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Modernist

Lecce | Baroque Weekend

The hidden courtyards and secret gardens of some of Lecce‘s most splendid historic houses are to open their hefty doors again this year for Cortili Aperti. On Sunday June 10, the singular Baroque style on display in Lecce can be seen from the inside, from the private courts with their exuberantly carved fountains and statues and elaborate staircases. Over 25 opulent palazzi …

Brenta Canal | Villa Spotting

For an agreeably different way of getting to Venice – or away from it when you’ve had enough – how about a cruise? We’re not talking about one of those gargantuan liners that regularly dwarf the Palazzo Ducale and throw a shadow over half the Veneto; rather a stately riverboat which coasts through verdant countryside along the Brenta waterway. Il …

Venice | The Old Olivetti Shop

In 1956 the National Olivetti Prize for architecture was awarded to Carlo Scarpa. Adriano Olivetti promptly capped this with a commission to design an Olivetti showroom in the heart of Venice. And Scarpa, who by this time enjoyed international renown, was indicted for practising architecture without proper qualifications! It was an eventful year for Carlo Scarpa. Still, the Olivetti shop in Piazza …

Bologna | Toy Story

Some of Bologna‘s most charming shops are to be found in the bustling quarter around Via Oberdan, once part of a Jewish ghetto. Hoffmann is one such. The shop itself was designed by the great Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, at the beginning of th 1960s, for furnishings produced by another pioneer of Italian design, Dino Gavina. Just the shop front …

Bagheria | Monstrous Stuff

A little way off the beaten track to Palermo lies the town of Bagheria, with little to recommend it but for the superb and eccentric Villa Palagonia. A country house built for Don Ferdinando Gravina Crujllas, Prince of Palagonia, no less, in the early 18th century, to plans drawn up by architect and Dominican friar Tommaso Maria Napoli. With the …

Rome|Garbatella

For a surprising alternative to Romeing around the crowded city centre, head out to the Garbatella, a residential quarter built on the southern outskirts of the city in the 1920s and ’30s. Part of a plan to link Rome to the sea at Ostia via a navigable canal parallel to the Tiber, the Garbatella was to accomodate port workers and their families. The canal …

Turin | Feeling Nervi

Pier Luigi Nervi is one of Italy’s finest twentieth-century architects. His extraordinary modernist buildings and plastic use of reinforced concrete saw his works acclaimed around the globe. He did in fact leave at least one landmark piece on each of the five continents, with an array of commissioners ranging from UNESCO to Pope Paul VI. It’s been said he had the know-how …

Weissmatten | Extreme Refuge

Casa Capriata was acclaimed long before it was built. The original plans, drawn up around 1950 by Carlo Mollino, one of Italy’s great architect-designers and protagonist of the culture of architecture, were a manifesto for the use of innovative materials and techniques. With the centenary of Mollino’s birth, a group of researchers from the Politecnico di Torino, led by architect Guido …

More Architecture without Architects

(Title borrowed from Bernard Rudofsky’s book on non-pedigreed architecture.) A trullo is an extraordinary building, certainly unlike anything else on mainland Italy. It’s small and round with a conical roof, something you’d imagine a hobbit might emerge from. But no, the trulli were the homes of peasants in northern and central Apulia, from prehistoric until relatively recent times. Very thick drystone …

Verona | Sunflower Power

Some individuals are way ahead of their time. Angelo Invernizzi was one of them. Back in 1925 the Italian navy engineer envisioned living in a rotating house which could follow the sun’s movement. His dream became reality when he built Villa Girasole (Sunflower) with the help of his friend Ettore Fagiuoli and an intimate group of artists, sculptors, designers and architects. Today …

Ardea | Manzù Museum

Manzù is undoubtedly one of the greatest 20th-century Italian sculptors. His work is displayed in the most prestigious galleries around the world – the Tate, the MoMa, the Guggenheim, the Hermitage, you name it. The Giacomo Manzù Foundation has transformed the artist’s stunning modernist home and studio in Ardea just outside Rome into a museum and sculpture garden. The museum contains around 200 pieces …

Sorrento | Coast Modern

Gio Ponti was a genius. Originally from Milan, Ponti worked all over the country (and abroad) designing homes, office towers, interiors, cruise liners. He worked closely with several Italian companies like Richard Ginori, Sabattini, Krupp Italy and Cassina, designing everything from skyscrapers to serving spoons in a career that lasted over sixty years. It is, however, difficult to find his modernist masterpieces intact. …

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