The villas belong to the Ponti family, enlightened Lombard entrepreneurs, the forerunners of the Lombard textile business who opened the first spinning factory in Gallarate in 1813 and, in 1821, the first semi-automatic mechanical spinning plant in Solbiate Olona, a first in Italy at the time. The Pontis, like many wealthy 19th century Milanese families, chose Varese as a second home destination for its climate and landscape.
Thus, starting from 1838, the Ponti family began spending its summer holidays at Villa Napoleonica (also called Villa Fabio Ponti).
Of the family’s most illustrious members, Andrea Ponti stands out as the driving force behind the cotton industry. His innovation drive also extended to the agricultural sphere. Thanks to him, a Palaeontology Museum was set up on Lake Varese’s Isolino Virginia (called after his wife).
In 1858 Andrea Ponti commissioned architect Giuseppe Balzaretto to build the villa which is called after him today and its structure is still intact. The majesty of the building, dominated by architectural elements which echo Palazzo Vendramin in Venice, is enriched with the art masterpieces inside: Bertini frescoes, fine paintings by Focosi and Bianchi, Murano lamps and bronze statues. All this finishes off a work of extraordinary artistic value.
Since the 1960s the Ponti villas have been the property of the Varese Chamber of Commerce which has used them for its functions. Over the years the chamber of commerce has worked on enhancing the Ville Ponti congress spaces, safeguarding their huge artistic and environmental heritage value (56,000 square metres of park) and adding the most up-to-date technological facilities.
THE VILLAS, SPLENDID ART AND CULTURE GEMS, EACH AN EXPRESSION OF A DIFFERENT ARCHITECTURAL STYLE
The Congress Centre’s rooms are decorated with magnificent frescoes and works of art, many of which are the work of Giuseppe Bertini (1825-1898), an exponent of the Italian Romantic and Verismo movements, professor and director of the Brera Accademia delle Belle Arti and later Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan. His is also the decorative cycle in the ground floor rooms at Villa Andrea.
This imposing villa dominates Varese town from its hill and dates to the second half of the 19th century. A search for a monumental style is the prevalent characteristic of its external architecture. Round arch double lancet windows like those of Palazzo Vendramin in Venice, columns with bases and capitals in faux bronze, finishings with protruding, slender cornices, a high balustraded attic held up by low obelisks: these are the structural elements which best define the villa’s profiles.
The imposing vertical thrust of the entrance atrium (33 metres high) is the foyer for the building’s vast rooms decorated with sophisticated stucco work and furnished elegantly with ornate Murano chandeliers and richly engraved bronzes.
The villa’s great ground floor hall contains masterpieces by Giuseppe Bertini. These are hymns to work, science and art and frame four large, extremely fine frescoes depicting Christopher Colombus returning from the Americas, Galileo Galilei showing the Venetian Doge how to use a telescope, Guido d’Arezzo teaching three teenagers how to sing and Alessandro Volta presenting his invention, the battery, to a young Napoleon Bonaparte.
Two imposing statues of Dante Alighieri and Michelangelo Buonarroti complete the ground floor rooms. Of the paintings present, of special importance is the large painting by Focosi (1836-1869) depicting
Charles Emmanuel of Savoy contemptuously breaking the Toson d’Oro insignia before the Spanish ambassador, thus rejecting the King of Spain’s injunction to withdraw from the Monferrato area which the Savoys had occupied (a historical event which took place in 1613).
There are other fine frescoes depicting mythological figures on the villa’s second floor: Time abducting Youth and Bacchus with Venus. The second floor congress rooms also contain portraits of some of the Ponti family including Andrea Ponti.
In front of the hall a large space overlooking the octagonal entrance below offers splendid views of the building’s vertical spatial thrust.
Dating to the 17th century this villa is believed to have been built above a pre-existing chapel with adjoining residence for a small religious community of which the Gothic arch still visible on the west façade is a trace. In 1838 the building and its park were bought up by the Ponti family who immediately made it their summer residence. A historical event of great importance relates to Villa Napoleonica: it was, in fact, seat of Garibaldi’s headquarters on the occasion of the Battle of Varese on 26th May 1859. From a knoll nearby the ‘hero of the two worlds’ directed the military operations which led to the defeat of General Urban and the Austrians being driven out of the area.
The villa’s external walls are currently intact with a large ramp formed by a garden relief to the east on which two converging flights of steps rest allowing access to the first floor from outside. The villa conserves an original wing with ceiling frescoes and period furniture.
The inner corpus of the building comprises a large congress hall on the ground floor which replaced an earlier courtyard. More recent renovation work by the Chamber of Commerce equipped the building with further modular conference rooms whose technological facilities are especially innovative.
Villa Andrea offers the perfect blend of history and modernity, a unique and truly fascinating venue, perfect for anyone looking for a charming setting complete with efficient and functional equipment.
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Villa Napoleonica has been skilfully and functionally restructured and renovated to combine spacious modern and modulable facilities with original settings characterised by nineteenth century style and allure. Its excellent congress facilities make it the perfect venue for events of all sizes.
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Located in the heart of the city of Varese, the Ville Ponti Congress Centre, with 18 modular and technologically advanced halls complete with a secular park, is the only facility capable of fulfilling a vast array of requirements, thanks to its extensive exhibition areas suitable for organising all kinds of events.