Visiting Italy's House Museums: In the Footsteps of Artists, Writers and Royalty
House Museums are an eccentric and artistic way of demonstrating what Italy has to offer the traveler. They are rich in history and are representative of some of Italy’s greatest writers, artists and royalty. They are a must-see site for any traveler visiting Italy who wants to fully understand the deeply rooted history that is Italy itself.
They are unlike other museums because they are deeply personal. They are rooted to the land on which they stand, and are an imperative piece of the puzzle of its history, landscape and people.
They each have their own characteristics and embody the ability take any visitor back into the century in which they were lived in.
There are nine different categories and ways of telling the history of the houses which have been turned into museums.
Category: Writer’s House
Category: Personality House
“I always love this deep silence; I’ll never find a place where I can live more freely.” These words by Giuseppe Verdi describe how he felt about his house in Sant’ Agata, the place where he lives and works with his second wife Giuseppina Strepponi from 1850 onwards.
When he bought the property in 1848 the Maestro considered the villa as a residence to retire to after his engagements in Europe, a place from which he could administer his lands, vineyards, stud farms and stables of which he was so proud.
Today, the public can visit five rooms in the villa that still belong to his heirs. He designed the house himself. It was initially much smaller in size, but he gradually enlarged it over the years.
In the house, there are paintings by Morelli and Michetti, old prints, inlaid and carved furniture, a beautiful bookshelf, rare editions, strange albums, collections of artistic works, but everything is arranged to be looked at without catching your eye. The master of the house is like the house itself: hospitable without being too solicitous or fussing around you.
This spacious and quiet villa, hidden in a dense wood of very tall trees, betrays that long custom of comfortable hospitality which suggests an elegant taste for well being and satisfies these needs without anyone seemingly having to trouble themselves or continually take care of the guests. As soon as you enter you feel the house is a friend, after half an hour, you know your way around as if you’d been there ten years.
Category: Collector’s House
In the '30s, Praz began to collect Empire style furniture and furnishings, a style that was almost ignored by collectors at that time and therefore cheap and hence suite to the pockets of a young university professor. Gradually he extended his interest to Biedemeier furnishings and paintings which, together with his Empire style collection, gave the house its character.
Instead of choosing masterpieces when building his house, he selected objects that created a harmonious whole, befitting and characteristic of a middle class home in the years between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Each seemingly insignificant choice tells us about Praz’s vision of the world, for instance, the purple and yellow curtains he stubbornly looked for for so long to emphasize the Pompeian effect of a room; he found these colors only in a shop selling religious furnishings. Praz himself described the place itself as, “A feeling of plethora that fills the whole apartment.”
Category: Royal Palace
In 1859 work began in Borgo Castello to adapt and refurnish the rooms according to the King’s wishes. He wanted privacy, modern comforts and lots of space to hunt since he was a passionate and enthusiastic hunter. The “Hunter King” made hunting and hunting iconography the leitmotif of the décor in the apartment. He was assisted in his choice of subjects by a “technician” who was rarely involved in interior design: the head of the royal hunt, Francesco Comba.
Vittorio Emanuele called Demonico Ferri of Bologna to design the royal residence and entrusted him with the task of redesigning his apartments in the Royal Palace in Turin and Moncalieri.
Eclecticism exploded and spread in the second half of the nineteenth century: people became passionate about recovering and reusing shapes from the past even in everyday objects. This is evident in La Mandria when you pass from one room to another. Vittorio Emanuele immersed himself in this style dear to aristocrats and the middle class with the help of artists and craftsmen who interpreted the style not only by producing fine objects, but objects which carried the “signature” of their client.
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