House Museums of Italy
House Museums in Italy: Visting where Artists, Writers and Royalty once lived
By Nicole W. Sobel
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.
There are house museums all over Italy, in all regions, and they each embody their own beauty, shape, and size. There is a story within each one of them. The walls within the house museums speak to the visitor through the voices of those who once resided there, built it, cherished it, or hated it.
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.
They are the following: Personality Houses, Collector’s Houses, Houses of Beauty, House representative of historic events, Local Society Houses, Ancestral Homes, Royal Palaces and Power Houses, Clergy Houses and Vernacular Houses.
House Museums in Italy: New Cultural Itineraries, is a contribution by author, Rosanna Pavoni, to the many projects aimed at enhancing Italy’s historical, artistic and cultural heritage, which encompasses more than half the world’s history today.
Below are some selections about Italy’s House Museums which anyone can visit while in Italy.
The Cesare De Titta House Museum
Category: Writer’s House
Via Roma, 1 Sant’Eusanio del Sangro Abruzzi
This house, located in Sant’Eusanio del Sangro where writer Cesare de Titta was born in 1892 and where he spent most of his life, reveals many aspects of multifaceted life; it underscores the deep bond that existed between the writer and his native land, a relationship which lasted a lifetime.
De Titta started as a translator and poet by writing works in Latin. He owes his fame mainly to works written in the local dialect. His novels and plays written in the vernacular and dedicated to the people of Abruzzi earned him a place in the cultural movement which between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century focused on illustrating, interpreting and disseminating regional traditions.
“Fiorinvalle” (the name De Titta gave the small house he built at the beginning of the twentieth century) soon became a meeting place for intellectuals, writers and artists. The rooms currently open to the public- the Study, the Library, the Sitting Room and Bedroom- tells us about the simple life of an intellectual, a lover of history and indifferent to fashion, a scholar who made his house a place in which to work and meet other people, rather than a self-celebratory monument.
“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.
The Mario Praz Museum
Category: Collector’s House
Palazzo Primoli, via Zanardelli,1, Rome
The museum open to the public is the apartment in which the professor lived from 1969 to 1982, the year of his death, but the collection had been started in and for his bigger apartment in Palazzo Ricci in Via Giulia where Praz had lived since 1934, An apartment about which he wrote a sentimental novel, The House of Life.
The novel is actually a walk down memory lane in which each piece of furniture is part of the writer’s personal memories. It is a historical, literary and artistic recollection of people and places.
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.”
Borgo Castello in the Park of La Mandria is situated next to the royal palace known as Venaria Reale, considered the keystone of the ring or royal Savoy palaces in Turin and a good place to start a visit to what is called the Crown of Delights which from the city extends out across the countryside.
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.
The rooms and itinerary we see today in the Castel of La Mandria reflect the matching of the furniture designed for Vittorio Emanuele and the Bella Rosin, but they always have that air of the past about them and the client’s desire to retrieve those forms.
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