The Villa

Villa dei Cedri: from a Residence to a Museum

The Villa dei Cedri museum is located in a villa dating back at least as far as the nineteenth century and has undergone a number of changes over time. This country home originally had a simple, late neoclassical look. Its current appearance is largely down to the extension work planned by the Milanese architect Nelusco Mario Antoniazzi on behalf of the banker Arrigo Stoffel, who bought the property in 1931.
The villa is in Ravecchia, a village on the slopes of the Dragonato and Guasta streams that lies to the south of Bellinzona and became part of the city in 1907. In the late nineteenth century, Ravecchia was considered ‘the most beautiful suburb of Bellinzona, with a wealth of plant life and villas, and an unparalleled view of the lower Ticino valley as far as Lake Maggiore’ (Swiss Geographical Dictionary, 1906). Agriculture, gardening and cattle rearing took place in this residential area and holiday destination, which also had vast orchards. It is therefore no surprise to learn that this pleasant zone was chosen as the site of a suburban villa. Residence was usually taken up in these homes from late spring until the autumn by noble families of Bellinzona like the Bonzanigo’s, who are the earliest owners of the villa that have been identified so far. It went on to change hands many times. From 1868 to 1905 it was owned by the Farinelli family. After them came the Resinelli family, who sold it to Enrico Guscio in 1926. In 1931 Arrigo Stoffel bought it from Banca Popolare.

Along with the changes in ownership came alterations to the villa and its gardens. In particular, the extension work and transformations made in the 1930s are typical of the bourgeoisie. They met the owners’ requirements of pleasure and relaxation and instilled a close relationship between the villa and the gardens, architecture and nature, through the construction of terraces, a veranda, a loggia and the belvedere tower, which was a true status symbol in residential architecture at the time, as shown by the numerous examples in Ticino. All of these elements allow admiration of the gardens and the surrounding views from a number of perspectives and break up the rigidity of the compact late neoclassical style building in a way that is typical of eclectic villas and is in keeping with the picturesque tendency to split up volumes. Picturesque aesthetics also appear in the garden, which was landscaped in an English style, but without sacrificing the practical advantages of farming, which continued to take place: vineyards, vegetable gardens, orchards and greenhouses completed this haven of greenery.
Inside the villa there are remarkable parquet floors, ornate ceilings with decorative stucco patterns, fireplaces (some of which have been removed) and panels with views of rivers and lakes in the entrance hall and above the doors, which give the impression of pushing back the boundaries of the villa.
The villa and its gardens with their centuries-old trees have been owned by the Commune of Bellinzona since 1978. In 1985 they became the home of the Civic Art Gallery, now known as the Villa dei Cedri Museum. Some changes were made to adapt the building for its new use, but there were no alterations to its structure or style and its character as a bourgeois residence has been left intact.


The creation of the Villa dei Cedri civic museum

It seems that the scheme to open an art museum in the city first appeared in 1970, when the doctor Emilio Sacchi and Adolfo Rossi, a banker from Bellinzona who worked in nearby Italy, donated their respective art collections to the community. They mainly contained paintings dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The Rossi collection was first presented to the public in the town hall in 1973. The Rossi and Sacchi collections, which constituted the initial nucleus of the city’s art museum, were displayed together in 1977, once again in the town hall. Following the purchase of Villa dei Cedri and the founding of the Civic Art Gallery, the decision was made to give a clear cultural orientation to the new establishment. The acquisitions policy focuses on Swiss and Italian art from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present day, concentrating in particular on artists who have worked in the local area, the critical revival of original figures and creations on paper.

Historical photo album of Villa dei Cedri 
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Museo Villa dei Cedri - Bellinzona Musei - Città di Bellinzona

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