Access the Online Archive
Search the Historical Archive of the Pirelli Foundation for sources and materials. Select the type of support you are interested in and write the keywords of your research.
    Select one of the following categories
  • Documents
  • Photographs
  • Drawings and posters
  • Audio-visuals
  • Publications and magazines
  • All
Help with your research
To request to view the materials in the Historical Archive and in the libraries of the Pirelli Foundation for study and research purposes and/or to find out how to request the use of materials for loans and exhibitions, please fill in the form below. You will receive an email confirming receipt of the request and you will be contacted.
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses

Select the education level of the school
Back
Primary schools
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses
Please fill in your details and the staff of Pirelli Foundation Educational will contact you to arrange the dates of the course.

I declare I have read  the privacy policy, e autorizzo la Fondazione Pirelli al trattamento dei miei dati personali per l’invio, anche a mezzo e-mail, di comunicazioni relative ad iniziative/convegni organizzati dalla Fondazione Pirelli..

Back
Lower secondary school
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses
Please fill in your details and the staff of Pirelli Foundation Educational will contact you to arrange the dates of the course.
Back
Upper secondary school
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses
Please fill in your details and the staff of Pirelli Foundation Educational will contact you to arrange the dates of the course.
Back
University
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses

Do you want to organize a training programme with your students? For information and reservations, write to universita@fondazionepirelli.org

Visit the Foundation
For information on the Foundation's activities and admission to the spaces,
please call +39 0264423971 or write to visite@fondazionepirelli.org

The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi

A journey through history

The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi

A journey through history

Welcome to the virtual tour of the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, which will take you through the history and rooms of this wonderful Renaissance building, now the official reception centre of the Pirelli Group. Here are some useful tips to give you a better browsing experience.

You can walk virtually through the rooms, moving in any direction, to whichever room or floor you like, using the arrows you see on the main screen.

A fixed icon at the top right gives you direct access to the various rooms and lets you examine the information that will enrich your virtual experience. Press the button at the bottom right to access this content. The Pirelli Foundation has selected documents and images that let you discover the history of the villa and its close bond with the company.

You can save time by pressing the button at the bottom left, which will take you directly to the next room.

Enjoy the tour!
The Pirelli Foundation staff

Bicocca: from little castle to derelict stronghold

The word “bicocca” originally referred to a little castle on a hill, but one that was poorly fortified and not very suitable for defending against enemies. Over the centuries, however, the term underwent an interesting reversal of meaning. In literature, Manzoni refers to Don Rodrigo’s castle in his The Betrothed as a “bicocca”: “It stood isolated, like a fortress, at the top of one of the hills”. But the dilapidated shanty described by Verga in his Mastro-don Gesualdo is also referred to as a “bicocca”: “A real hovel that house: its walls broken, flaking, corroded”. Just a few decades separate the two great literary works and yet the use of the word has already shifted from a stronghold to a dilapidated house. The historical and etymological reason is simple: keeping up small elevated fortifications was often difficult and costly, especially because their strategic function was only temporary. As a result, once they had fulfilled their task of protection and defence, they were often abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin. Even so, the term enjoyed great success, and is found in the many dialects of Northern Italy, but also beyond the Alps, particularly in Spain and in France, thanks to the outcome of the bloody Battle of Bicocca (1522).

/ 05

«C'est une bicoque»

The Bicocca degli Arcimboldi was the scene of a ferocious battle, to which it gave its name, between Charles V’s Imperial army and Francis I’s French forces during the Italian Wars in the sixteenth century. Verri and Guicciardini explain the strategic reasons in their writings: “The army of the League had its lodgings at the Bicocca, a place located between Milan and Monza and about four miles from the city; the place was well suited for defence.” And again, “the army was staying at the Bicocca, a villa only about three miles from Milan, where there is a very spacious building, surrounded by gardens”. The victory of Charles V’s army was so overwhelming that the term “bicoca” is still used in Spain to refer to “a trifle, something that can be easily conquered or bought for nothing”. On the contrary, the devastation of the battle remained etched in the memory of the defeated French army to the point that, still today, to say that a site would cost a lot of blood and effort for nothing, they still use the expression: “C’est une bicocque”.

/ 03

A “villa of delights” on the outskirts of town

A classic example of fifteenth-century civil country architecture, the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi was built by the Arcimboldi family as a villa of delights, a residence out of town where aristocrats could retire for leisure activities. Measuring 40 by 13 metres and with a projecting part that contains the staircase to the piano nobile, the building is on two floors with a loggia above, which occupies the entire area of the villa, and a large colonnaded portico on the ground floor along the northern side. The original construction has been expanded over the centuries and, since 1910, restoration work has shown how the building is a mix of various different styles. Even though it is the outcome of some very different architectural works, the structure has maintained its very simple plan: a squared shape, enlivened by warm colours on the walls and the use of terracotta friezes and frames, as well as by a variety of graffiti.

/ 01

Terracotta, a Lombard tradition

In terms of the external decoration, the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi has the colours and materials that are typical of fifteenth-century Lombard architecture: from the graffiti to the palmettes in the portico on the ground floor, to the terracotta of the windows through to the plaster on the entire facade. Terracotta in particular was used to create the elaborate cornices and eaves with archlets and small heads. The silhouettes of chimneys that project slightly from the wall and of windows, arranged asymmetrically, give rhythm to the surfaces.

/ 05

At the court of the Duchy of Milan

The aristocratic Arcimboldi family, originally from Parma, was very close to the dukes of Milan. This can be seen in many decorative elements, including on the well located on the south side of the villa, which bears the Visconti’s coat of arms, with a snake swallowing a child, a famous symbol of the city of Milan. Members of the Parma family included knights, jurists, diplomats and four archbishops. The Bicocca was presumably built by Nicolò Arcimboldi and completed by his sons Giovanni and Guido Antonio. The family died out in 1727.

/ 05

The restoration by Ambrogio Annoni

The current appearance of the Bicocca is the result of a number of restoration operations that were started in 1910 by Ambrogio Annoni (1882-1954), an architect with the Soprintendenza ai Monumenti in Lombardy. The first works were commissioned by the Società Anonima del Quartiere Milano Nord, of which Pirelli was a part and which owned the building at the time. The renovation gradually brought to light traces of frescoes that emerged from beneath the plaster and, in some cases, it led to the reconstruction “in the ancient style” of fireplaces, windows that had been walled up, part of the portico and the clock tower.

/ 07

Entering the building

The entrance to the Bicocca is now on the south side through an eighteenth-century portal in Candoglia marble, which was inserted by Piero Portaluppi during the restoration in 1953. Initially, and throughout the sixteenth century, however, the floors were connected by stairs entirely enclosed in the tower that protrudes slightly on the south facade. The inscription above the door, in Latin – “Scalae ad summum gradientes”, meaning “staircase to the highest point” – indicates the entrance directly to the piano nobile.  

/ 05

Marking time

In 1910 Ambrogio Annoni also restored the dial on the bell tower at the front of the building, which now looks towards Viale Sarca, inserting a Latin couplet that is both decorative and evocative: Dixit olim tristes crvuenti certaminis horas/candidae iam regat operas et tempora pacis (“It [the clock] once told the sad hours of the bloody battle / May it now rule the works and moments of purest peace”). Recalling the bloody events of the Battle of Bicocca, fought between the Empire of Charles V and the French under Francis I in 1522, it hopes for times of work and peace.  

/ 03