Milan style: Liberty architecture
December 21, 2022
What is Liberty style?
Named after Arthur Liberty – who established the eponymous London department store – this type of architecture was at its zenith between 1890 and 1914. Key characteristics include ornate frescoes and murals, floral motifs, and façades embellished with lavish sculptures, all transforming functional objects into beautiful works of art.
You may not be familiar with Milanese architect Cesare Tenca, but you’ll recognise his work – he’s the creative genius behind Hotel Principe di Savoia. Built in 1896, our landmark hotel is a classic example of the Liberty style, with mosaics, elaborate frescoed walls in the swimming pool and gargoyles carved into the stone façade.
The Porta Venezia neighbourhood is just on our doorstep at Hotel Principe di Savoia. It’s also a montage of Liberty architecture, packed with residential buildings plucked straight from a fairytale. Its crowning glory is Castiglioni Palace. Designed by Giuseppe Sommaruga in 1903, this ornate structure features cherubs, columns and wrought-iron leaves curling up its bannister. Close by is Quadrilatero del Silenzio, another neighbourhood well worth exploring – look out for its flamingo garden.
Castiglioni Palace, 47 Corso Venezia, 20121 Milan
Wrought iron balconies and floral motifs carved into the exterior of this 1907 bar are classic Liberty features. Inside is just as authentic with its original marble floor, stained glass bar and wooden panelling – you can imagine the late American writer, Ernest Hemingway, who lived in the city in 1918, sipping a gin or two here. No doubt he would’ve enjoyed the bar’s quizzes and occasional live bands, too. There’s pavement seating for warm evenings but if you sit inside you can soak up the bohemian ambiance while perusing temporary exhibitions by young, avant-garde artists.
13 Via Giosue Carducci, 20123 Milan
Turin and beyond
Lake Como and Turin also fell in love with Liberty, and both make for a romantic day trip (each is under a two-hour drive from Milan). Turin’s love affair with Liberty began after its 1902 decorative arts expo, and – as the area around Porta Nuova Station will reveal – much of its architecture has been preserved. Strolling past buildings such as Priotti and Debernardis is a delight. Meanwhile, Caffè Baratti e Milano’s plant-like stuccoes were made with painters in mind, as were the panelling, mirrors and bronze friezes of Caffè Mulassano.
Caffè Baratti e Milano, 27 Castello Square, 10123 Turin
Caffè Mulassano, 15 Castello Square, 10123 Turin
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