The Villa Necchi Campiglio, just to the east of the historic center of Milan, may look familiar. The house had a turn on the silver screen in the 2009 Italian movie “I Am Love,” starring Tilda Swinton. Even if you didn’t see the film, anyone interested in early 20th-century architecture should include this gem of Italian rationalism on their Milan itinerary. The house is named for the occupants of most of its history: the sisters Gigina and Nedda Necchi and Gigina’s husband, Angelo Campiglio. The sisters—a glamorous, cosmopolitan pair—commissioned architect Piero Portaluppi (who also designed Milan’s Museo Novecento) to build a house that was the height of fashion at the time, including such novelties as a heated outdoor pool and a tennis court. His rationalist style could be described as a no-expenses-spared modernism—simple, clean lines and rich finishes. Gleaming rosewood paneling, marble bathrooms, and customs pieces give this modernist structure an undeniable elegance. After a brief period when the home was commandeered by the Fascist Party, the sisters returned to their home. Architect Tomaso Buzzi was hired to give the villa some 19th-century touches and a less severe look, reflecting the fashion among upper-class Italians in the 1950s. Still, the home remained largely true to its original design when Gigina died in 2000 (at the age of 99) and left it to Italy‘s national trust. In 2008, it opened to the public as a museum.

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1930s Milan

For decades, Villa Necchi Campiglio was a private home to industrialist family Necchi Campiglio, who bequeathed it as a museum foundation at the end of the 20th century. Now it is a museum and a temple to 1930s rationalist architecture. Architect Piero Portaluppi, like Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, knew that design was much more than space. His signature zigzag meanders throughout the house, accented by Claudia GianFerrari’s collection of modern art. Film buffs will love the space as it was the setting for 2009’s I Am Love, with Tilda Swinton.

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