Yesterday a nursery, today a restaurant
Francesco Del Giacco
Leaving behind us the town of Triuggio in the northern Italian province of Monza and Brianza, we head towards Albiate through the Valley of the Lambro, the road rising gently on the terraced right hand side of the river via a series of hairpin bends. On one of these bends, set in a large green area, we find the Ristorante Parco dei Principi. The tree-lined avenue that leads to Villa Campello and its 50,000 square metre grounds is just across the road. This has always been a rural area, as testified today by homes built according to the model of traditional Lombardy farmhouses. The same is true of the building that houses the restaurant, whose history we discovered from the current owner Francesco Del Giacco. The building shell as it appears today is the result of additions made at different times. The original building, dating back to the early eighteenth century, is the middle one built on three floors, but without the front portico. It was probably inhabited by the bailiffs of the Campello estate in the years 1830 to 1920, although we cannot be certain going back so far in time. After this came the change of use. With the support of the Viganò family which had purchased the estate and in 1903 built what is today Villa Campello, it was decided to transform the building into a nursery school, a function is continued to perform until 1964. It was during this period that two single-floor buildings were erected alongside the central structure, with the three facades aligned along the road, as well as a third building behind. It was in this sorry aesthetic state that the current owners purchased the property with a view to transferring here the «Parco dei Principi» restaurant from its previous location in Carate. The work that inevitably needed to be done to restore the building and adapt it to its new function was performed with stylistic and historical consistency. The original structure was left standing, but all the plastered external walls were stripped down to reveal the old bricks and stonework. The building was constructed in accordance with the traditional agricultural architecture of the times, consisting of solid brick columns (a material that was abundant in the Lombardy plains due to the presence of numerous brickworks) connected by infill walls built from locally available materials (stone and agglomerate) interspersed with sparse rows of bricks that proved useful for renovation of the floor. The roof coverings consist of characteristic old-fashioned bent tiles. Inside there are three rooms (one in a raised wooden gallery) capable of seating up to 230 guests. Two arcades in the large courtyard offer seating for a further 150 customers in the summer months set amongst olive trees, amphorae and flowers. A number of elements contribute to the warm and pleasant nineteenth century rustic atmosphere: the high ceilings that coincide with the matchboarding and wood framework of the roof, sustained by large beams; the imposing fireplace in the Convivio room; the furnishings consisting of period tables and chairs together with prestigious antiques; the large old prints on the walls; and an effective overall colour design. A major role in the project was played by the floor covering, consisting of a meticulously designed layout of porcelain tiles from the Terrae di Tarsina collection by Tagina Ceramiche D’Arte. The wide range of available sizes and trim pieces made it possible to create splendid decorative strips and carpet style compositions reminiscent of past times.