Ph. Anna Rapisarda
Villa Melzi d’Eril
Bellagio (Co). Neoclassical villa (arch. G. Albertolli, 1808). A romantic style garden with exotic essences of particular interest. Private property. Open to the public from April to October.
“A magnificent position and variety, with the gentle slope, the superb walks on the waterfront, the extremely rare and immense magnolias, and sculptures and monuments”. This was Villa Melzi d’Eril for Cesare Cantù in 1831.
Its owners’ stays contributed to the writing of significant pages in the history of way of thinking, taste and loisir throughout the nineteenth century.
Building a buen retiro, that was what Duke Francesco Melzi d’Eril wished. An ‘Elysium’, a charming and luminous place, to regenerate your mind and body, constantly including the water element. After all, the design of the garden was based on the lake and its landscapes: the paths, the visual orientations and the choice of vegetation always permitted to see the water or to perceive its atmosphere of air and light.
Subsequently, with his nephew Giovanni Francesco, attendance became more lively. To welcome a play and entertainment loving society, to increase the visual, sensory and cultural stimuli along with curiosity, interest and surprise, the garden was populated with ancient sculptures and the villa was enriched with rooms dedicated to music and billiards. In short… “ “even by themselves, the little family knew how to have fun with merry games”. Without ever forgetting the lake, always the protagonist of the playful and sporting activities that could be practiced there.
An event of the utmost importance for the d’Eril family was the journey of the Emperor of Austria Ferdinand I and his wife Maria Anna of Savoy in 1838, on the occasion of his coronation in the Milan Cathedral. The stop in Bellagio and the stay in the villa enhanced the playful aspect of the house and its gardens.
It was precisely the entertainment activities for the many distinguished visitors that over the years brought to new perspectives of the loisir space and time. Around the end of the 1800s, in fact, the transformation of part of the garden into a lawn tennis court led to developing other recreations and pastimes, such as a bamboo garden structure with a thatched roof for resting in the shade and enjoying an extraordinary panoramic view.
Water and landscape, that is the origins of Villa Melzi d’Eril which continued to mold its shape and to dictate uses, entertainments and recreation.
‘Cronachette della villeggiatura’ by Ornella Selvafolta from “Il Gioco nel Giardino e nel Paesaggio”edited by Laura Sabrina Pelissetti and Lionella Scazzosi (ReGiS – Rete dei Giardini Storici, 2017)