In the heart of Alta Brianza, a few kilometres from the Montevecchia Regional Park, Villa Sommi Picenardi’s wondrous gardens are enlivened by statues, fountains and rare plants, and today are open to the public.

With its classic Lombard baroque style, this Villa was built on the ruins of an ancient watch tower, surrounded by a number of 14th-century rural buildings. The summer residence of the Sala family, it was most probably completed in 1702, the date emblazoned on the next-door chapel dedicated to Saints Ambrogio and Galdino. The multi-level, Italian-style garden visible from the ground floor through wide arches creates a sense of perspective with elegant ramps of a double staircase built into the hillside, leading to a “secret garden” behind the villa where the plants are arranged in regular, geometric forms. The garden’s hallmark feature is the stairway’s unique, Roman-inspired, coloured mosaic decoration, enriched with stone garlands, mythological figures and bronze seahorses around a central fountain. Many vases and statues are distributed symmetrically throughout the garden. Hornbeam hedges and topiary dominate the area to the west of the villa, which is known as the Theatre Garden. In 1880, Lady Mina Sala Trotti Bentivoglio, owner of the house and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Margherita, commissioned an English-style section to be added to the formal gardens. Following 19th-century romantic tastes, she had a pond installed and opened up new lines of perspective out towards the surrounding countryside. The exotic tree species planted at that time are today of considerable size and significant botanical interest. Still owned by descendants of Marquis Paolo Sommi Picenardi di Calvatone (heir to Lady Mina), the villa’s five hectares of parkland have been assiduously managed to ensure preservation. The Villa is today open to the public.