photo: Alex Macbeth.

READ ALSO: Sandal in the Mediterranean: Why you should visit Sardinia


2) Dozza (Emilia Romagna)

Since the 1960s, Dozza hosts the Painted Walls Biennale (the next one is in 2019) and the village near Bologna is a celebration of the hundreds of artists who over time have made its walls famous.

The village of less than 6,000 inhabitants hosts some of the best street art in Italy and has become a haven for art lovers who flock to see archways, windows, facades and doors coated in surrealism, magic realism and local folktales.

The village of Dozza. File photo: maxdonati79/Depositphotos3) 

Another mural in Dozza. File photo: maxdonati79/Depositphotos3) 



3) Mugnano (Umbria)

This tiny village on the edges of Italy's third largest lake, Lake Trasimeno, began to embrace art on its streets' walls when local painter Benito Biselli invited artist friends to paint Mugnano's first eight public murals in 1983.

A mural depicting St Francis of Assisi in Mugnano, Umbria. Photo: Alex Macbeth. 

Since then dozens of other artists have continued the tradition. Mugnano's walls bear testimony to local history but also a global outlook. One mural depicts the local Christian saint St Francis of Assisi; another pays homage to a grain protest by farmers against Mussolini's grain quotas. Yet another celebrates Italy's unification in 1861. 

A mural depicting Italian unification. Photo: Alex Macbeth. 

Other murals in Mugnano depict religious figures, lake views and family life, as well as ideological themes.

'Memories of the Past.' Mugnano. Photo: Alex Macbeth. 

Artists from all over the world, including Japan, Sweden and Argentina, have made the town's historical centre an off the beaten track art gem in the last 35 years. 

READ ALSO: Brittany's capital revives forgotten heritage: Italian mosaics

4) Arcumeggia (Lombardy)

In the 1950s, the local community and tourism board in this mountain village below the south shore of Lake Maggiore in Lombardy decided to invite artists to paint its streets. They couldn't have expected that six decades later tourists would still flock to its walls to witness the outcome.





#lagomaggiore #estate2018 #arcumeggia #pittori #affreschi passeggiando per i vicoli del paese dei pittori ?

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The art in Arcumeggia's streets, a hub for curious art aficionados, celebrates local, national and international traditions, from religious motifs to murals that engage with Italy's history of migration. Even the EU gets a mention. 

5) Braccano

The inhabitants just about outnumber the murals in this tiny village near Monte San Vicino in the region of Le Marche. In 2001, students from a local art school began painting murals in the town. Since then approximately 60 murals have found a home on the quaint village's walls, with international artists constantly adding to the outdoor catalogue. 

Many of the murals depict nature and rural life blending seamlessly into the local architecture. 





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Wolves, trees and the moon adorn the exterior walls of houses in Braccano. Other facades in the village display local wines, music and mosaics. 

READ MORE: Rome mural shows Italy's political rivals kissing


The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.