The "Quadrilatero del Silenzio" is a true gem in the heart of Milan where hidden gardens and luxurious villas cohabit in a harmonious silence.
The "Quadrilatero del Silenzio" (which means "silent neighbourhood" in Italian) is an unusual place in the heart of Milan but far enough from the noise of the city center, which worth a visit if you plan to stay in the town of panettone cake. I promise you that you won’t regret roaming around the streets of this neighbourhood as you will be soon enchanted by its historical buildings which internal gardens enclose bizarre sculptures as well as statues and mosaics. Crossing the street and turning the corner you will be amazed by finding some pink flamingos drinking from a fountain ... You read well, flamingos in the city center. Curious? I will tell you more in the paragraph below.
Anyway, I keep falling in love whenever I walk on these streets, especially because as a Milanese (born and bred) I know it is not just about sightseeing the area, whereas it rather is the experience itself of breathing the stories of families living in the neighbourhood. Everything is so magic and poetic here.
This urban area became the place we know it today under the Habsburg Empire when, among the many buildings, straights and palaces, they built the Royal Villa and the Public Gardens. It was then enriched with imposing neoclassical, eclectic and liberty style houses during the 19th century, and remained a wealthy area until the 1930s when Palazzo Fidia and Villa Necchi Campiglio were built.
Villa Necchi Campiglio, a 1930s design residence in the heart of Milan
A visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio is a real journey through time, among precious furnishings, works of art and objects of everyday life, where you can still breathe intact the atmosphere of lively worldliness of the Milanese high bourgeoisie of the past.
The villa was designed between 1932 and 1935 by the famous Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi for the owner Angelo Campiglio and the Necchi sisters Gigina and Nedda.
The villa is a faithful testimony of this privileged slice of life, whose architectural structure has remained intact until todays, as well as furnishings and artefacts, extraordinarily preserved and left in their own place.
Before the villa, one must come across a tangle of residential streets bordered by via Mozart, via Cappuccini, via Vivaio and via Serbelloni. As soon as you enter one of these streets you find yourself in an oasis of peace with wonderful buildings in full Liberty style, from the most recent to the late, of which the greatest exponent is Palazzo Berri Meregalli with its baroque features. However, the true focal point of Villa Invernizzi is a flock of flamingos behind the huge gate ... A sudden touch of exotic that one would never expect to encounter in such a big city!
The villa itself is a liberty style house famous for these original pink inhabitants. I always try to spy on the graceful movements of the flamingos through the gate whenever I happen to stop by. They belong to two different species, one from Chile and one from Africa. They arrived in Milan in the 1970s just before the approval of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Palazzo Berri-Meregalli is another extraordinary example of the Milanese liberty style. It was built between 1911 and 1913 by architect Giulio Ulisse Arata and the most striking feature is certainly its curious and bizarre appearance, with dark bricks, gilded decorations, friezes and colored tiles, and a mix of architectural styles and shapes typical of the eclecticism. You can have fun finding rams, fish, dogs, lions and other strange figures on its facades.
Today it houses residences and offices. I tried to pass by here during the week, when the gatehouse is open, because a friend told me once to not miss something in the atrium. So I did it and had a look inside … What can I say? This is what it looks like.
The Winged Victory, by Adolfo Wildt
What about this magnificent house? The pictures speak for themselves. The peculiarity of the building lies in its decorations. The building itself was designed by the architect Giovanni Battista Bossi between 1903-1905 on behalf of the Galimberti brothers. Its external facade is decorated with figured ceramic tiles, wrought iron, concrete floral motifs and what makes it truly special is the realistic depiction of the ceramic tile coating.
As for its decoration, this covers almost the entire façade for about 170 m² and is done in fire-painted ceramic. The first floor is depicted by shapely female figures, typical of the Art Nouveau style, whilst on the other floors there are splendid floral motifs with wrought iron decorations that complete the facade. On a decorative level there is a dialogue between inside and outside, supported by the ornamental motifs starting from the concierge
Not many European cities hide such unusual districts behind their grey and chaotic facade. Milan is one of these fews. My city always knows how to amaze, even when you least expect it.