The Artist Retreat
By Ahnna Lee
Just over a year old, Palazzo Monti warms its idyllic 13th-century residence to emerging and established artists as a unique retreat amidst a charming northern Italian city near Milan–Brescia. For artists and guests alike, a residency equals valuable time and space for creativity and cultural exchange, but it could also transpire as an inspiring escape in novel, far-flung destinations: Villa Lena is a rustic 19th-century villa in a bucolic part of Tuscany; Casa Wabi, a Tadao Ando-designed concrete oasis, sits on a remote beach in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Palazzo Monti in Brescia offers a well-situated environment near Lake Garda and Lake Iseo, and a short drive to neighboring city Bergamo, majestic marble quarries, museums, and wineries amongst well-preserved Roman and Medieval architecture and ruins.
Edoardo Monti, founder of Palazzo Monti, encourages his guests to envision his mother’s former childhood residence as their own Neoclassical fresco-filled home-away-from-home. The palazzo is an 18-room estate with seemingly infinite corridors leading to rooms inlaid with warm cotto (cooked clay) tiles and hidden passageways to other floors. Eyes are naturally led above to the Roman and Greek mythology fresco scene ceilings that crown each airy room. And the walls of the grand marble and stone staircase–the jewel of the palazzo–are entirely covered in more flourishing frescos. At just the right moment of the day, the light reveals a delicate chiaroscuro effect on the trompe l’oeil paintings.
For an artist’s retreat at Palazzo Monti, little is required, one will realize. A few simple, high quality pieces go a long way, especially if they are made by hand–pairing well with the region’s longstanding artisanal legacy.
The rooms, although elaborate with frescos, are left almost bare to allow guests to partake in its evolving décor and rotating art exhibitions in the context of Brescia’s historic, artisan environment: classic public squares, old stone fountains, and traces of beautifully mismatched architecture aggregated from centuries of building practices. Collaborating closely with his artists- and designers-in-residence, Edoardo commissions art and furniture to be created from local resources and produced with the area’s most talented artisans– a union ripe with significant cultural exchange and lasting working relationships between locals and residency guests.
Upon the news of a much anticipated Ritz Paris auction after a four-year long renovation, Edoardo traveled immediately to procure special pieces that could promote a dialogue with the guests-in-residence, their practices, and contributions to the palazzo: a silk double canapé striped in thick bands of cream and gold, a convertible triple canopy bed in blush velvet from the Imperial Room, and one of the glass vitrines that once welcomed guests at the hotel’s entrance hall. The idea being that each artwork and piece left behind will contribute to the palazzo’s ever-evolving narrative as a collaborative home-away-from-home for the artist’s retreat.
For an artist’s retreat at Palazzo Monti, little is required, one will realize. A few simple, high quality pieces go a long way, especially if they are made by hand–pairing well with the region’s longstanding artisanal legacy. True for many evenings in Italy and at the palazzo, large Italian family-style dinners are as frequent as the daily aperol spritz or two to cool off from the heat. To prepare for them, go early to the local market, point to your desired produce, and carry them gracefully in a Filt net bag or a slender Palmgrens wicker market bag (also great for newspapers).
Local wines from the Lombardy region and around the lakes are especially recognized for their sparkling wines from Franciacorta, Valtellina region red wines, and Lugano region white wines. Serve fellow guests local wines in an elegant L’Atelier du Vin mouth-blown glass decanter enclosed by a delicate green glass orb or a deep blue glass closure. Relish in simple pleasures and pour water from a handcrafted Fferrone ridged carafe and display seasonal floral varieties in their fluted vase, both created in quality borosilicate glass.
For daily market outings and frequent trips to the gelateria, try a classic Jacquemus Le Jean pant in ecru with a pair of Rosetta Getty soft black nappa leather knotted slides. Add a black or natural flat brim Clyde hat made from Milanese straw–reminiscent of an ultra elegant Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash, in which she played a character on holiday in Pantelleria. Or you may opt for a JW Anderson white tuxedo shirt to wear dishevelled with Dolce & Gabbana pinstripe pants in reference to iconic black and white Peter Lindbergh Vogue Italia scenes. Walk with ease through a crowded piazza and bask in the positive effects of a much needed escape because life is art, too.
Explore another chapter in The Stories:
Free Spirit: The Modern Vision of Charlotte Perriand