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A blog about Belgian culture in London. A blog about the arts in London, Brussels and Milan, from a Belgian point of view.

Posts from the Cinema Category

In Milan there is a house I fell in love with: the Villa Necchi Campiglio, which belongs to the FAI. Truth is, it’s the kind of house I dream of living in, perhaps in a slightly more contemporary version. As with most dreams, it will probably never happen, so I have to make do with visiting it.

I think I have seen it a total of 7 times, often bringing family and friends. I have also recommended it on Twitter and Facebook, so apologies if you’ve been following me online for a while and think I am repeating myself. But that’s the thing with love, isn’t it: you bore others to death with the object of your affection…

Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

Built between 1932 and 1935 in rationalist style by Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, Villa Necchi Campiglio is a sumptuous residence with generously proportioned interiors and stunning public rooms. It was bequeathed to the FAI by the Necchi Campiglio family, who left it to the association in exactly the state it was when they inhabited it.

Located in very central Milan, where real estate prices reach the stars, the property boasts a large garden, a swimming pool (which was already heated in the 30s) and a tennis court. But it’s the interiors that really make my heart beat faster.

Veranda, Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

Veranda, Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

If you want to get a better idea of the house, you could watch Io sono l’amore (“I am love”), Luca Guadagnino’s utterly beautiful 2009 film, starring Tilda Swinton. It immerses you in the world of upper class Milan, and is a feast for the eyes. It follows the “adventures” of the Recchi family, who lives in, yes you guessed it, Villa Necchi Campiglio.

Tilda Swinton learnt Italian for the role, and is not doing too badly linguistically in the film. I can’t resist telling you I know the language coach who trained her (a pretty lame claim to fame, I know). That language coach is actually Russian, which comes in quite handy as Tilda is supposed to be a Russian who moved to Milan because of/thanks to her Italian husband.

The gorgeous costumes are by Jil Sander (when Belgian designer Raf Simons was still at the helm) and Fendi. The house, the clothes, the good food: everything in that movie breathes elegance.

Hall, Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

Hall, Villa Necchi Campiglio (Photo © Giorgio Majno)

If this post has enticed you to visit Villa Necchi (it should, that was the whole point of it), here is some practical information. The house is open from Wednesday to Sunday and entry costs 8€. Fear not for my wallet though: I may have visited it 7 times, but entry was for free, because I was a member of FAI. Buy a year-long membership from 39€, and visit all their properties and those of the National Trust for free (heritage galore!).

The house can only be visited through guided tours, which last around 1 hour and are usually conducted in Italian. If you are a small group, you can sometimes convince the guide to do the tour in English (a group of very persuasive friends of mine from Vienna managed to do so). Should your charms fail to operate (my Viennese friends were very charming), there are audioguides in English…

No, this post is not a reflexion on my life, although it could be. It isn’t either an attempt to teach you some basic Italian words. Ieri, Oggi, Domani is the title of a 1963 film by Vittorio De Sica, starring Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

Exactly 6 years ago, I left Belgium for Italy. My Italian was not very good when I arrived in Milan, and for one month I attended a language school. The teacher was great – the best I have ever had, and god knows I’ve had many, in many languages. During one of the lessons we watched excerpts from Ieri, Oggi, Domani, as it provided a good introduction to the various regions of Italy and to Italian culture in general.

You see, the film is separated into three parts, telling the story of three “couples” in Rome, Naples and Milan, all played by Loren and Mastroianni.

This is the beginning of the Rome episode. I still, sometimes, hum “Perché perché, la domenica mi lasci sempre sola, per andare a vedere la partita, di pallone, perché?”* Not that anyone ever dumped me to go and watch football…  I just like the song.

*Don’t know what it means? That’s what Google Translate is for.

Watching the film again, I can now hear the various regional accents that are featured: the Milanese (which to me is the “default accent”), the Bolognese (the nicest of all), the Neapolitan, the Roman , etc. Italy is so diverse, especially when you compare it to more centralised countries like France

And of course, the film features the famous scene in which Sofia Loren performs a strip-tease in front of Marcello Mastroianni. (Somehow it makes me think of The Graduate, but this a bit off-topic).

That’s the start of the Milan episode. All these buildings, all these neighbourhoods now mean something to me. It kind of makes me feel nostalgic.

If you needed any more argument to convince you to watch it, Ieri, Oggi, Domani won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1965.

I have recently seen La Pianiste. Loved all three main actors: Isabelle Huppert, Benoit Magimel and Annie Girardot.

Michael Haneke’ films are sometimes so intense they become difficult to watch. My personal (crescendo) “unwatchability scale”: Das weiße Band  – La Pianiste – Funny Games (really painful that one).