• Art & Culture

House Museums of Lombardy: step inside the homes of renowned historical figures

Lombardy's House Museums – private homes of historical, artistic and anthropological interest that have been transformed into permanent exhibitions – represent a cultural heritage that is typically overlooked and undervalued.

 

These spaces are just as valuable as traditional art museums, offering an intimate glimpse into different historical eras and the lives of the people who once inhabited them. 
A historic house museum is the perfect choice for a winter outing, shining a ray of curiosity and wonder into even the gloomiest weekends.
From the homes of illustrious figures and art collectors to artists' studios, these "out of time" places offer a precious opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history and culture of our region through the life, works and everyday objects of some of its most famous and influential characters. 
Let's dive into the diverse cultural experiences on offer in some of the most fascinating house museums in Lombardy, exploring their main attractions.

 

BOSCHI DI STEFANO HOUSE MUSEUM ─ MILAN 
A Museum of the Municipality of Milan, open to the public since 2003, the Boschi Di Stefano House Museum is actually a spacious flat that was once home to Antonio Boschi (1869–1988) and his wife Marieda Di Stefano (1901–1968), containing about 300 works from their collection. The fascinating selection of paintings and sculptures by 20th-century Italian masters is displayed in 11 exhibition spaces. This extraordinary collection is a testament to the couple's shared passion for art: as friends and supporters of many contemporary artists, they were able to accrue around 2,000 pieces in their home at 15 Via Giorgio Jan in Milan, which were left to the Municipality. Opened in 2003, following the creation of the Boschi Di Stefano Foundation, the Boschi Di Stefano House Museum is the realisation of Boschi's desire to present a selection of works in the flat on Via Giorgio Jan. It is free to visit from Tuesday to Sunday, allowing visitors to breathe in the atmosphere of the time and appreciate the authentic period details.

 

CASA DEL PODESTÀ ─ LONATO DEL GARDA (BS)
A shining example of medieval architecture in the region, the Casa del Podestà in Lonato del Garda is one of the most beloved house museums in Lombardy. This historic building was constructed in the thirteenth century as the residence of the "Podestà", a kind of governor appointed by the local lord, as a symbol of his power over the city. Purchased at a public auction in 1906, it was completely restored by senator Ugo da Como, who employed the architect Antonio Tagliaferri. They set out to return the Venetian building to its former glory, furnishing it as a habitable museum house according to the style of the time: the politician and his wife actually lived there until their deaths, and the building has remained unaltered. Part of an incredible historical complex, overlooked by the Rocca Viscontea, it is a real "library house" with a collection of 50,000 volumes, including manuscripts, illuminated codices, incunabula and other bibliographic rarities. One of the largest private collections in northern Italy, it is open to visitors every day, with the option to purchase a combined ticket that includes the Rocca.
 

PALAZZO TOSIO – BRESCIA
One of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Brescia, the Palazzo Tosio, once a private library and gallery, is now a fully fledged museum house. Located in the heart of the historic centre, it underwent extensive restoration work before opening its doors to visitors. Thanks to Paolo Tosio, the Palazzo's nineteenth-century owner, the building is home to numerous neoclassical masterpieces. A true art aficionado, he purchased several paintings by Raphael, Lotto and Moretto, as well as entire artistic collections. Each visit begins in the courtyard, where there is an enchanting fountain by Gaetano Monti depicting a naiad, and then continues into the building, which spans several floors: the very walls of the rooms are decorated with original stuccowork and frescoes, housing valuable sculptures and architectural features. To celebrate Bergamo and Brescia being named the 2023 Capitals of Culture, visitors can also access the rooms of the east wing of the building, which were restored in 2022, where an exhibition on Luigi Basiletti and the ancient world will be on display from April. 

 

VILLA MANZONI – LECCO 
A neoclassical building located in the Caleotto neighbourhood of Lecco, Villa Manzoni was Alessandro Manzoni's family home, where he spent his childhood, adolescence and early young adulthood. Now a literary museum dedicated to the life and works of the author of "The Betrothed" (I Promessi Sposi), it has offered a new exhibition experience since 2019: in addition to being a classic "house museum", the villa is also a valuable architectural asset, a literary museum and a "place of memory". Open from Tuesday to Sunday, it is divided into 9 rooms that display personal items related to Manzoni's life and work: his cradle, signed manuscripts, and a collection  of artworks, including a portrait of the author, a series of prints of Lecco from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and several nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings that illustrate the evolution of the landscapes Manzoni knew and loved. Room 10 is dedicated to Manzoni in popular culture, housing items that showcase the influence of his novel, while Room 11 is set up as a cinema, playing clips from Bonnard's silent film "The Betrothed" on a loop. 
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