The park of Villa Cusani Tittoni Traversi is a multi-coloured world of plants with many elements relevant to the culture of life in 17th-18th villas, with specific botanical sciences, biodiversity and architectonic-landscaping solutions adopted therein, and the decision to establish the historical English garden.
Downsized with respect to the original area, of which only the southern sector remains, in the 20th century the villa’s garden was found in a serious state of abandonment and negligence that had also led to a change of owners of the entire architectonic complex. In the immediate years following WWII, Paolo Reina became the new lord of the villa and its garden. A wood trader, he had bought the estate in 1947 and had many tall forest trees cut down and immediately placed on the market. Partly ruined by this choice, in 1952 the Municipality of Desio bought the grand “villa of delights” and what remained of its garden which had been partly divided.
Despite the conspicuous mutilations, the park of the villa still shows its imposing English garden layout. On the rear side of the architectonic complex a vast meadow opens out, acting as perspective binoculars with respect to the villa, allowing it to be viewed even from the other extreme end of the park.
The Fountain of Neptune rises in the immediate proximity with the building’s facade and is a sort of junction point between the villa and the strictly geometric setting and the seemingly casual thick vegetation. Among the trees one can glimpse two buildings of clearly romantic value: the neo-Gothic tower, with the set of annexed buildings, and the funeral monument of Antona Traversi.
The neo-Gothic tower was built by architect Pelagio Palagi, between 1835 and 1836, with the function of a museum, since it was achieved to gather the important collection of commemorative plaques, sculptures and other ancient artefacts of the noble Cusani family, the original owners of the villa, and later enriched by the Traversi family. The new construction incorporated the former convent of St. Francis, which at the moment of its suppression between 1774 and 1776, became a property of the Cusani.
The renovation of the tower began in 1972 in the hands of the owner Pio Mariani, who had bought the building to found a mineralogy museum. The new designation saved the building from decline, separating it however from the context of the park, which can be seen from the top of the tower. The Traversi tomb, achieved between 1900 and 1903 by the architect Luca Beltrami is composed of an aedicule placed over an arcade, a sort of tiny bridge straddling a millrace, no longer existent today. Dismantled in 1948, it was recomposed by architect Luciano Giambelli between 1972 and 1975, in a different position from the original one.
Instead, other characteristic elements of the English garden were lost such as the pavilions, grottos and a small lake with dockyard, interred after WWII. Where it once stood, in 1972, a school was built and hindered every effort for its recovery.
The park of Villa Cusani Tittoni Traversi, constitutes furthermore, a historic example of a certain importance in the panorama of the Italian “villas of delights,” since its garden is the result of a complex transformation of a formal English garden into an ancient Italian garden. Already in the 16th century, the villa with annexed Italian garden was bought by the Cusani in mid-17th century and remained the property of the family up to the start of the 19th century. After having erected a baroque type of building in the second half of the 18th century, the couple, Fernando Cusani and Claudia Litta pursued the extension of the original estate, and bought the neighbouring Bolagnos farmstead and the stables and lands adjacent to the Franciscan convent. To follow, the owners entrusted to Giuseppe Piermarini the transformation of the baroque villa into a neo-classical form and to Antonio Villoresi, father of Luigi Villoresi, a gardener-landscapist the Villa Reale of Monza.
The new setting of the park is also testified to by Ercole Silva who, in his book “Dell’arte dei giardini inglesi” in 1813 describes the Villa of Desio, also inserting the floor plan drawn by Brenna in 1840.
Here, Villoresi, distancing himself from the geometric and decorative tastes of the Italian garden, designed an English park where meadows alternated with majestic woodlands. The villa was flanked by two heated greenhouses-galleries for the cultivation of citrus fruits.
Beyond the meadow, before the front of the villa, a wood of chestnut trees opened out and was traversed by three perspective walkways arranged like rays, where the heated greenhouses for the cultivation of pineapples and a labyrinth of splendid wings of trees once stood.
A valuable landscape was the artificial lake fed by a canal with dockyard and an islet in the middle, planted with poplar and cypress trees from Lunigiana.
Suggestive views were wisely created by inserting among the vegetation the ruins of a castle, a stone bridge and a grotto that led to a painted hut.
Once past a pinewood, one reached a small temple dedicated to Hymeneus, achieved as various other grottos and pavilions, based on the design of architect Giuseppe Zanoja. When this project design was completed in 1817 the villa was sold to Giovan Battista Traversi who entrusted the complete renovation of the park to Pelagio Palagi who worked on it intensely for about a decade modifying his project design several times, and today is testified to in the many designs kept in the Archiginnasio Library of Bologna. Palagi also saw to the partial widening of the villa and the new monumental entrance to the park, besides elaborating the exedra and the cast iron gate looking toward the main facade.