Villa Cusani Tittoni Traversi (general presentation)

In the Brianza territory, after Villa Reale in Monza with its big park, Villa Cusani Tittoni Traversi in Desio was decisively the richest in terms of total components that exalted its monumental quality. The characteristic match with the village and the exceptional elegance of its architecture and the garden, make it unique in northern Milan and a still perceivable testimonial of the lavish life of the Milanese upper nobility who owned it, and their custom of entertaining illustrious guests.

With the aim of building their summer residence, the Rho family of the counts of Milan, bought in 1429 a vast agricultural estate with buildings, which during the viscount era was very productive, due to its proximity with a canal. In 1651 it passed on to the Cusani Marquises who made it their countryside home to act as entertainment and agricultural management venues. In the second half of the 18th century, Ferdinando Cusani and his wife, Claudia Litta, extended the estate with the acquisition of other lands, and assigned to the famous Giuseppe Piermarini, court architect and author of the Milanes Scala Theatre and the Villa Reale of Monza, the task of giving a noble neoclassical style to the baroque villa and changing the surrounding orchards by designing an Italian garden. Towards the end of the 18th century they asked the gardener, Antonio Villoresi, to redesign the park following the English design and it was enriched also by pavilions, designed by the architect, Giuseppe Zanoia, to resemble the little circular temple of Imeneo, with some grottos and a tower.
Already at the start of the next century, due to enormous debts accumulated because of the gambling habits of one of their members, the family was forced to put the complex on sale. In 1817 a lawyer of remarkable prestige in Milano, the bourgeois and wealthy Giovanni Traversi bought it and entrusted Pelagio Palagi, renowned architect, interior decorator and furniture designer, besides being a painter and sculptor, with the task of asserting his position as a noble. He simultaneously commissioned the architect, Luigi Canonica, in those times the most sought-after architect, to make important changes on the elegant and newly acquired Milanese Anguissola Antona mansion in Corsia del Giardino, today the seat of the Gallerie d’Italia museum in Manzoni street, belonging to Intesa Sanpaolo.
In Desio, Palagi radically changed the perspectives of the villa and built some venues on the ground floor, a charming sequence of rooms with refined and eclectic finishings in neogothic, rococò, Arabic, and neoclassical styles. He thus made the place an obligatory destination for romantic travellers, a perfectly successful example of dialogue, and full of echoes of nature and culture. Among the illustrious guests were the King of Naples, Emperor Francis I, Stendhal, who chose it as the setting for the unfinished lively play entitled “Il forestiere in Italia” of 1816, and Vincenzo Bellini. At the end of the 19th century the monument became the property of the Tittoni family and a venue for top-class entertainment with Tommaso Tittoni, Italian diplomat and politician, Senate President of the Reign from 1919 to 1929, and the first President of the Academy of Italy with Mussolini. Donated in 1947 to the Xaverian Fathers, it was not used much and thus declined rapidly. It was bought in 1977 by the Desio municipality which initiated some renovation works for new usage of the buildings. A civic Library was placed in the building which once served as a greenhouse. In addition, the east wing of the villa, once assigned to storerooms, today hosts the municipal “Incubator” office for tourism and youth policy projects.