The largest green area in the town, further Sempione Park, is a park inside the historic center very closed from the famous Fashion District: the Giardini di Porta Venezia. The public gardens were renamed in 2002 as Indro Montanelli Gardens, to honor the death of the great Italian journalist, this green space reminiscent some Roman parks, such as Villa Borghese, which hosts a “noble villa”. In fact, among the paths of the park you can see Villa Belgioioso, commonly known as “Villa Reale”.
Commissioned by Count Ludovico Barbiano and Belgiojoso, the construction of Villa Reale was entrusted to Giuseppe Piermarini, the official architect of the House of Austria, but he gave the mandate to the realization to his main student, the Austrian Leopold Pollack. At 1790 the works started and Villa Reale became, at the early nineteenth century, the permanent residence of Eugene de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s adopted son.
The history of Villa Reale followed the historical events of the city; after the surrender of Milan to Austria in 1849, Villa Reale became the residence of Marshal Radetzky between 1857 and 1858, while he was declined governor general of the Lombardo Veneto kingdom. After The Unification of Italy and the assignment to the Italian Royal Family, Villa Reale got a decline period, but since 1920, when City of Milan purchased it, there was a period of great transformation. In fact, in 1921 there was established the Milan’s Modern Art Gallery which still set, and since 1951 Villa Reale hosts also the the Contemporary Art Pavilion, better known as PAC.
Neoclassicism arose in Milan between the second half of XVIII century and the first half of XIX century. The cultural and economic rebirth of the city, which began during the late reign of Maria Theresa of Austria following Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and the Restoration, is clearly visible in some buildings that document the aesthetic transformation: Brera Palace, Palace Real or La Scala Opera House are just a few examples of neoclassical art present in Milan. Villa Reale, just as Palace of Versailles and the Royal Palace of Caserta, is the classic neo-classical expression given to the residences of European monarchs.
The Villa Reale is a three-storey building with two lower wings advanced. The columns of the garden facade are supported by a ground floor and the classical-mythological themes sculptures were designed by the neoclassical poet Giuseppe Parini.
Its garden is very interesting, because it was the first English garden in Milan; it recreates a natural landscape and consists of a secluded grove, a waterfall, a pond and a path punctuated by wooden bridges. All the work follows the rules that impose that human activity remains hidden and that the vegetation leaves emerge ancient ruins. Interesting in this context is the botanical path present; in addition to the Parco Sempione, the Ecological Guard chose the Royal Garden Villa for the cataloging of plants that have descriptive labels such as is used in the most important botanical gardens such as Villa Taranto, Verbania Pallanza and Kew Gardens in London.
As mentioned above Villa Reale hosts Milan’s Modern Art Gallery (GAM) that the Contemporary Art Pavilion (located in a building next to the Villa, to know more about PAC check our post here) two of the most important museums of Milan. The collections of the Gallery of Modern Art are set on the first and second floor of the Villa Reale.
Here you can admire masterpieces of Neoclassicism including works of Appiani and Canova, and some unique Manet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin or the Vismara Collection, which collects works of painting and sculpture of the twentieth century Carrà, Modigliani, Morandi, Sironi, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Vuillard. The PAC instead, built between 1951 and 1954 in the stables of the Villa and became sadly famous in 1993 for a bombing-mafia aggression, offers contemporary exhibitions of international importance and in the past has also hosted the installation of Marina Abramovic, ” The Abramovic Method “.
Coming from the center and along Corso di Porta Venezia, you can enter to Villa Reale from Via Palestro, as well as if you take Via Manzoni. If you are coming from other areas of the city, the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli side is served by tracks, bus and metro line 1 (Porta Venezia stop).