In Lombardy, the extreme modernity of the Necchi Campiglio villa

In Lombardy, the extreme modernity of the Necchi Campiglio villa

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ReportageAll summer long, “M” pushes open the doors of exceptional villas open to the public. This Milanese setting is a masterpiece by Piero Portaluppi, an architect in vogue with the Lombard upper middle class of the past century.

Legend has it that one evening, at the very beginning of the 1930s, on returning from the opera, the Campiglio couple got lost in the Milanese fog. The engine of their Isotta Fraschini cut, they notice, in the middle of large trees with blurred silhouettes, a sign “For sale”. The following day, Angelo Campiglio buys this garden from Count Cicogna which overlooks via Mozart. He asked a popular Italian architect, Piero Portaluppi, to build a property there. This complex and brilliant man will bring out of the ground a secret and singular jewel. A country house in the heart of the city, of extreme refinement and modernity, equipped with a swimming pool (one of the first in the city), a tennis court and a large garden, where many distinguished guests will come to sip the host’s favorite cocktail: the negroni.

Angelo and Gigina Campiglio, as well as the latter’s sister, Nedda Necchi, live a decidedly worldly existence in Milan. Inseparable, the two sisters are from Pavia, about forty kilometers away, where their family runs a small empire built with metal and cast iron. While their brother, Vittorio, was preparing to democratize the sewing machine, by launching a model that would become a flagship product of the Italian economic boom, Angelo Campiglio abandoned his activities as a doctor in the mid-1920s to run the factory of his in-laws.

The centerpiece of the villa, the veranda opens generously onto the outside while benefiting from security devices designed as aesthetic elements in their own right.  In Milan, June 27, 2022.
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Surrounded by century-old magnolias, the villa lets in the light and colors of the surrounding nature.  In Milan, June 27, 2022.
On the land purchased from the Cicogna family, Portaluppi designed an elegant garden with swimming pool and tennis court.  In Milan, June 27, 2022.

During this time, Gigina and Nedda share their time between Milanese salons, hunting parties in the countryside and trips to Europe or the Middle East. They are the ones who will choose to donate the villa to the Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano (FAI, a foundation for the protection and enhancement of art and nature in Italy), after having made their designer, Giulia Maria Mozzoni, to take care of it as if it were her own.

Since 2008, after a meticulous restoration process carried out by the grandson of Piero Portaluppi, it has been possible to visit the villa and at the same time glimpse what life in Milan’s high society could have been like of the last century – which imposed on the country more than a style: a system.

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This large industrial bourgeoisie of northern Italy owes a lot to Piero Portaluppi, who created a sumptuous decor for it, mixing neoclassical, futuristic and Art Deco elements with virtuosity and irony. When, in 1932, Angelo Campiglio orders him, Portaluppi, who is about to withdraw his fascist party card, is forty years old and already has more than 300 achievements to his credit. Among them, the restoration of the Pinacoteca di Brera after the First World War, the Italian pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Barcelona in 1929 or, not far from via Mozart, the Civico Planetario Ulrico Hoepli (the Milan planetarium) and the Palazzo della società Buonarroti-Carpaccio-Giotto, a luxury residence.

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