— Roberta Kedzierski (@RobertaK) June 17, 2015
On the occasion of the 20th annual Giornate di Primavera, held on the weekend of 24 and 25 March 2012 and organized by the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), when stately homes, gardens, and other historic sites not normally open to the public are, we had the chance to visit the Castello di Frascarolo, in Induno Olona, near Varese.
For once, the “No admittance” sign is nowhere to be seen. That’s because I cropped the picture. The castle is private property, to this day, the home of the Marchesi Medici di Marignano.
While paid-up members of the FAI, an organization based on the British National Trust, were allowed to see the main courtyard and some of the interiors, the rest of us were limited to the outside. Here we see the FAI people waiting to go in, while we’re going to walk down to see that tower.
Before we reach the tower, we pass by the main entrance to the castle, and then the farm buildings, or the cascina, to use the Italian word. The cascina is a rural building typical of the Po Valley, and thus Lombardy and of some areas of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.
The farm courtyard, with harnesses for oxen and similar. The Medici di Marignano family still farms in the area.
Yes, the Medici crest … While the Medici di Marignano family were from Milan, and were not related to the famous Florence Medici, the latter did concede the use of the “six balls” from their own family crest in recognition for services rendered. In the case of Gian Giacomo (1498-1555), son of the first owner, these were military, since he was a famous mercenary (but more on that later). When it came to his older brother, Giovanni Angelo, these services were religious and political, or political and religious: he became cardinal in 1549, and then pope, under the name of Pius IV, ten years later (but more on that later, also.)
Back to the present-day …. skirting the perimeter …
Round the next corner …
On the left, the Italian gardens
The swimming pool, with steps down from the house. Oh no, this bit is strictly private. Better get out of here …
Retrace our steps, past the cascina, past the main entrance, past the chapel, heading towards the tower at the other end of the facade.
Which is this one … with the wood-pile at its base.
Looking down towards Induno Olona. The castle, originally a fortified place, is first documented in 1160, held a strategic position between what we would now call Switzerland, with Lake Lugano forming the frontier, and what we would now call Italy, and Varese, an outpost for Milan, some 45 kilometers away.
And what happened in 1160? well, the Lombard comunes, under the Duke of Milan, were fighting on the pope’s side against the Swiss, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa, now on his second Italian campaign. Archbishop Uberto da Pirovano, with some one hundred cavalry, routed the Emperor’s men, taking control of the villages of Arcisate and Induno, and setting up a fortified headquarters at Frascarolo.
By the end of the 15th century, the castle, or what there was of it, belonged to the Sforza family, the Dukes of Milan, until 1535. In 1543, the Medici di Marignano family bought the place, converting it into a handsome home. Among the events recorded to have taken place here are the wedding of Gian Giacomo Medici, known as the “Medeghino”, condottiero at the services of Emperor Charles V.
This took place in 1545. Thanks to the intervention of pope Paul III, as well as that of his own brother, Gian Angelo, Gian Giacomo married Marzia Orsini, the widow of Livio Attilio di Alviano, the lord of Pordenone. She herself was the daughter of Ludovico Orsini, the count of Pitigliano.
Despite being a mercenary, with a shady past as a pirate on Lake Como, Gian Giacomo is buried in the Duomo in Milan. His monumental grave can be seen in the right transept. Said to owe some of its design to Michelangelo, the marble grave — with its five bronze figures — was the work of Leone Leoni in 1563, and is generally considered to be his masterpiece.
The third tower.
If you want to find out more about the past inhabitants of the Castello di Frascarolo, check out Sergio Redaelli’s book Pio IV, un pirata a San Pietro. Santi e tagliagole nell’Italia del 1500. Pius was the pope (25 December 1559-9 December 1565) also known as Giovanni Angelo Medici, whose father, Bernardino had bought the castle in 1543.
We chose not to sign up to the FAI to visit the castle interiors, for a number of reasons, not that we do do not agree that the FAI is “a good thing”. We do realise it’s a bit rough on you. So, here’s a piece by Paola Viotto, published on the RMF-online site. She did visit and includes some images. Not that many because, as we said, this is a private home, and the family like to keep it that way.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the castello di Frascarolo in Induno Olona, near Varese, north of Milan, has nothing to do with the castello di Frascarolo, near Pavia, which is west of Milan. But, just in case you are curious, here’s something on that one!
