The Milan Historic House Museums Network: history and art at the heart of the city
Trieste-born poet Umberto Saba once dedicated a lyric to Milan, speaking to it as he would an old friend, whispering:
Among your stones, in your fog, I go on holiday.
Why not? Milan is a wonderful city for a holiday – if you can see past the image of a crowded metropolis that roars, working incessantly, populated by a huge population of hermits who brush against each other on the sidewalk, without even looking at each other.
It is a city of pleasure, relax and rest. A generous destination that offers everything it has to visitors, never tucking its treasures away.
One of the most interesting tours you can take here is the one by the Historic House Museums Network, which since 2008 includes four historical homes: the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, Casa Boschi Di Stefano, Villa Necchi Campiglio, and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum.
It is indeed a fascinating itinerary that takes you for approximately four kilometers around the heart of the city, allowing you to come into contact with a slice of the cultural and business history of Milan, as well as with works by some of the most important artists Italy has ever had.
We start from Casa Boschi Di Stefano – at Via Giorgio Jan, 15 –, where approximately 300 20th-century works of art are gathered. The pieces are from the period between the early 1900s and the late 1960s, and were collected by Antonio Boschi (1896-1988) and his wife Marieda Di Stefano (1901-1968). A creative engineer who worked for Pirelli and a painter, they lived in this 1930s’ building designed by Piero Portaluppi for a long time. Their house is now a unique setting to enjoy works by De Chirico, Morandi, De Pisis, Sironi, Guttuso, Fontana, Severini, and Vedova..
We go down Corso Venezia, and reach Via Mozart: Villa Necchi Campiglio (which we featured in a past article) was designed by architect Piero Portaluppi and renovated in 1938 by Tommaso Buzzi for a cultured, upper-middle class family of industrialists.
The Necchi Campiglio family was indeed very active from the 1920s to the 1960s in producing cast iron and sewing machines (“Necchi” is a famous brand and model in Italy). With its luminous interiors, the single-family home, inspired by the Novecento Italiano style, is the perfect showcase for art pieces from the early 1900s (Martini, Morandi, De Chirico, De Pisis, Sironi, Balla, Boccioni, Carrà, Wildt) and 19th century (paintings by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Rosalba Carriera, as well as French furniture, Lombard ceramics, Chinese porcelains and precious Jean-Baptiste Isabey miniatures).
The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is the third stop in our tour and also has already been the focus of a past article of ours. Between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, barons Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi completely dedicated themselves to renovating and maintaining this family palace, at Via Gesù, 5. Channeling their time’s eclectic taste for anything inspired by the Renaissance, they started to collect sculptures, paintings, weapons, books, handicrafts, jewelry, ceramics, fabrics, and many more beautiful objects made in Italy, and often in Lombardy, between the 15th and 16th century. Over the years, the building became a harmonious bouquet, in which decorations and works of art – including paintings by Giovanni Bellini and Lorenzo di Nicolò – recreate a Renaissance environment to perfection.
We reach the last stop in this fascinating Milan circuit: the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, at Via Manzoni, 12, is a stone’s throw from La Scala. The Museum is home to a remarkable art collection, fruit of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli’s passion for beauty. After inheriting a wonderful range of works from his mother, Rosa Trivulzio, Poldi Pezzoli went on to add exceptional pieces to his collection, which now ranges from Giovanni Bellini to Andrea Mantegna, from Piero della Francesca to Raphael, from Botticelli to Canaletto, from Francesco Hayez to Lorenzo Lotto, from Filippo Lippi to Cosmè Tura.
Photos via: Bagatti Valsecchi Museum: ©museobagattivalsecchi.org; Casa Boschi Di Stefano: ©www.adspazio.it, ©Jasmine Park; Villa Necchi Campiglio: ©www.plainart.it, ©Comune di Milano; Poldi Pezzoli Museum: ©www.museopoldipezzoli.it, ©Lawrence