Part of The Small Luxury Hotels of the World and one of the most beautiful art hotels ever, it contains an incredible collection of works, over 150, created by some of the most famous artists of modern and contemporary art.
It was the early 2000s when Mr. Dino Facchini, founder of the Byblos brand and great art collector, fell in love with an abandoned 16th-century villa in the heart of Valpolicella near Verona and decided to restore it with the idea, truly visionary for that time, to create a permanent exhibition of modern and contemporary art in a 5-star hotel.
After five years of intense conservative restoration, in 2005 the Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà becomes reality, combining the dream vision of its founder with a masterpiece of Venetian architecture. A union that has itself become art thanks to the successful collaboration with the designer and architect Alessandro Mendini who, meticulously studying shapes and colors, has masterfully combined baroque and contemporary design in a historical context for the first time in the world.
Everything at Byblos is “art” and designed to be art, from the services to the cuisine up to every small detail of your stay.
The first sensation you get when crossing the gate of the villa is one of genuine astonishment: the garden and the huge heart-shaped fountain seem to come from the book of Alice in Wonderland, while the glass sculptures by Jean-Michel Othoniel, adorning the staircase, create a kaleidoscope of colors.
The sense of marvel continues as soon as you enter the central hall of the villa: the stuccos on the ceilings alternate with giant photographs by Vanessa Beecroft, a statue of Maurizio Savini, the artist known for his sculptures made with pink chewing gum, and a colorful Barovier & Toso chandelier, one of the biggest in the world of this kind. On the walls, Marc Quinn‘s Kate Moss dialogues with Damien Hirst‘s butterflies and other famous works of art such as the sculpture Love by Robert Indiana, one of the only three in the world of this size worth approximately 1 million euro.
Everywhere the works by other great artists, including Alighiero Boetti, Mat Collishaw, Robert Indiana, Anish Kapoor, Beatriz Millar, Takashi Murakami, Mimmo Paladino, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Cindy Sherman, Tom Wesselmann, as well as by the young talents most courted by the coolest gallerists such as Katharina Grosse, Tomás Saraceno and Jelena Vasiljev. Many works were created on site or on commision, for the decoration of the rooms, such as the beautiful multi-colored corridor WeTransfer by the artist Mariangela Levita.
And the art hotel, like any museum, continues to be enriched with new works: so, recently, two Giorgio De Chirico from 1925, a Marilyn by Mimmo Rotella and a Black Marilyn by Andy Warhol have joined the permanent collections.
And, of course, also the cuisine proposed by Byblos is a work of art. The hotel restaurant, Amistà, under the guidance of chef Mattia Bianchi, in fact, achieved the first Michelin Star in 2020. Mattia, a native of the nearby Pedemonte, offers creative recipes based on the values of tradition and the excellence of the raw material. Among his signatures, the Gnocchi di fioreta ricotta cheese, scampi, foie gras and chives and the Baccalà 2030, a reinterpretation of the famous Venetian dish with corn mousse, Vicenza-style cod sauce shaded with marsala and the famous Glacier 51, the toothfish caught at 2000 meters depth.
A research that does not stop at the raw material, but also embraces food combinations and cooking techniques. Among Mattia’s secrets we find, in fact, his bread, with a truly extraordinary fragrance, made with semi-wholemeal ancient grain flour and baked in the oven with three steps of natural leavening and three separate cooking sessions. Served on the table while still steaming, it is accompanied by the precious TreFòrt oil by Paolo Bonomelli, the most awarded Italian extra virgin olive oil in the world.
And for an aperitif or an after dinner drink, the Peter’s Bar, overlooking the central hall, offers excellent cocktails served while the jukebox, the work of the artist Ivan, dispenses poems instead of songs.
The rooms are 58, each of them boasting a unique furnishing, signed by Mendini and the additional touch of other design gurus such as Eero Aarnio, Ron Arad, Gio Ponti, Eero Saarinen, Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck and Marcel Wanders.
Do not miss the Byblos’ art tour that will lead you through the secrets of the most important works on display, a highly requested must-do of the hotel (by reservation only, open also to non-guests of the structure). Not surprisingly, Byblos is the favorite of many celebrities, from Cristiano Ronaldo to David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, from Duran Duran to Alicia Keys.
In the hotel lobby, you can see the famous Sphinx Venus and Sphinx Fortuna sculptures, reproducing top model Kate Moss, that Marc Quinn created in 2008. Of the same subject, Quinn also made Siren: 50 kg of 18-karat gold, exactly the weight of the English model. Advertised as the largest gold sculpture from ancient Egypt and worth several million euros, it is part of Mr. Facchini’s collection and kept in a bank vault.