The villa Panza
Surrounded by a magnificent Italian garden, Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza in Biumo was built in the mid-XVIII century by Marquis Paolo Antonio Menafoglio and extended in the neo-classic period by architect Luigi Canonica, commissioned by Duke Pompeo Litta Visconti Arese.
The villa Panza is famous throughout the world for the collection of contemporary art that Giuseppe Panza di Biumo began creating in the 1950s. The halls and the huge stables today exhibit more than one hundred works by contemporary artists, as well as rich XVI-XIX century furnishings and an important collection of African and pre-Columbian art.
The Villa Panza park
The enormous park of Villa Panza (more than 33,000 square meters) opens towards the city and the pre-Alps; it was redesigned in the first decades of the 1800s on the basis of English landscape principles, albeit respecting and retaining the two main perspective axes characterized by the two large central fountains typical of formal 1700s gardens. This helped create large green areas and romantic places – such as the small lake, the grotto and the hill with the small temple – while the geometrical “parterre” in front of the villa closed by the long grove was unchanged.
The Villa Panza Empire hall
The villa Panza was extended in 1830 with the construction of a new single-storey building intended as a large and sumptuous dining room. This important addition was integrally designed by neo-classic architect Luigi Canonica, who also designed the stove, the floor patterning, the consoles and all the linking architectural elements. The three enormous crystal chandeliers and the fresco decoration of the ceiling also date from the same period. The walls have four monochrome paintings by American painter David Simpson.
The apartment of G. Panza
The entrance to the apartment of Giuseppe Panza, on the first floor of the villa, looks over the main courtyard, open towards the garden, and separates the two side wings of the villa. The walls are enlivened by huge monochrome paintings by Phil Sims, in keeping with Giuseppe Panza’s strict decision to dedicate each room only to one artist. Here, as in the other rooms of the villa, the famous Milanese collector has managed to achieve a happy combination between works of the latest trends in contemporary art and the highly-prized furniture of the classic tradition.
The villa Panza farm wing
The farm wing of the villa was entirely converted by Giuseppe Panza. The protagonists of environmental art in Los Angeles – Robert Irwin, Maria Nordman and James Turrell, who particularly work with light, space and perception – have designed new installations specifically for certain settings in this wing, personally experimenting with colors, lighting and the atmospheric quality of the surrounding environment. In adjacent rooms, the neon colors of Dan Flavin cancel out the original shadows, composing new volumes and giving life to three-dimensional paintings where once can move and breathe.
The Villa Panza large stables
As of 1824, Duke Pompeo Litta commissioned substantial work on the farm buildings. These included the construction of the large Stables, built in 1830 to a project by architect Luigi Canonica and currently used as an exhibition area thanks to a new set-up designed by Gae Aulenti. When there are no temporary shows, the luminous area characterized by a lowered barrel vault ceiling is home to Desire, an important sculpture finalized in 1981 by Afro-American artist Martin Puryear, the initiator of organic art.
How to get there without a car:
– Take the Trenord train from Milan Cadorna station, or the train from Porta Garibaldi Station. Check on the site for the current schedules, both stations have two trains every hour. The stations of the two railroads in Varese are very close to each other. Approx. 1 hour.
– Urban bus line “A”: Villa Panza is reached with the bus line to Varese departing from Piazzale Trieste, near the station of Varese of LeNord railways. Buy an urban bus ticket (1 euro) in any newsstand in Varese.