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Regione Lombardia

The appearance of Lago di Como at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20the century, with its banks shaped by landscaped gardens, landing stages and jetties, drew on the ideal of progress inspired by nascent industrialisation, while maintaining a romantic desire to preserve Nature and the landscape.

At around this time holiday residences and hotels began to be built around the lake, encouraged by the natural beauty of the surroundings and the proximity to Milan. New industries were fuelling growth in the hinterland, and aristocratic visitors were now joined by industrialists and representatives of the middle class.

The lake and surrounding countryside was now sprinkled with residences large and small, and with the villas and houses came new links in the form of funicular railways. The architecture of hotels was mostly eclectic in style, so it was the villas, ranging from classically-inspired residences to mountain chalets, which gave character to the new building boom. The favourite site was directly on the shores of the lake, with a skilfully landscaped garden setting off the architecture of the house, or on a promontory with a belvedere providing panoramic views. By the beginning of the twentieth century some were making use of the new fashion, the refined “Liberty” style, where motifs borrowed from nature contributed to the overall aim of making the architecture blend in with the surrounding countryside.

An interesting example of this trend is the villa owned by the silk magnate Bernasconi at Cernobbio, where he also set up his modern factory, currently being restored by local initiative. In this villa, built in 1905, the architect, Campanini, makes use of a leit motiv inspired by the textile industry, the silkworm amongst mulberry leaves, for the bas-reliefs which adorn the facades, thus weaving into the decoration symbols from the world of work.

At Lanzo d'Intelvi, above Lago di Como, there are two villas, Poletti (1913) and Cirla (1915), designed by the architect Sommaruga, built very much in spirit of the “Liberty"movement, blurring volumes and structures with flowing decorative designs . And in Brunate we find Villa Maria (1904) and Villa Chiara (1906), still wavering between eclecticism and modernism, and finally the purest expressions of floral design: Villa Cantaluppi (1908), Villa Marinoni (1910), Villa Rebuschini (1910) and Villa Franceschini (1911-12).

Another excellent place to find architecture inspired the floral-romantic style is funeral monuments in churchyards. The tombs of the Biffi at Galliano, the Casnati at Casnate and the Salmoiraghi at Lanzo d'Intelvi are major examples of the intertwining of architecture and sculpture so characteristic of the style of Art Nouveau.

Villa Bernasconi, ledge


Villa Poletti partferro


Villa Bernasconi, moulded cement decoration