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Vigna di Leonardo

Casa degli Atellani

On the land of the large San Vittore vineyard, beyond Porta Vercellina, the Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro dreamed of building a residential neighbourhood where he could establish his most loyal followers. On the map of the city today traces of that dream can be found in via San Vittore and via Zenale; the only places that remain tanding more than five centuries later are the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Leonardo’s Last Supper and Casa degli Atellani.

On the 25th of September 1490 Ludovico il Moro presented the noble Giacometto di Lucia dell’Atella, his knight and loyal squire, with the two neighbouring houses, one large and one small, that he had bought that summer for 6000 imperial lira from the heirs of a nobleman from Piacenza.

The Atellanis, or della Telas, were a family of diplomats and courtiers who were probably originally from Basilicata and moved north to the court of Moro and the Sforzas, over the course of the Fifteenth Century. The many frescoes found on the walls and the novellas of Matteo Bandello, the houses and the magnificent garden bear witness to the fact that they were at the centre of Milanese social life for the entire Sforza period. The Atellanis lived there until the Seventeenth Century, after which the houses changed hands a number of times from family to family: the counts Taverna, the Piancas and the Martini di Cigalas.

In 1823 the Piancas entrusted the Aspari architects with the radical neoclassical renovation of the facades, thanks to which the Casa degli Atellani appeared for the first time in Milanese tour guides. In 1919 the engineer and senator Ettore Conti became the new owner and intended to turn the properties into his home, despite the objections of Gianna Casati, his wife: "You don’t expect us to live in this hovel".

Conti entrusted his son-in-law Piero Portaluppi with the task. Portaluppi turned the two houses into a single house by knocking down the wall that divided the existing courtyards and creating a single entrance. Portaluppi knowingly combined his passions with the frescos that he discovered and he added to them and other findings that had lain hidden over five centuries. After three years of work, the new Casa degli Atellani was inaugurated in 1922, on occasion of the silver wedding anniversary of Ettore Conti and Gianna Casati. When the war ended Portaluppi managed the restoration and final transformation, work necessary following the serious bombings of the 13th and 16th of August 1943.

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