While today Villa Simonetta is extremely close to the center of Milan, enclosed between the railway and the XIX century streets grid, in late XV century its location was chosen because it used to be in the countryside.
Villa Simonetta was originally built for Gualtiero Bascapè, Ludovico il Moro‘s chancellor, and later owned by Ferrante Gonzaga. A place of rest and delight and later a country residence (albeit very close to the city) for the wealthiest and most powerful milanese men, villa Simonetta for centuries was one of the most luxurious in northern Italy. Its decadence started in the early XIX century. At first it was owned by Compagna della Teppa, a group of libertine youth that were nicknamed balabiott (naked dancers), then in 1836 it became a hospital that hosted cholera victims.
The decadence was accentuated when the extensive gardens surrounding the villa were cut up to open the streets for the new residential quarters of the rapidly expanding city, while the back gardens were occupied by the new railway. In due time, the villa became a candle factory, a barracks, and a cheap inn. During WWII it received a heavy bombing that was aimed at the railway and at Porta Garibaldi station, close to its back.
Villa Simonetta as Milan’s music school
Restorations started in the 1950’s, the whole front of the palace was rebuilt as it originally was, an arcaded portico on the ground floor and two tall loggias. Inside many of the frescoes have been destroyed, only some fragments could be restored. These are still visible in the villa, yet the villa is not open to the public.
Since 1973 Villa Simonetta hosts Milan’s Music School (Civica Scuola di Musica), now named after Claudio Abbado. It is only open for the classes and for a number of concerts by the students, or on special appointment arranged with the Music School. The video here below, though, will give you a spectacular overview of Villa Simonetta, both outside and inside.