© Fabulorum. José Medio

Picture two sisters leaving la Scala in Milan one evening of thick fog. Trying to find their way to their hotel, they stumble across a for sale sign on a large plot of land in the middle of the city. In spite of the dark and unknown surroundings, their hearts make a surprising decision. The plot would be theirs.

This is the beginning of one of the most exceptional villas in Milan inhabited until 2001 by one of its original owners, the Villa Necchi Campiglio. In 1932, Gigina Necchi, married to Angelo Campiglio, and her sister Nedda, commissioned the work of the house to Piero Portaluppi. He was a local architect of renown and a figure who reflected the conflicting political and social undercurrents of the period. He was given free rein to design a villa that displayed the status of the occupants, a wealthy family of industrialists from Pavia. They imposed only two requirements: a state of the art functional habitat and the use of the best materials of construction. The result is a sublime example of late modernist architecture, infused by touches of Art Deco and the purity of rational architecture. The light flows into the house through large rectangular windows and the spaces reveal strong geometric forms only tempered by fine decorative details. It is majestic and sober at the same time.

Unfortunately a few years after finishing the construction, the monumental building overwhelmed the Necchi Campiglio who rushed to temper the impression by asking another architect Tomasso Buzzi to adapt the interiors to a more conservative eighteen century taste. The conflictive and unresolved association of two opposing styles is still on view today. After the death of Gigina and in the absence of heirs, the villa passed into the hands of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, an institutional network of historic buildings that opened it to the general public. Its allure remains intact hypnotically entrancing the visitor. It is one the hidden treasures of the city.


  1. Susan says: April 13, 201210:23 pm

    Wasn’t this home used in the recent movie “I am Love”? Here is a still from the movie showing the entry way, door open and stairs… So wonderful to have the background history for context.

    • José Medio says: April 14, 20127:39 am

      Yes! I am love was shot in this villa. It is worth the visit as not just the architecture but the decorative details and furniture are by the architect Portaluppi.

  2. Paul Banas says: April 16, 20127:38 pm

    Beyond the architecture and bad renovation and furnishings, the intrigue I most enjoyed was the story of these wealthy, but socially striving, country bumbkins who had nothing better to do than dress almost daily for dinner and an evening at La Scala. Their biggest contribution was the cultural investment in Portaluppi’s modern house, which they dismantled room by room in favor of a more grandmotherly esthetic. I was more inspired by what was no longer in the house or was hidden (like the steel security pocket doors) rather than in the way they actually lived.

    • José Medio says: April 18, 20125:11 pm

      Some of Portaluppi’s details still remain intact: radiators, window locks, sliding doors and fittings to say nothing of the bathroom design. And all those details do not take into account the splendid spaces and volumes that luckily have not been divided or otherwise modified. So, yes, the ladies in question did not fully understand what their money was buying but they helped to write a small chapter in the history of Modernist architecture in Italy.