While in the Lombardy region of Italy I had the utmost pleasure of visiting one of the most magnificent properties I’ve seen in recent memory, Ville Ponti. The main event in my mind and the place we toured was Villa Andrea. It’s the massive three storey building which measures about 30m high. It’s a special building not only because of its size but due to the level of detail in the finishing.
If you’re a fan of great estates, architecture, history and an idea of what life must have been like for industrialists of yesteryear, you’ll love it. Personally, I’m a fan of all that I just mentioned and could have spent an entire day roaming the property paying attention to every last detail they took care of. Something to remember when considering their lifestyle is that Ville Ponti was their summer place.
Ville Ponti refers to a complex of three buildings built between the 17th and 19th centuries on a hill above Varese, Italy. They were named after industrialist Andrea Ponti, who made his fortune in the textile industry. The names of the buildings are Villa Andrea, Villa Napoleonica and Sellerie.
Purchasing the land and Villa Fabio Ponti in 1838, he constructed the main house, stables, and created a large English garden that joined with the existing one in 1858.
These improvements and others created a property that has become a popular tourist attraction in Northern Italy.
The background of Andrea Ponti
The Ponti family got their start in the textile industry in 1813 when they bought their first mill located in Gallarate, Italy. Enjoying great success in their business ventures in the years that followed, Andrea Ponti began to look into buying properties in the Varese area due to its pleasant climate and scenery as many wealthy Milanese did.
Using it as a getaway from Milan, his family began to spend their summers here after buying Villa Napoleonica aka Villa Fabio Ponti in 1838 and an adjoining park. In 1858, they began building Villa Andrea and Sellerie which is used as service quarters. The magnificent Villa Andrea gives us a glimpse as to the type of wealth the family had.
About the villas
Villa Fabio Ponti, or the Napoleonic villa, is the oldest building on the property, as it was constructed in the late 17th century.
It was modified by the previous owner between 1820 and 1830 to include neoclassical design elements. It was most notable for being the wartime headquarters of General Giuseppe Garibaldi during a battle that was fought in nearby Varese in 1859 during the Austro-Sardinian war.
The main villa was designed and built by architect Giuseppe Balzaretto in 1859, and he also oversaw the redesign and joining of the English gardens on the property. It was created in the neo-gothic style, with the external facade of the villa being inspired by medieval-era castles.
The rooms contained within the villa are designed around an octagonal atrium, and numerous frescoes (some of which are dedicated to such notable people as Galileo and Dante Alighieri) and paintings decorate its walls. Many bronze statues honoring prominent figures in the Italian arts and sciences in the 19th century can also be found throughout the interior of the main villa.
The smallest building was known as Le Sellerie. It served as a horse stable and later as a garage for the cars owned by Andrea Ponti’s ancestors.
These three buildings were bought by the Varese Chamber of Commerce in the early 60’s, who then turned them into a conference centre. It has a total of 23 rooms that can be used for meetings, with a maximum capacity of 400 people.
Below is a video about Varese, near the beginning you’ll see my trip to Ville Ponti.