This Baroque garden was the home of a collector keen to combine art, nature and evocations of ancient times. Nestling in a former hunting reserve that once belonged to the Arconati, Busca and Crivelli families, Villa Arconati-FAR’s gardens – celebrated as “the little Versailles of Milan” – extend for over twelve hectares and surround an elegant residence.

Long-renowned for its 18th century engravings by Marc’Antonio Dal Re, the complex is today managed by the Augusto Rancilio Foundation. A sumptuous “villa of delights”, it is surrounded by a formal garden commissioned by Galeazzo Arconati in the early 17th century, and later enlarged by his heirs. A longitudinal avenue leads from the main facade into the Italian-style garden, culminating at a fountain in the Theatre of Diana. The garden’s current configuration and the villa’s south-west wing are the result of mid-18th century works. Three north/south avenues complete the main line of perspective, leading to several “rooms” bordered by hornbeam espaliers. With a bifid mermaid and fountain, the Andromeda Theatrecelebrates feminine energy. The Theatre of Hercules is dominated by the figure of the Greek hero strangling the Nemean Lion, in homage to the Arconati family’s male lineage. The Teatro Grande, which is also known as the Theatre of the Four Seasons, completes the series of planted spaces conceived to symbolize knowledge and culture. Water is a dominant element throughout the garden: one particularly remarkable work of hydraulic engineering, the Water Tower at the Lemon House, once fed numerous basins and water features, including the waterfalls along the Scalinata dei Draghi. The ancient oak wood to the south-east was once used for hunting, a favorite pastime of the aristocracy, with an old Hunting Lodge (the only element that has not survived in the garden) and an Aviary for exotic birds. Functional greenhouses, outbuildings and an ice-house complete this rare Lombard example of a Baroque-inspired park. In the early 2000s, the Fondazione Augusto Rancilio began widespread restoration of the garden and Villa, returning the monumental complex back to its full splendour.