Villa Sommi Picenardi
Villa Sommi Picenardi is located in the countryside at about 25 km from Cremona and owes its name, like the municipality itself, to the noble and antique family Sommi Picenardi from Lombardia.The left-side of the building, also called “the little castle” because of its old tower in medieval style, is the most antique part of the villa. In 1526 the whole estate was acquired by Antonio Maria Picenardi and his family owned it until 1950s.
By crossing the lift bridge we enter into the main courtyard of the villa, with its two great towers which were designed to resemble antique castles with a defensive purpose, together with the other two towers located symmetrically on the other side.
On the left there are the so-called “cappuccine basse“, which are areas used as apartments and which are interrupted in the middle by the private chapel of the villa, dedicated to Visitation to the Holy Mary. The chapel was decorated in 1799 by the painter Sante Legnani with two frescos dedicated to the Blessed Elisabeth Picenardi.
From the courtyard there is a direct access to the main central building. This access was used by the nobility to enter the apartments and the main hall of the villa. The area was used as the antique armory and it was expanded in the 19th century according to a project led by Faustino Rodi, who added three great arches in Ionic style.
In front of the main entrance there is a solemn statue of Minerva, holding the big coat of arms of the Sommi Picenardi family. To the side there are various busts of Annibale Picenardi, the castle keeper of Pavia and of Sforza Picenardi. All of them were made by the sculptor Graziano Rusca.
Entering the East section called “the garden”, the visitor is led through various rooms. The first one was decorated by the painter Giovanni Motta in 1785. It is decorated with busts of gods and goddesses, four vases decorated by Rusca, and four big mirrors, for which the room is also referred to as the “Mirrors Hall”. The sumptuous and striking “Columns Hall” was reserved to the noble family’s guests and is characterized by the presence of two great columns in Ionic style at its center.
The most famous section of the villa is surely the one used both as a gallery and as a library, which was added to the building in 1817 by the architect Luigi Voghera to contain a valuable collection of paintings, volumes, prints, manuscripts, rare and antique books, which has unfortunately gone lost during the centuries.
The villa has always been renowned for its great park, which was one of the most famous and well-known English gardens in the 19th century Italy. The garden was designed in 1772 by the Marquis Ottavio Luigi and Giuseppe Picenardi and became one of the first and most significant English landscape gardens in Italy. The garden included artificial hills, lakes and islands, bridges and reconstructions of Roman-styled ruins.
The majestic lateral façade of the villa in front of the square was created by Faustino Rodi in the 18thcentury. At the center of the tympanum we may admire the great coat of arms of the Picenardi family and others crests belonging to the related families, which are held up by two Sforza lions.
The Villa of Torre de’ Picenardi was the exclusive property of the noble family Sommi Picenardi’s for over than four hundred years – except for a few years during the 18th century, until 1954. Since 1962 it belongs to the Cassani family.