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Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Villa Borromeo d'Adda

Foto Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Foto Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Foto Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Foto Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Foto Villa Borromeo d'Adda
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value  of landscape value around Milan (Italy): Villa Borromeo d'AddaVilla Borromeo d'Adda and its park dominate the center of Arcore.

The villa was built in the second half of the eighteenth century when the abbot Ferdinando D'Adda built a residence on the hill designated since then with the name of "Montagnola".
At the same time a villa was also built on the slopes of the hill, towards the road. The owner of this second villa was Febo d'Adda, cousin of Abbot Ferdinando d'Adda.
In 1808 the properties of the two villas, until then divided, were unified by hereditary boards in the hands of Giovanni d'Adda, son of Febo d'Adda.
Around 1840 he commissioned architect Balzaretti, the most famous garden designer of that time, to harmonize the two parts of the property.
With excavations and the transport of 160,000 cubic meters of earth, Balzaretti unified the two gardens of the previous different properties. He also planted many different exotic trees, magnolias and evergreens, most of them still present today. The park was completed in 1845 and, afterwards, Balzaretti went on to renovate the villa.
The choice of the residence fell on the "Montagnola" (Fig. 1), panoramic and surrounded by greenery, definitely more suited to the function of a noble residence.
The entrance to the south façade was opened towards the town, and a loggia was added to it.
On the north side, towards the larger part of the park, the portico with rounded corners that was present on that side was closed with glass.

The building located in the lower part (Fig. 4) was instead modified in a more profound manner. The central body was demolished to create a large entrance with a gate, with a dramatic sight toward the "Montagnola".
However, the large serliana opening was maintained in both remaining bodies.
In the right side area the porter's lodge was created, while in 1850 the left body - again on design by Balzaretti - received the neo-Renaissance octagonal chapel (Fig. 5), commissioned by Giovanni D'Adda after the death of the young wife Maria Isimbardi, occurred in 1849.

A second renovation of the villa took place starting from 1880 by the architect Emilio Alemagna, commissioned by the son of Giovanni d'Adda, the Marquis Emanuele d'Adda, and his wife Beatrice Trotti Bentivoglio.
A terrace was built above the loggia above the entrance toward the town.
Furthermore the two lateral bodies were reconstructed, raised of one floor and set back and partially separated from the central body.
The façade of the central body towards the park was then as a whole carried forward, so as to be able to create, in place of the loggia closed by glass, a real hall, with rounded corners and open through large windows onto a large covered terrace overlooking on the park (Fig. large).
It then became also possible to create over the now protruding part of the ground floor a large terrace running along the entire central body, so allowing all the bedrooms to open toward the park.
The Alemagna also built the great central staircase.
In the eastern side body a new large dining room was created, connected by a bright gallery to the central hall.
At that time the park was also greatly enlarged, its extension passing from 5 to 30 hectares. Following this, a new stable for 20 horses, two greenhouses, a porter's lodge on the north side and several farmhouses were built.
In 1908 a large "parterre" was constructed which extends from one end of the house to the other, embracing all the halls with an wrought-iron railing, the last jolt of neo-Rococo.

In 1911, with the death of Emanuele D'Adda, all the noble titles and the property passed to Febo Borromeo who added the surname d'Adda to his own and, since then the residence was called Villa Borromeo D'Adda.
In 1980, after a period of decline, the Municipality of Arcore bought the villa and the park. After having opened the park to the public, it carried out mostly conservative works on the arboreal heritage and on the hydraulic system, restoring the complex system for collecting and draining rainwater. The two buildings, already used as reception of the villa, were renovated to house the municipal offices. The basement of the left wing (the Small Theatre) became a venue for exhibitions and meetings.

The building is on 5 levels.

  • Basement: Once used for services. It has been restored in a less conservative way than the upper ones and therefore the brickwork and brick vaults have been hidden by plaster and other details are no longer visible. Obviously, it was preferred to give precedence to flexibility of use.

  • Ground floor, with large halls decorated with frescoes and stuccos;

  • Mezzanine floor that partially overlooks the rooms on the ground floor.

  • "Noble" floor intended for the owners and guests' lodgings.

  • Second mezzanine floor for the servants' quarters.

