Villa Arconati

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The Garden

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From theatres to water features, discover a place where nature meets architecture, and the past meets the present.

Villa Arconati merges with its gardens to form a unique organic space, where nature meets architecture, culture meets recreation, and the past meets the present. The result of successive additions by the Arconati family, the garden, with its theatres and water features, has been one of the attractions of the villa right up to the present day. It is one of the few examples in Italy of a French garden.

It is thanks to the publications of the editor and engraver Marco Antonio dal Re, which describe the pleasure villas in the state of Milan in the 1700s, that it is today possible to walk among the gardens of Castellazzo. They were redesigned in a 17th century style by the achitectural mastery of Giuseppe Antonio Arconati, architect of the Baroque transformation of the Villa: The lake, the green arcades, the chestnut wood and the arbour of hornbeam which still today offers a shaded path for summer walks.

At Villa Arconati it is possible to discover the magic of an important element for the nobility of the period: the theatre, usually cut into the ground or built in stone and adorned with groups of statues. It was the setting for shows, parties and balls, and more especially a space which symbolises an expression of knowledge and culture.

The theatre is the place where artifice is represented through the water play of the fountains and the sculptures. The Theatre of Diana, with its innovative hydraulic mechanisms, demonstrates the entire spectrum of types of water feature distributed throughout the garden. At the foot of the Theatre of Andromeda, a mosaic pavement playfully squirts jets of water from the ground. A system of waterfalls also accompany the majestic Stairway of the Dragons which connects the Large Theatre, called the ‘Theatre of the Four Seasons’, to the parterre. The system that regulates the fountains – situated in the Water Tower, which we can still see today, is an advanced work of hydraulic engineering that Galeazzo Arconati probably took from the studies of Leonardo da Vinci.

The Garden

The Tower stands above the centre of the Orangerie – today totally restored – which still links the Villa and the other parts of the Garden. The Orangerie was another place of recreation for the Arconatis, where guests were offered refreshing sorbets.

There are images which document the presence of the hunting lodge in the southern part of the garden, which unfortunately has not survived to the present day. However there is still the Aviary, even though it is not in a good state of conservation. This was for the breeding of various exotic species of birds, yet another testimony to the refined tastes of the Arconati family.

The Garden is today a place of contemporary culture: every summer the music festival takes place which features big name international performers. It was on this occasion in 1991, that the garden hosted an anthological exhibition dedicated to Fausto Melotti, considered by critics to be one of the most important contemporary sculptors, which was curated by Germano Celant. The Villa’s future cultural transformation plan includes the realisation of new site specific installations by established artists, side by side with projects by young artists.