This beautiful building from the 1930s was designed and furnished by the architect Portaluppi for a rich family from Parma: the Necchi Campiglio. Located in via Mozart, an area now central to Milan but which was a suburb at the time, an area whose urbanization had begun only in the 1920s.
The building presents a style between the decorative aspects of Art Deco and the rigorous and dry forms of Rationalism. In fact, if the balustrade of the entrance stairway is Art Deco, the most recently completed areas show stricter forms of Rationalism.
The Art Deco style, ranging from architecture to applied arts, had influenced European and American culture of the 1920s and 1930s, with offshoots seen up until the 1940s. This style was the expression of a rich cosmopolitan bourgeoisie who wanted to bury the horrors of World War I in luxury and worldliness. Society at the time, described admirably by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, takes hold of a sophisticated style that recalls classicism, albeit with squared and geometric shapes. Attentive to details, yet with rather limited use of decorations, Art Deco was defined by symmetrical geometric patterns and broken lines. Moreover, there is an interesting use of unusual materials, at times zebra, ivory, lacquer or ultra-modern leather such as steel and aluminium. Modernity is in fact the leitmotiv of a style that expresses itself in the most complete way, just as in residences like this villa.
On the contrary, Rationalism was a predominantly architectural phenomenon, rejecting any decoratism that hindered function. In Italy, this style saw an extraordinary fortune under the Fascist regime, also influencing private abodes like villa Necchi.
The home shows the common division that defined in the abodes of the upper echelon. There are service rooms in the basement, a ground floor for receptions and guests, a sleeping area on the first floor, and the attic for the servants. However, there are interesting additions for modern comfort, such as the gym, the private cinema, or the changing rooms for the pool. In addition to large, bright interiors with high ceilings even by the standards of the era, there is also a garden, greenhouse, concierge, garage, and even a tennis court and the pool, the only private pool in the city in those years. This was a villa designed not only for the comforts of the owners, but also for friends, offering their guests the swimming pool and movies, entertainment that was uncommon at the time in private homes. Moreover, the family was famous for important visits such as Maria Gabriella di Savoia, a frequent guest there.
Also in terms of safety there are updated solutions, such as the automatic entrance grille, recessed safes and vault with sliding security doors. Lifts, dumbwaiters, internal and external telephones then create a connection network that makes home management efficient – all this in an era when telephones were rare and a few private individuals had an elevator.
After the war, the owners entrusted the restyling of the interiors to Tomaso Buzzi. The architect attenuated the austerity of Rationalism and enhanced some rooms with 18th century antiques and furnishings. The dwelling took on a less modern tone, however more in line with the tradition of the aristocratic Milanese abodes, marked by an antiquarian classicism. In fact, the Necchi family did not belong to the Milanese elite. They were the parvenu that had arrived from Parma on the wave of industrial successes in the field of sewing machines. The villa was to be a stage for their social ascent. With this in mind, the Pharaonic project of the 1930s and the innovative options aimed at amazement should be read in this key. After the war, however, they preferred solutions more in line with the choices of the conformist Milanese aristocracy of which they were then part.
The villa was donated to the FAI in 2001, and after a careful and faithful restoration that has kept its original furnishings, Villa Necchi has been included in the “Museum houses in Milan” circuit. Recent private additions now enrich the interior: the de ‘Micheli collection, which offered furniture, décor and paintings from the 1700s, including Tiepolo and Canaletto, or the collections of Claudia Gian Ferrari and Guido Sforni consisting of interesting works of masters from the 1900s.
Fascinated by the villa, in 2009 the director Guadagnino set the vicissitudes of a rich Lombard family in the film “Io sono l’amore”
[I Am Love]. Entering this villa is actually a journey through time, in a world swept away by history. This is certainly a place to see – you will not feel like you’re in a museum, but rather a guest at the home of the Necchi Campiglio family.
Anna Maria Calabretta for Mereasy