The ground floor and the noble floor are connected by a monumental staircase.
The rooms on the ground floor (central body and west body) and those on the first floor (for the central part) present significant monumental elements, particularly in neo-Baroque style. In fact, in some parts the decoration is even excessive and tends to hide the rationality and modernity of the overall layout of the villa.
In particular we highlight:

  • The main hall, or oval hall, (larger picture) with park view and enriched on the walls and on the ceiling by opulent partially gilded stucco decorations. There is also a large Murano glass chandelier and a beautiful parquet floor with wood of different shades to give a geometric pattern.

  • The rear left room, even more loaded with with stucco decorations, with painted medallions on the walls hidden by stucco decorations to simulate great realism large drapes.

  • The dining room, in the right side body, characterized by a finely decorated vault, large openings that overlook the garden and a large mirror.

  • The stage of the musicians, located near the gallery that connects the main hall hall to the dining room.

  • The hall of the trompe-l'œil (Fig. 3), with a completely frescoed ceiling simulating the view towards a sunset sky from inside a courtyard.

The 5 levels are conneted together by four staircases that guarantee an effective vertical connection and allow hypotheses of "sectioning" in the building's functioning. The ground floor can be illuminated and easily ventilated using the walled panels already present in the external scores at the windows.
The gross floor area is 3,573 square meters, to which are added 179 square meters of balconies and terraces. The rooms are 113. The park covers an area of over 25 hectares.
Finally, we must also mention the presence of numerous and important decorative elements in wrought iron: chandeliers, balustrades, street lamps, both inside and outside.

The chapel of the villa deserves a separate discussion, because more than a small private chapel it is an authentic small church with octagonal symmetry, which has little to envy to many proper churches.
The chapel is the work of the architect Balzaretti and the sculptors Vincenzo and Lorenzo Vela, who in 1850 were commissioned by Giovanni d'Adda to build a chapel to house the remains and the memory of his young wife Maria Isimbardi, who died prematurely.
Balzaretti designed a building in Renaissance style (the sobriety and adherence to the original style allows to indicate the style as Renaissance, rather than neo-Renaissance, being the latter style in reality a free reinterpretation of the other, more than a coherent imitation of it), inspired by the fifteenth-century octagonal baptistery, of Bramante design, of the Church of Santa Maria at San Satiro in Milan.
Balzaretti conceived the chapel so that it was not visible from the outside and its presence did not cause changes in the symmetrical order of the buildings that lead to the garden of the villa.
The interior of the chapel substantially comprises three levels: the lower one, with a large niche on each of the eight sides, the upper one, composed of a loggia that runs along the entire perimeter of the church, and the dome, at the base of which there are eight round windows, one on each side. Note the circular decorations of the dome segments, blind versions of the windows at the base and progressively smaller going towards the apex.
The levels are separated by thick trabeations. The one between the first two levels is decorated with bas-reliefs depicting biblical scenes and rounds with busts of sacred figures inside. The entablature between the upper level and the dome is instead decorated with cherub heads and reliefs with a floral and geometric theme.
The surfaces of the pillars are decorated in relief with grotesques, plant elements, putti and monsters of various types.
The perfect octagonal symmetry is broken by the works of Vincenzo Vela, located in two niches: Our Lady of Sorrows, on the altar in the niche immediately to the right upon entering, and Maria Isimbardi's bedside.
The two statues reveal the human and religious motivations that inspired the whole environment.
Maria Isimbardi, portrayed on her deathbed at the moment of death, expresses the tragic end of life, but the face without suffering and the crucifix in the hand confirm the principle of simple transit in the afterlife; the Lady of Sorrows is a young woman, beautiful, delicate and fully human; in looking at the sky and in the crown of thorns it also expresses a combination of trust and pain.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value of landscape value

Largo V. Vela n, 1, 20862 Arcore MB
Further pictures of Villa Borromeo d'Adda in the section Photography
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Dome of the Vela Chapel in Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Stage of the musicians in Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): The meadow in the center of the park of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Ceiling of the trompe-l’œil hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Neorococò fireplace in the main hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Funeral monument to Maria Isimbardi in the Vela Chapel of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Murano glass chandelier in the main hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Trompe-l’œil hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Mirror in the dining room of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Villa Borromeo d'Adda seen from the main entrance
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Coat of arms in gilded stucco in the oval hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Gilded stucco decorations in the oval hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda
Arcore (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Oval hall of Villa Borromeo d'Adda