Milan’s four house museums are all located in the center of town, and give you the best of both worlds—they are both houses and museums, amounting to a unique experience with each visit! Where else will you feel part of such artistic heritage in an intimate, yet exclusive atmosphere? For a few hours, you will believe that it’s you who owns these wonderful aristocratic residences with their priceless private collections, and not the owners who have thrown open the doors to welcome in the public.
You find yourself near Corso Buenos Aires, that long street with its crowds of shoppers. Today, however, it’s not shopping you’re after, but a completely different experience. Around Piazza Lima, you take a detour into Via Giorgio Jan and enter the elegant building at No. 15. On the second floor, you find yourself spirited into a different world altogether. The Boschi Di Stefano Museum-Home is a fascinating early 20th-century residence that contains a number of real treasures of contemporary art. It’s a collection that will surprise you and is well worth a visit alongside, or even instead of, the more famous Museo del Novecento which was inaugurated in 2010 and is situated right next to the Duomo.
As you marvel at the Art Deco interiors and enjoy the wonderful furnishings and windows, you are astonished by the works of artists such as de Chirico, De Pisis, Martini, Manzoni, Sironi, and Vedova. There is even a room entirely devoted to Fontana. Individually, the spaces and works of art are fascinating; together, they are breathtaking. Seeing them in their natural habitat is a truly intense experience.
Back on the street, you walk towards Porta Venezia through the green space of the Indro Montanelli Public Gardens, home to the Natural History Museum and the wonderful Planetarium, which is a special experience in Milan. A bit further on and you reach Villa Reale Park, but beware: Adults are only allowed in if accompanied by a child!
As you come to Via Mozart, you look out for No. 14: the magnificent Villa Necchi Campiglio, which was designed in the 1930s by the famous architect Piero Portaluppi. You walk alongside the pool in the garden and the frenetic pace of the city suddenly seems a million miles away. The visit begins with the facade: The building itself is a fascinating mixture of rationalism and Art Deco styles. As you make your way inside, you find rooms with their original furniture, and discover both the Alighiero de’ Micheli collection of 18th-century masterpieces and the Claudia Gian Ferrari collection of Italian 20th-century art.
So far these houses have been wonderful, but two of the better-known of Milan’s house museums are still left to visit. On the main floor of a splendid building at 5, Via Gesù, nestled among the exclusive boutiques of the quadrilatero della moda (quadrilateral of fashion), you find the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum. As you climb the opulent staircase you find yourself in a regal apartment furnished in the style of the Lombard Renaissance. All the furnishings, decorations, frescoes, ornaments, galleries, and bedchambers make you feel like a visitor to an aristocratic court in the 16th century.
Just a five minute walk away and you find the Poldi Pezzoli Museum at 12, Via Manzoni. Visiting this building is like taking a journey through time. Within each room, the furniture and décor recreates and matches the era of the exhibited artwork. Which one fascinates you most: the Golden Room where you see Pollaiolo’s Portrait of a Woman and Piero della Francesca’s wonderful San Nicola da Tolentino, or the Black Room, with its dark, grandiose 17th-century feel?
Each of MIlan’s house museums is a gem and a treasure chest for art lovers. None are very well-known, but each is in the heart of the city. After you’ve visited each museum, you get to know Milan a little better and a little more intimately. It’s not just the priceless collections of art that you get to see. You also discover the taste and passion of the Milanese people who put these collections together.