To be able to grasp the concept and value of the garden of the Borromeo Arese Palace, it would not suffice to explore it to identify the relationships between the green architecture zones and sculptures, as inherited from the glorious past and as they are today after the renovation works of the last decade of the 20th century, which upheld the town’s history and quality.
The garden is an inseparable complement to the architecture that is exalted for its soberness and elegance, weaving a subtle and refined dialogue. Today it is a venue open to the public to allow the populace to rediscover, upon reading the documents, graphics and articles, the site’s outstanding feature as a place where nature was modelled – through gardening techniques, agriculture, hydraulics, architecture and sculpture, for a precise purpose. In fact, for centuries the aim has been to blend in a sole unit, the life and contemplation in the villa, exalting the sensitivity and emotions of its viewers, without forgetting, however, the concrete needs for nutrition and the products’ offer of business opportunities with the neighbouring markets of the Milanese capital. An important inventory of the palace dated 1716 describes the garden in detail, and the set of agricultural, gardening and artisanal activities that contributed to maintaining its flourishing splendour.
The cadastral map of 1722, of Charles VI, gives an idea of the original forms of the Italian garden with a vast parterre, commissioned by Bartholomew III Arese. A radical restructuring was implemented that nearly doubled the previous square garden, extending it on the sides along the palace, up to the vast rustic buildings that flanked it, as attested to by the fresco of the Room called the Castle Room on the first floor of the Borromeo Arese Palace.
In the cadastral design, a central walkway from the palace nymphaeum goes up to a big portal, called the Menagerie, and divides the square area that corresponds to the older garden, into eight flowerbeds, four on each side, entirely profiled in boxwood trees and floral décor wefts that compose mottos, Borromeo family emblems and geometric figures.
The overall concept of the garden is attributed to Francesco Maria Castelli from Castel San Pietro, a trustworthy friend of the Borromeo family, and who is given the credit also for the Little Temple of the faun, the Deer Menagerie, the Aviary and the Big Mask Fountain. Most of the statues in the grounds trace back to this phase, and are placed along the main perspective walkway, and set among animals depicted and disseminated in the garden.
In the second half of the 17th century, Charles IV Borromeo Arese achieved the Borromea Millrace that fed the irrigated field and a windmill, constituting an important hydraulics unit that managed the water shows. Due to this, he wanted to bring down the wall that divided the garden into two, leaving the gates of the four access ways and reorganising the arrangement of the sculptures and multiplying them.
He also had an elegant fountain with steps made according to the Roman style, decorated by two sculptures of camels in the basin and completed by a basin in which the water was gathered to be filtered underground, and sent up to a big fish farm in front of said tub of golden fish. In the past this was where marine sculptures once stood, and were produced by the sculptor, Giovan Battista Rainaldi.
Sensitive to the French garden models that were in vogue and its long axial perspectives, Charles IV Borromeo Arese also introduced a walkway of hornbeam trees that reached the wood, and disseminated aedicules and small shrines at the arrival or departure points of the walkways.
The complex, partly confiscated by the Lombard-Venice government in the 19th century, was seriously damaged in its setup, and upon eliminating the components of prestige, like the water fountain effects with their lead tubes which were used for warfare purposes, the face of the Cesano garden was forever ruined.