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.