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Affresco, or is it Fresco?

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Much more often than I had imagined I frequently came across private and public villas completely covered with frescoes.

Yesterday evening I attended a dinner (“a cena con I cuochi della storia”) organised by FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano: www.fondoambiente.it) in Villa della Porta Bozzolo.

I was invited there by the lyrical artists “Bel Canto a Milano” (www.belcantoamilano.it), and I was able to enjoy their performance of Italian operas and operettas. The villa was stunning. The interiors were refined and everything, even the doors, was decorated with illusionistic painted architecture, myths, allegories and happy triumphs of colorful flowers.

In early June, I went on a trip to the Langhe. I’ve always loved this small territory in Piedmont, Italy: from its medieval churches and castles to its culture and it world-class wine ☺.

While there I visited Villa Prato, www.relaisvillaprato.it . I was struck by its structure, it’s gorgeous surroundings and, more than anything, the fresco ceiling (‘affresco’ in Italian) in the Officina, a restaurant inside the villa. I couldn’t help but look up at it: the classy, but simple, white walls allowed the fresco’s bold colors (especially the green) to stand out by contrast, and my eyes where constantly drawn to it.

Earlier this year I also visited Villa Arconati, www.villaarconati-far.it one of the historic villas in Parco delle Groane. It’s a Lombard heritage sight, important because of its age, architecture and because it has historically hosted many works of art and has functioned as a museum in the past. Again, I’d noticed a few similarities with Villa Prato.

Villa Prato, Villa della Porta Bozzolo and Villa Arconati were all built around the same time period (mid 17th-18th c.) and all prominently featured baroque frescoes. From a decorations’ point of view, the main difference was the fact that Villa Arconati and Villa della Porta Bozzolo were completely covered in frescoes, from its walls to its ceilings, and Villa della Porta Bozzolo also had frescoes on the doors. (Of course, there are so many other differences, but for the purposes of this post, I just mentioned these ones.)

So I began to think back on all the Italian villas I had been to, while on vacation or for work, and I decided to post about this because, if I’d just focused on describing the beauty of the villas I’d visited, this post would have turned into an essay .

‘Fresco’ (plural: “frescoes”) means ‘fresh’ in Italian and it’s the traditional medium for painting directly onto a wall or ceiling, but also refers to the painting itself. This technique was even known to Minoan civilization in Crete. It was used by the Romans and was very popular until the beginning of the 18th century in Europe.

It’s the oldest known painting medium, but we use the Italian term because the medium is deeply associated with the Italian Renaissance. As a matter of fact, Michelangelo’s addition to the Sistine Chapel and Raffaello’s Stanza murals in the Vatican are all frescoes.

The Royal Palace of Caserta’s frescoes were the first I’d ever seen (I’m from Caserta) and remain my favorites, mostly because of their bold colors and classical but realistic figures. Describing them to someone who hasn’t seen the Palace in person is difficult so I suggest you visit . Many people will disagree with me, but I think the Royal Palace of Caserta, including its frescoes, are better than the ones in the Sistine Chapel, as the Chapel is too cluttered for my tastes .

If you want me to write more about this topic, I’m sure I could write a more detailed post in the future, but this is where I will end it for now, because this post is very long, haha.

 

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