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Arts & Culture

Villa Necchi Campiglio, where rationalism and Art déco meet

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Hidden behind a wall and lush vegetation, is a jewel that many locals do not know about. Villa Necchi Campiglio is a mansion located just a few minutes away from the Duomo and is well worth a visit.

September air is filled with conflicting senses, impressions, and feelings. The dry grass begins to reveal patches of green after some rain, and the yet intensely azure sky sometimes darkens with clouds. For people, the return from summer means leaving vacation idyll, but also meeting friends and family again. This duality, apparently incompatible, is what makes this month one that is both loved and hated. Art, too, is permeated by similar dualities, and it is often in true masterpieces that they can coexist.  

A striking example of these contradictions is Villa Necchi Campiglio, a lesser known but still enchanting building in Milan. It once belonged to the Necchi sisters, who donated it to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) to allow visitors to admire what was once kept as a delightful secret. The villa, now considered a historical house, was built in the ’30s for the Necchi-Campiglio family and became a meeting place for intellectuals and aristocrats of the time. It was built by a renowned architect, Piero Portaluppi, and beyond a spacious interior it featured a large city garden, tennis court and pool (note that these facilities are now common in luxurious villas, but they certainly were not at the time).  

While the garden is unpretentious and not given to excesses, the interior of the house is out of the ordinary. Upon entering, it is difficult to form a clear perception of the genius loci of the place, which is at the same time serene and slightly disquieting. The large spaces and high ceilings give a sense of power and grandeur, although this is complemented by smaller, precious pieces of antiquaries.  

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The visit begins towards the left of the entrance, in the house library. There is, as expected, a large variety of books, but what strikes the eye among a typically Western style of furniture are Buddhas and Eastern statues. Indeed, the family was fascinated by such antiquities. This seamless blend of styles creates a unique experience that has few parallels in private households in Italy. After the library is an even more impressive veranda, which integrates smoothly with the surrounding greenery, to the point that one might have the feeling of being outside. Moving to the other side of the mezzanine is the fumoir, more sober in kind but with an imposing chimney in Renaissance style. Close by is, naturally, a decorative dining room, filled with mystifying tapestry in naturalistic design.  

A monumental staircase then leads to the first floor, where the owners’ rooms lie. They are disposed symmetrically, indicating the equal relevance of the sisters, and are a testimony to the family’s philosophy: the rooms are refined, but not excessive. There are also two other apartments destined for illustrious guests, known as the Prince and Princess rooms. The remainder of the house is a labyrinth of smaller spaces and passages.  

What makes this Villa unique is its blend of styles that are apparently in contrast (to name one, the West and the East), but that fuse effortlessly to the eye of the visitor. It is also a testimony to elegance without extravagance, which is a powerful reminder in a world where many are so concentrated on being noticed at all costs. The experience that derives is absorbing for all the senses and evokes a variety of antithetical feelings. September, with its own contrasts, seems to be the ideal month to visit Villa Necchi Campiglio.  

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Author profile

I was born in Rome, Italy, and I have studied at an international school. I use photography and writing since childhood to try to seize the beauty around me. I am currently enrolled in Economic and Social Sciences at Bocconi.

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