Observations from the Road (Or the “Has It Been Six Weeks Since I Was in Milan?” Edition)

Villa del Balbianello view

Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como

In mid-September I published a post from Milan that promised “Lake Como and more still to come.” Next thing I know, we are pushing toward Halloween and the things I’ve wanted to post have been piling up in my brain.  So with the first open weekend in about six weeks, I’m going to catch up by using my trusty “Observations from…” catch-all post.

This edition will include photos from the second and third days of my quick trip to Milan in September for the Executive Committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).

Speaking of Lake Como: 

Lake Como is beautiful.

Lake Como panorama

Lake Como panorama

We were there to visit the Villa del Balbianello, a property of FAI, the Italian National Trust.  Commissioned in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini, the villa “has hosted literati and travellers up to the time of its final owner, the adventurous explorer Guido Monzino.”  Throughout the house are travel mementoes and art objects from his 20th century life.

Villa lakeside entrance

View of the Villa del Balbianello from the lakeside entrance


Villa del Balbianello writing room

Villa del Balbianello writing room


Travel momentoes

Travel mementoes and awards


Garden view from Villa del Balbianello

Garden view from Villa del Balbianello

This is a remarkable home in a stunning setting.  It is easy to see why this is FAI’s most popular property.

Villa e Collezione Panza – Contemporary art in a historic villa:  As the day turned from bright blue to rainy gray, we stopped at FAI’s historic Villa Panza to view the contemporary art collection of American artists that had been assembled by Giuseppe Pana di Buomo beginning in the 1950s.

Villa Panza courtyard

Courtyard of the Villa Panza

The villa’s windows open onto a wonderful Italian garden, making for a beautiful setting for more than 150 pieces of American contemporary art.  While our National Trust in the U.S. has several historic sites that serve as settings for contemporary art (e.g., The Glass House, Chesterwood, Kykuit), many of my colleagues on the INTO Executive Committee were surprised to see the juxtaposition of old and new.

Skyscape at Villa Panza

James Turrell’s Skyscape 1 at Villa Panza


Villa Panza artwork

Villa Panza artwork, historic and contemporary


Villa Panza parlor

Villa Panza

The Last Day (and Supper) in Milan: 

We spent the last day in Milan touring some of the city’s most famous buildings and sites.  The Duomo and square are wonders of Italian architecture.

Duomo towers

Duomo towers in Milan


Milan Duomo

Milan Duomo, looking across the great altar


Duomo details

Duomo details

The Galleria, also on the Duomo square, is a hub of commerce next to the spiritual center of the city.

Galleria hall

Galleria hall


Central skylight in the Galleria

Central skylight in the Galleria

And finally, thanks to the good folks at FAI, we were able to acquire much sought-after tickets to see the Last Supper.  The experience – with only 30 or so visitors allowed in the room for 15 minutes – is very moving and satisfying.  The stewards of this priceless treasure could teach the Vatican Museum – with the over-crowded and wholly unsatisfying Sistine Chapel experience – a thing or two.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper


This was a great bookend to our time in Rome in the spring, with many thanks to FAI and my colleagues at INTO.  Milan is yet another international treasure, and I’m delighted I had the opportunity to see the city through the eyes of our Italian preservation colleagues.

More to come…


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