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Friday, February 20, 2009

Museo del Paesaggio -- The Museum of the Landscape

Federico Ashton - Pecetto of Macugnaga and Monte Rosa, 1887

The true star of Lago Maggiore is, always was, and always will be, its natural scenery and splendor. No matter what beautiful palaces have been built, no matter how many restaurants there are serving delicious regional food, no matter the markets and the shopping and the music festivals, the true attraction here is the lake and the mountains themselves. Remove the natural elements and I'm not certain that people would travel here for the aforementioned sights, but remove the palaces and restaurants and markets, and people would still come, senza dubbio, without any doubt, just to sit and marvel at this incredible landscape.

Guido Boggiani - Chestnut Wood Above Stresa - 1884

Antonio Massara was a man who understood this very well. Born in Miena in 1878, Massara lived his entire life around these lakes. His deep passion for the area, and his conviction to convince others to appreciate it as he did, led him to two great projects in the early 1900s. He started a magazine, Verbania, and in 1909 he founded a museum, originally called “Museo Storico e Artistico del Verbano e delle Valli adiacenti”, The Museum of the History and Art of Verbania and of the Adjacent Valleys. By 1914 the name evolved to Museo del Paesaggio, The Museum of the Landscape, which it remains today.

It's a love affair, this museum... On the part of Massara, but also it's evident in all of the works here. Through the eyes of dozens of different painters, sculptors, and artists of various media, the visitor sees how so many others have seen, and then depicted, this local landscape. Of particular interest to me are the scenes that include people, structures or street scenes. I know, one can argue that they are not truly landscapes, that the buildings intrude, but Massara believed that they were, and I enjoy the glimpses of a time before photographs, into those moments captured.

Achille Tomanetti - Ploughing at Miazzina

“In nessuna età come la nostra, inquieta e variabile, si è sentita più profondamente la misteriosa affinità che lega l’anima umana al paesaggio”

"In an era like ours, restless and variable, in one is it felt more profoundly the mysterious affinity between the human soul and the landscape."
These are Antonio Massara's own words, spoken in the turbulent years of the early twentieth century. Little did he know they would have such lasting meaning. I think, what he is trying to tell us, if I may speak for him, is to stop, pause, appreciate this. When you leave the museum and head back outside, if you look around you and see the paesaggio, the landscape, in a whole new way, then Massara has succeeded in his goal.

Web site, English version: www.museodelpaesaggio.it

The Museo del Paesaggio is now housed in three locations along the banks of Lago Maggiore in Verbania:

- Palazzo Viani – Dugnani, Verbania Pallanza, via Ruga, 44;
- Palazzo Biumi – Innocenti, Verbania Pallanza, salita Biumi, 6;
- Casa Ceretti, Verbania Intra, Via Roma, 42. This library houses the collection of the 15,000 books of the museum.

Verbania Pallanza and Verbania Intra are two different boat stations on Lago Maggiore about 2 km apart. It is an easy walk from one station to the other. Verbania can be reached in 15 minutes by car from Stresa, or 30 minutes by boat.

Open Year-Round: 10.00 to 12.00, and 15.30 to 18.30, closed Mondays.
Tel. (+39) 0323 556621

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