I'm gearing up for my next trip across the pond, and needed to add one more post from my last trip: a visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio at Via Mozart 14 in the heart of Milan.
This was the last stop on our Smithsonian Made In Italy tour, providing us with an insider's view of the style, design and life of an upper middle class Lombardy family in the early 20th century.
The home belonged to the sisters Necchi - Gigina (1901-2001) and Nedda (1900-1993) - and Gigina's husband Angelo Campiglio (1891-1984), members of a famous Italian manufacturing family known for its eponymous line of cast iron and enameled sewing machines.
Constructed between 1932 and 1935 by the Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, the home is set back from the street and surrounded by a large garden with a swimming pool and tennis court.
It has an Art Deco design, in contrast with the more traditionally ornate homes in the neighborhood, and was modern in both in its style as well as its amenities (e.g., an elevator, dumbwaiter, telephones and intercoms, and the area's first heated swimming pool).
The sisters, who died without leaving any heirs, bequeathed the property to the Italian government for use as a museum.
Stone from Lombardy Italian marble graces the exterior, along with a sundial:
A walnut root and marble stairway dominates the main entrance:
Briar root (walnut) and brass/silver/zinc pocket doors designed to withstand a bomb connect the library, smoking room, and sun porch, and salon.
Most of the rooms remain as they did when the Necchi family and their servants lived there, featuring beautiful architecture, decorative arts, furnishings and collections of the period. Claudia Gian Ferrari’s collection of early 20th century art and Alighiero de’ Micheli’s collection of 18th century paintings and decorative arts were added in more recent years.
The dining room features 16th and 17th century tapestries from Brussels:
As was custom at the time, servants quarters and the kitchen and laundry rooms were located in the basement, with food brought up by hand or via the dumbwaiter. The upper floor is comprised of the sisters' apartments - a large bedroom, bath, dressing room, and sitting area for Gigina and Angelo, plus a slightly smaller (single-bed) version of the same for the unmarried Nedda.
They shared a long corridor of custom closets designed to house their extensive collection of hats, frocks, and shoes.
Also on this floor is a tiny corner apartment for the dressing maid (yes, the woman who pressed, mended, laid out and helped them don their clothing every day).
The home, its contents, and history are simply amazing and worth a visit if you are in Milan. If you can't make it there, the next best thing is to watch the movie I Am Love, directed by Luca Guadagnino's and starring Tilda Swinton. After an exhaustive search for a set location that best represented his vision for the period piece, he landed on Villa Necchi Campiglio, commenting:
“It shows the obsession with perfection and details that the Milanese bourgeoisie have. Old money always comes with great charm. Their real success is making others believe that money doesn’t exist — and luxury, as most people perceive it, doesn’t really exist in this house. It’s very severe, and feels almost unmovable, like a piece of rock.”
And it is that obsession with perfection and details that made this the perfect place to wrap up a week steeped in Italian design. Bellissimo!