Jacopo Ghilardotti – The Atellani House and Leonardo’s Vineyard

For five centuries in Milan, a historic building rises in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and its name maintains the memory of the nobleman, Signor Giacometto di Lucia dell'Atella, to whom the then Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, donated the two original houses nearby in 1490. 

Jacopo Ghilardotti – The Atellani House and Leonardo’s Vineyard

The two buildings, which were subsequently joined in more recent times becoming the current “Casa degli Atellani”, became the centre of Milanese social life and passed down from family to family until its purchase, in 1919 by the engineer and senator Ettore Conti, who made it his home, entrusting the project to his son-in-law, the young architect Piero Portaluppi. In 2002 Jacopo arrived at the street number 65 of Corso Magenta and began to work at the small Atellani library, that had opened in the same year inside the well-known palace, bearing its name.

I usually call myself “a middle-aged bookseller”; actually I graduated in architecture years and years ago, but, at some point, at a time of unemployment, I decided to change life and job. I was a bookseller for many years and started working for the Atellani library, a small district company before it became the bookshop of Leonardo's Vineyard in 2002. This is quite a special neighbourhood, very rich and a private. There could be fences in Piazzale Baracca and further on where there is the Bar Magenta ... but the people here are attentive and affectionate, and the library has been a place to meet and exchange for years.

The history of the Atellani house history began in 1400 and part of its vicissitudes are linked to the figure of Leonardo Da Vinci. The original vineyard that Ludovico il Moro gave to Leonardo in 1498 as a sign of gratitude for the fresco of the Last Supper in the nearby refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie is at the bottom of the house’s current garden.

Milan is full of these houses and courtyards, private places where there are wonderful things. The idea of ​​the owners, the heirs of Piero Portaluppi, was to open their home to the public and turn it into a house museum, but a particular house museum because the upper floors are still used as a home.

The nice thing is that this house is a mixture: there are authentic Fifteenth century pieces, others from the Twentieth century and more Twentieth century pieces that seem as if they belong to the Fifteenth but there is only one mind behind all this, all is owed to the great architect Portaluppi.

Portaluppi worked, but also lived in this house and on special occasions it is possible to visit a portion of his flat even today which has been preserved consistently with his original designs.

Not only the house is open to visitors, but the historic vineyard of Leonardo was brought back to life, with the help and willingness of Portaluppi Foundation and Confagricoltura, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Milan, in 2015. Following in-depth surveys and reconstructions, experts from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of Milan identified the paths that regulated the rows of vines, the DNA of the vines was reconstructed and the vines were planted according to the original rows.

Three years ago I wrote a book on Giuseppe Verdi, maybe for this reason, for my studies as an architect and my special relationship with this building, I have been asked to write a book on the house. So I started to study - long days amidst ancient documents in the historical archives of Milan - and to uncover much more than what had already been discovered. Thus we created the story of this place, a very interesting place for Milan because its history starts in the Fifteenth century, and crossed so many people of the time during that period; the decay of the city followed and then came the neoclassical period and the reconstruction in the Nineteenth century up to the Twentieth century and Portaluppi. I studied this place, it used to be really beautiful: I worked here for many years, but I had no idea of what it was hiding!

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