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Villa Monastero (Varenna)

Villa Monastero is situated on the lake side at Varenna . The Villa, as the name indicates, was a Cistercian convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen. Its foundation is probably related to the religious settlings on the opposite side of lake Como: the St. Faustino and St. Giovita monastery on Comacina island from whence came some refugees in 1169.

In 1566 the archbishop Carlo Borromeo decided to transfer the last six nuns of the Varenna monastery to another Cistercian monastery in Lecco; as a consequence, in 1569, the monastery buildings were sold to Paolo Mornico.

The Mornico family owned the Villa Monastero buildings from 1569 to 1862, when the Villa underwent major restoration works, such as the fašade of the Villa and the two rooms on the ground floor, the Rossa and Nera rooms.

From the second half of XIX century the Villa underwent many changes made by the different owners (Genazzini, Maumary Seufferheld, Kees, De Marchi) which gave the Villa its actual eclectic appearance.

The garden was also enriched with Mediterranean and tropical plants. After confiscation in 1918 the property went to the "Opera Nazionale Combattenti", a state association, that then sold it to Mr. Marco De Marchi, who left it to the Italian Institute of Hydro biology "Dr. Marco De Marchi".

Internationally known men of letters, historians, artists, scientists, even the Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi, to whose memory a plaque has been placed, have honoured Villa Monastero since 1953 when this prestigious abode became a Congress Centre for high level studies thanks to professor . Polvani, President of the Italian Society of Physics, and Mr. Bosisio, then President of the Provincial Administration of Como.

The actual Fermi conference room was once the old church. The only surviving decoration is a small frescoed "PietÓ", painted in the late-gothic period and inserted in a niche in the wall. The Renaissance altarpiece, which was on the main altar, today is to be found in the left chapel of the parish S. Giorgio church.

Since 1963 the villa has become an international cultural and scientific centre. In 1977 the Villa changed ownership for the last time and now belongs to C.N.R. (National Counsel for Research).

In 1996 the new Province of Lecco took over the Centre's cultural service by stipulating an agreement with the C.N.R., owner of the buildings, and founding the Institution "Villa Monastero". The Province of Lecco continues the work of conservation and structural support, co-ordinating the work initiated by the owner to renew and organise complex in full respect of its particular architecture. General intervention work has also been possible thanks to the generous contribution of the CARIPLO Foundation.

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