Like a precious “matryoshka” Russian doll, this garden encompasses many centuries of history: the English-style gardens contains 18th-century hornbeam galleries and a Renaissance nymphaeum with unexpected water features that enchanted Stendhal himself.

In the late 16th century, Pirro Visconti Borromeo improved his farm estate by adding a “villa di delizia” and commissioning the finest Lombard artists of the time, including Camillo Procaccini and Morazzone, to create an Italian-style garden dominated by a majestic Nymphaeum with rich décor and spectacular water features (the Palazzo delle acque) around the 16th-century palazzo (the “Riposteria”). The complex was later acquired by Count Visconti Borromeo Arese (responsible for the “Quarto nuovo” apartments), and, after him, by Marquis Litta, who in 1745 funded extension of the gardens to create an ideal setting for parties and receptions. Today as in the past, visitors arrive in the rustic courtyard and formal garden via the Mercury Rotunda. To the west, a hornbeam gallery connects the open-air theatre and the Garden of Hesperides, passing by the Triton Fountain. To the north is the Fountain of Galatea and an exedra featuring the Rape of Proserpine. Not far off, just past the foliage of a monumental Ginkgo biloba is a Garden of Medicinal Plants with its seasonal scents. In the 19th century, architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Linneo Tagliabue adapted a portion of the complex to new tastes for wilder-looking English-style gardens, planting more than 800 trees and 56 different species of shrub. The Litta family modified the nymphaeum’s facades, adding limestone concretions to harmonize the building and landscaped gardens. After a spell of ownership by the Weill Weiss family, in 1932 the Toselli family became owners and commissioned architect Giuseppe Tramajoni to restore the property. Since 1971, the site has belonged to the Municipality of Lainate, which has carried out major restorations and enhancement works.