Genesio Boldrini (1904-1994) is probably best-known forbeing a house-painter. A house-painter with a difference,as you are about to find out. Unless of course you havealready been to his home at Sarigo, a hamlet of Castelveccana— between on Laveno and Luino — on Lake Maggiore, in northern Italy.Sarigo is in the province of Varese, although— as this plaque shows — it used to be a part of the province of Como.The entrance to the home of Genesio Boldrini,in Sarigo, a hamlet — or frazione, in Italian —of Castelveccana. Note the decorations under theentrance arch.The courtyard of the home of Genesio Boldrini. All painted by hand,all painted by the man himself over a period of 30 years — 1964-1994.The living room. The wall-paper is in fact hand-painted,as is the frieze.Genesio Boldrini did not stop at the walls:he painted the furniture too: see this corner-unitas well as the chair.Another example of the extraordinary skills of Genesio Boldrini.Houses, faces, people, and scenes of all kinds took shape on every surface.More hand-painted wall-paper in the home ofGenesio Boldrini, in Sarigo, Castelveccanaon Lake MaggioreDelicate patterns on the walls, while the panelson the window-shutters depict eye-catching scenesColorful credenza in the living room of GenesioBoldrini’s house in Sarigo, a hamlet of Castelveccana,on Lake Maggiore between Laveno and Luino, or— depending on which direction you’re coming from —Luino and Laveno. Either way, well worth the time.A close-up of the credenza. Genesio Boldrini spent two years at theBrera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, but his genius was surely all his own.Another handsomely rendered piece of furniture.Having left Sarigo at an early age, Boldrini returnedhome in 1964, when he was 60, at which point he decidedto dedicate his time to painting his house.Detail of one of the frescoes painted by GenesioBoldrini in his home in Sarigo, a hamlet ofCastelveccana, on Lake Maggiore.Another wall painting executed by Genesio Boldrini.We can only wonder at the source of inspirationfor all these highly-original works. He did so muchand went to so many places, some of his own free will,some not, before settling in his home village ofSarigo in 1964, at the age of 60.Tirelessly creative, Genesio Boldrini lived alonein his house in Via Genesio in Sarigo,a hamlet of Castelveccana, which is also the home ofthe Sotto gli Archi di Sarigo festival, thetwentieth edition of which was heldon 22-23 August 2009.Was there an overall strategy or did he justadd things as he thought of them? Either way,Genesio Boldrini showed remarkable dedication,not to mention extraordinary artistry,in his thirty-year mission to paint his house.The house in Via Genesio, Sarigo, on LakeMaggiore is typical of the local design:a ground-floor and a first-floor, the roomson the upper floor leading off an open corridor.Here we see the painted walls, as well as thedoor frames.Mike points out a detail in the courtyard below. Althoughstoutly built of stone, the house is showing its ageand is in need of repair.Part of the hand-painted frieze in one the upstairs reception roomsin the home of Genesio Boldrini in Sarigo, a hamlet ofCastelveccana, on Lake Maggiore, 6km from Laveno onthe road to Luino.The house has been left pretty much as it was when GenesioBoldrini died, aged 90 in 1994. This is the bedroom. Note thepatterned wall-paper. The artist had started to color some of thedesigns. Perhaps the exercise was not as creative as heexpected it to be, and he decided to spend time onmore original works.Every picture tells a story in the home of Genesio Boldrini,house-painter extraordinaire.Texturing effects reminiscent of the Divisionistmovement on the walls of the staircase. MaybeGenesio Boldrini (1904-1994) planned to addpaintings at a later date but did not have time.A visitor to Genesio Boldrini’s home admires thewall-paintings during the 2009 edition of Sotto gliArchi di Sarigo, a highlight of the month of August forthe last twenty years in this hamlet of Castelveccanaon Lake Maggiore, between Laveno and Luino.Harmonious mingling of intriguing scenes, perhaps derivedfrom the artist’s adventurous life, which included study at theBrera Academy of Fine Arts, a period as a prisoner of war,along with periods of employment in a foundry as well asin hotels and restaurants in various parts of Europe.The curved surfaces of the arches in the Boldrinifamily