House Museum

Eight centuries of history, taste and style overlap and blend to give birth to a jewel on Lake Como

The history of Villa Monastero in Varenna takes place over quite a long period of time: its current appearance as a late nineteenth-century eclectic residence is the result of various interventions over a period of nine centuries.

In fact, the Villa was born from the transformation of an ancient Cistercian women’s monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built at the end of the 12th century as a subsidiary of the Acquafredda monastery in nearby Lenno.

The building work on the residence was carried out by the Mornico family from Valsassina, who owned the property for more than three centuries and made it known on the Lario as “Villa Leliana“, named after the man who transformed the monastery into a residence between 1609 and 1645. It still retains its original seventeenth-century overall layout, as evidenced by the airy loggia overlooking the lake, although it underwent many transformations during the nineteenth century.

In 1862 the house was sold to the engineer Pietro Genazzini of Bellagio, who settled in Varenna and undertook a few renovations; years later, in 1869, he was forced to sell it due to financial difficulties.

The new buyer was a prominent Milanese, Carolina Maumari, widow of Seufferheld (1811-1894).

She was the third daughter of the Swiss silk merchant Giovanni Bartolomeo Maumari and Maria Antonietta Blondel, sister of Enrichetta, Alessandro Manzoni’s wife; her sister Luisa was to be the wife of the patriot Massimo d’Azeglio, who had married Giulia Manzoni, daughter of the author of The Betrothed.

The Villa was very popular at that time: leading figures from the contemporary cultural world met in Varenna, since the Lario already held the record among the Lombard lakes for tourist traffic in the first half of the 19th century, thanks to the considerable development of communications. Its evocative position, a little removed from the village, and its ancient origins, mentioned in all sources from the late 15th century onwards, certainly make a visit to Villa Monastero an interesting as well as pleasant experience in the second half of the 19th, also by virtue of the garden, cited in 19th-century guides along with the illustrious birthplaces and religious past of the place.

It then was passed on to other owners who gave it its current eclectic appearance with a distinctive
Nordic taste. It was Walter Kees from Leipzig who renovated it between 1897 and 1909 and enlarged the garden to its current size with a two-kilometer lake front. In 1918 it was requisitioned by the Italian State as a war debt and in 1925 it was bought by the De Marchi family, who came from Milan, but was 
originally from Switzerland. In 1939 the De Marchi family donated it and the Villa became a public property and a museum.

In 1940, the garden was made accessible and in 1953 a conference center was built. It is still active today and hosts cultural and scientific conferences (including the summer courses of the prestigious Italian School of Physics, which have been attended by over sixty Nobel Prize winners).

In 2003, the House Museum was built in the monumental part of the building to preserve the collections housed there, which are now visited by more than 64,000 people every year. The museum consists of 14 fully furnished rooms, which have retained their original decorations and furniture.

In 2004 it was recognized as a museum by the Lombardy Region. In 2009 the entire
compendium, which subsequently became part of the National Research Council’s
property, was purchased by the Province of Lecco
.

Villa's floor plans

Atrium
and staircase

Discover >

Billiard
Room

Discover >

Black
room

Discover >

Fermi
room

Discover >

Re
d room

Discover >

Salottino
Mornico

Discover >

South-east
Room

Discover >

Salottino

Discover >

Council
Chamber

Discover >

Oriental
Drawing room

Discover >

Sala della
Musica

Discover >

Master
bedroom

Discover >

Antebathroom

Discover >

Bathroom

Discover >

Sala
Polvani

Discover >