With a notarized deed signed on November 11, 1897, our great uncle Carlo Bondonio became the owner of Poggio Verde, an 8-hectare property consisting of a farmhouse, a house with a barn and a porch, and a country house. The date of construction of the country house is not certain. However, documents testify to its existence since 1873. It is thought that parts of the original farmhouse date from the 1500s.
As shown in photos taken at the beginning of the 1900s, Poggio Verde was similar to its current appearance, but surrounded by oak forests and with a few cultivated fields.
Great Uncle Carlo started important works of transformation and development of the property. He bought new plots, cut down oak forests covering much of the surrounding hills and planted grapevines after terracing the land.
It is said that a textile mill in the nearby town of Garbagnate Monastero was able to keep the mills running with energy produced with Poggio Verde wood for a whole year.
At the beginning of 1900, Uncle Carlo built a large farmstead for dairy cows and a smaller farmstead for pigs next to it. Milk and butter were produced under the Bondonio brand-name. Silk cocoons and wine were also produced, the latter made Poggio Verde grapes together with grapes bought from vineyards in the south of Italy.
Many people worked at Poggio Verde, including one person in charge of raising thrushes, one to make and maintain nets, one to take care of the goats, two guardians, a coachman with horses and a carriage, a carpenter, a laundry woman and so on.
Uncle Carlo also installed two cannons. They fired when there was risk of hail and neighboring counties replied with the sound of bells. Any narrow escape was celebrated with copious libations.
Unfortunately, farming did not give satisfactory economic results. In 1915 Carlo Bondonio left direct farming management and rented the land out to four farming families who would inhabit Poggio Verde until the ’50s and ’60s.
Uncle Carlo died in 1936. With an act signed on April 13, 1937, Francesca Bondonio, who was called Fanny, was left the Barzanò properties.
Fanny, who lived in Perugia, used to spend summers in Poggio Verde where her husband, Gabriele Santini, Director of the Opera of Rome, prepared his concerts playing the 1905 Schiedmeier piano still in the living room of the house. Many artists visited Poggio Verde, including Arturo Toscanini.
But with the outbreak of the war, Fanny took the decision to sell Poggio Verde. The property was purchased in 1941 by her cousin and our grandfather Luigi, who was deeply attached to Poggio Verde having spent here many memorable long periods of time during his childhood and young manhood.
When the World War II began, grandfather Luigi moved his family to Poggio Verde, away from the heavy bombing taking place in Milan. At this time, domestic life was very quiet. Farmers cultivated the land, kept cows, chickens, turkeys, geese, silkworms and made wine in the “Tinera.” The peacefulness was sometimes interrupted by BBC London reports with news of tragic events such as the devastating bombing of Milan and Turin, or by the noise of planes and the explosions of bombs and rockets nearby.
With the end of the war began the great transformation of Poggio Verde. A garden, a “Molera” stone porch and an Italian garden were built. Within the porch, grandfather Luigi, a passionate Latin scholar, had two stone plaques placed with quotes from the Satire VI of Book II of the Satires by Horace*.
Like Horace, grandfather Luigi saw in Poggio Verde the fulfillment of his dreams and the hope of a peaceful old age among his affectionate family and friends, his music and his books.
As the economy developed farmers left the land for more affordable accommodations. The terracing was altered, thousands of trees were planted and the house became a weekend haven from the city and, above all, a gathering place for family and friends.
In 2013/2014 important renovations were again carried out at Poggio Verde. Water and electrical systems were updated to the best practices of today. Air conditioning and high-speed wifi were installed and new bathrooms added so that each bedroom has its own. The kitchen space was rationalized to create a large cooking and dining area for more informal occasions, so that preparing and enjoying meals together might be a shared pleasure. Every attempt was nevertheless made to maintain the charm, elegance, flavor and feel of the 18th century villa. Visitors to our home will be the ones to judge if we succeeded!
* The two plaques on the outdoor portico read:
Hoc erat in votis: Modus agri non ita magnus,
hortus ubi et tecto vicinus iugis aquae fons
et paullum silvae super his foret. Auctius atque
Di melius fecere. Benest. Nil amplius oro.
This was my wish: a bit of land, A house and garden with a spring at hand, And just a little wood. The gods have crowned my humble vows; I prosper and abound: Nor ask I more.
_____________O rus, quando ego te aspiciam! Qundoque licebit Nunc veterum libris, nunc somno et inertibus horis, ducere sollicitae iucunda oblivia vitae!
O countryside, when shall I behold you and when shall I be allowed, now with the books of the ancients, now with the slumber and hours of idleness, to taste sweet forgetfulness of the ills of life?
– Horace, Satires II, vi