home in Via Genesio presented no problems toGenesio, whose ambition was to paint his house,from top to bottom.Visitors in the courtyard of Genesio Boldrini’shome in Sarigo, Castelveccana, on Lake Maggioreduring the twentieth annual edition ofSotto gli Archi di Sarigo, held 22-23 August 2009No repetition, despite the vast number of imagescreated over the thirty-year period that Genesio Boldrinidedicated to painting his house in Sarigo, a hamlet ofCastelveccana on Lake Maggiore.The woman seen in the image above is set against a backdropthat includes other figures. See also the stylized “grotesques”that Genesio Boldrini painted in the upper section. His influenceswere clearly many but the outcome was quite unique.More detail under the feet of the woman seen above.Genesio Boldrini died in 1994 at the age of 90. He hadspent the last 30 years of his life painting his house.This is the scene as one climbs the stairs to the first floorin Genesio Boldrini’s home in Sarigo, a hamlet ofCastelveccana, on Lake Maggiore. The religious imageis traditional, the two scenes below are anything but.The outcome, though, is perfectly harmonious.The corridor off which the upstairs room open, showing thewalls painted with infinite patience and skill by Genesio Boldrini,who spent two years at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan,but whose talent was surely innate, rather than taught.Having travelled far and wide, sometimes by choice, sometimesnot, Genesio Boldrini must have drawn from his memoriesfor the inspiration for the scenes he depicted on walls,internal and external, furniture, fixtures and fittings in hishome, which he spent 30 years painting.
Another detail of a painting executed by GenesioBoldrini in his home in Via Genesio in Sarigo,on Lake Maggiore. This hamlet lies 6km fromLaveno on the Luino road, and is part of thecomune of Castelveccana.
Yet more detail from one of Genesio Boldrini’swall paintings executed in his family home at Sarigo,Lake Maggiore. The medium used was tempera.The works have survived remarkably wellbut will need restoring in the near future.A city-scape, a detail from a larger work carried out byGenesio Boldrini during the 30 years he spent painting his house.These works can be seen during the annual Sotto gli Archi diSarigo Festival, the 2009 edition of which took placeduring the weekend 22-23 August.A closet provided Genesio Boldrini the chanceto portray four scenes. Behind it,we see the frieze painted on the walls of the largerof the two upstairs reception roomsGenesio Boldrini seems to have started from the ceiling andworked his way down in the smaller of the two reception roomson the first floor of his family home in Sarigo, Castelveccanaon Lake Maggiore.Here we see the smaller of the two upstairsreception rooms with furniture and with theextraordinary deep frieze and ceiling paintingsexecuted by Genesio Boldrini as part of hisproject to paint his family home, a projectthat took the last 30 years of his life.More of the extensive frieze and paintings onthe ceiling in the reception room on the upper floorof Genesio Boldrini’s home in Via Genesio, in Sarigo,a hamlet of Castelveccana on Lake Maggiore,some 6km from Laveno on the road to Luino.
The window-shutters were not excluded fromGenesio Boldrini’s house-painting project.He missed just one, in the living room downstairs.Looking down from the first-floor, we can admirethe works executed by Genesio Boldrini duringhis thirty-year stint as a house-painter. Quite why hewanted to undertake such a task will never be known.The outcome is so harmonious that no-one surely mindsthe fact that he did.The walls round the courtyard of the Boldrinifamily home in Sarigo, a hamlet — or frazione,as it is called in Italian — of Castelveccana onLake Maggiore. Castelveccanais a comune made up of several such frazioni,the others being Bissago, Calde’, Castello, Nasca, Orile,Pessina, Rasate, Ronchiano, Saltirana andSan Pietro. All have their attractions, but Sarigois surely worth a visit to see the work ofGenesio Boldrini, whose talents and ambition as ahouse-painter are surely unparalleled.The house that Genesio painted can be visited duringthe annual Sotto gli Archi di Sarigo Festival, whichtakes place in late-August. Various organizations areexamining the possibility of making the Boldrini family homemore accessible to the visiting public. We hope that they willbe successful.