Friday, September 5, 2014

Inside the Villa del Balbianello

Nestled into the hills surrounding Lake Como is the Villa del Balbianello which is open to the public. On his recent visit my penpal thankfully shared these photos with us!
Last inhabited by explorer Guido Monzino, the villa is left as if he had just packed up on one of his adventures. Decorated in classical mid-century splendor there is much inside to inspire today's decorators.
Before going inside lets first lets explore the grounds of the villa as the setting is really more spectacular than the architecture. Built in 1787 as a Franciscan Monastery, the villa shortly thereafter became a family home.
The Villa and gardens were restored in the early 20th century by an American businessman, Butler Ames, who used it as his vacation home.
The views of the lake and surrounding hillsides are stunning. The gardens are kept simple to allow the view to take precedence.
Above you can see the original chapel with clocktower.
The carved stonework is intricate and fanciful.
 How would you like to wake up to this view everyday? Sign me up!
Inside the elegantly muted interiors leave the spectacular views to become the focal point.
I love these soft boiseries in the main salon. Notice the chandelier is not electrified.
 Looking the other direction the views of the lake are probably amazing.
I wish I had one of these 2 story paneled libraries in my own house! The chandelier is more practically electrified.
 This paneled sitting room operates as a sort of treasury or collector's cabinet.
 The touches of green throughout the house connect the interiors of the villa to the gardens.
 I love the very elegant sitting room above.
The dining room looks as if it could hold quite the large dinner party, perfect for lots of weekend guests. The dreary red carpet 'runway' to protect the floor finishes really ruins the effect.
The velvet upholstered furniture throughout the house is all really beautiful and not dated at all. The chinoiserie secretary is probably coveted by many!
 Notice the very (now) trendy printed curtains in the breakfast room.
 The villa appears to be full of many dining room or perhaps this is a study off the library?
 The kitchen remains efficient and practically simple but notice the stylish lantern fixture.
The sumptuous bedrooms again feature elegant candle-lit chandeliers. I'm assuming these would never or rarely be lit!
 The marble bathrooms are again beautifully detailed.
I think something is really charming about guest bedrooms with pairs of twin beds; I'll file this away for inspiration.
Monzino loved the Villa del Balbianello so much that he is even buried on the property. I can see why; I've added the Villa of my (long) bucket list of places to visit!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Arco della Pace, Milan

Recently my Austrlian Penpal sent me photos from his trip to Milan, Italy, including photos of the Porta Sempione. The centerpiece of this city gate is the Arco della Pace, or Arch of Peace, designed by Luigi Cagnola in the early 19th century.
The arch replaced an ancient Roman wall and gateway which were called Jupiter's gate or Porta Giovia. The significance behind the arch remains a mystery. It was either built in wood in 1806 for the marriage of Eugene Beauharnais with a Bavarian princess and later recreated in more permanent marble, or was designed for Napolean in 1807. Either way the arch wasn't completed until 1838 for Emperor Francis II, 5 years after Cagnola's death. Flanking the arch are exquisite neoclassical customs houses.
 Other than the iconic Parisian Arc de Triomphe it remains the largest structure of its kind.
 The construction of the sculpture reliefs are not only marble but also wood, bronze, and stucco.
If you find yourself in Milan, take a break from shopping to check out the Aro della Pace!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pittsburgh from above

As long time readers of this blog know that while I've called Washington, DC home for nearly 13 years I'm originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; home to Heinz ketchup, robber barons, Andy Warhol, and Mr. Rogers.
This past labor day weekend I had the chance to play tour-guide for a few friends on a quick trip to the city which is thankfully only a 4 hour drive from DC.  Seeing your 'home' from a visitor's viewpoint is always eye-opening and left me with a new-found appreciation for the city.
After a day spent at Kennywood (a historic and very pretty amusement park set amid gardens) we visited downtown Pittsburgh from above. No not from a helicopter but on one of the 2 remaining funicular's or "inclines" which lead one from the river's edge up to the neighborhood of Mt. Washington overlooking the city. I believe at one time there were 13 of these cars operating along the river, some of which could even carry cars!
We had typical "Pittsburgh weather" as I call it - overcast and drizzly - but the sun was able to breakout a few times to enjoy the view.
If you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh treat yourself to a round trip on one of the 'inclines'!