In the early twentieth century, Antonio Massara, a teacher at Pallanza high school (he was nominated in 1909 as a member of the National Association for Landscapes and for Picturesque Monuments in Italy, and in 1913 he became a member of National Committee for the Defence of Landscape and Monuments), identified landscape as the greatest cultural asset of Lake Maggiore, owing to its climate and environment which have always made it a desirable place to live.
He regarded the landscape as a synthesis of local culture and identified the means of its defence not only through legislation but also through the spread of knowledge.
To encourage a cultural renewal of the area and to combat aesthetic illiteracy, in 1909 he created and launched two instruments: the magazine “Verbania” and the Historical and Artistic Museum of Verbano and the adjacent Valleys, in the belief, which was innovative at the time, that setting up the museum would help to promote knowledge of the landscape around the lake and its adjacent valley, fostering its protection, as well as acting as an exhibition venue for landscape painting.
In 1912 he set up the Landscape Gallery, where he collected landscape paintings, prints, photographs and drawings.
In 1914 the Historical and Artistic Museum became the Museum of Landscape and adopted the precise aims set out in article 3 of its statute: “To encourage the study of the natural and artistic beauty of the region and further its protection”.
After Massara’s death in 1926, however, the Museum no longer focused on the landscape but solely on activities to preserve its own collections.
During the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Museum’s foundation, a special research project (Museo Storico Artistico del Verbano – Museo del Paesaggio 1909-1979) highlighted the importance and topicality of Antonio Massara’s ideas and initiatives.
After launching a special initiative to protect the estuary of the River Toce, which became a Special Nature Reserve in 1990, the Museum resumed its attention for the landscape.
In a special Convention of 1983, which was renewed in 1987, Regione Piemonte commissioned the Landscape Museum to census and catalogue the historic gardens of Verbano and Cusio.
In 1988 the Board of Directors for the Landscape Museum resolved to set up the Landscape Research Centre: in this way, landscape has resumed its important role and the Museum often acts in defence of landscape and environmental issues affecting the area.
In a special Agreement, signed in 2003, the Protected Areas Department of Regione Piemonte, together with the Province of Verbania, identified the Museum of Landscape as an instrument for managing Regional Law 22/83, “Interventions for the protection and development of areas of botanical interest”, concerning the study, cataloguing and enhancement of Piedmont’s historic gardens of botanical interest.
The heritage of villas and gardens in Piedmont became a focus for study by the Villas and Gardens Archive, which was already operative at the Landscape Research Centre of the Museum.
The Ministry of Education and the Touring Club are among the Museum’s founding members. It can currently rely on a large membership, forming the Shareholders’ Meeting, from which part of the Board of Directors is nominated, while the remaining members are appointed by the municipal council of Verbania.
The Collections
The Museum is in the old city centre of Verbania-Pallanza, in two particularly prestigious buildings: Palazzo Viani Dugnani and Palazzo Biumi Innocenti. The latter building also houses the management offices, the Landscape Research Centre, the Villas and Gardens Archive and the Library.
Palazzo Viani Dugnani
Enrico Bianchetti collection (contents of approximately 330 tombs from the Lepontine necropolises in Ornavasso, dating from the 1st century BC to 2nd century AD)
Painting: Paintings by 19th century (D. Ranzoni, E. Gignous, G. Boggiani, A. Tominetti, C. Fornara, C. Maggi, A. Ferraguti) and 20th century artists (M. Tozzi, S. Penagini, A. Carpi); 15th-century frescoes and four paintings by Tanzio da Varallo.
Sculpture: P. Troubetzkoy collection of plaster casts; works by A. Martini (sculpture, medals, paintings, drawings and engravings) and G. Branca.
Drawings: approximately 200 genre and technical engravings from different periods (not open to the public).
Palazzo Biumi Innocenti
Religiosity and popular culture: 5.023 painted Italian and Mexican ex-voto (approx. 715 exhibited from 16th to 20th century) from the E. Cefis collection donated in 1996; approx. 66.000 “santini” (small sacred images).
Photography: photo collections that document the landscape history of Lake Maggiore: approximately 1.500 plates by the photographers S. Della Valle Casanova, E. Meschia, P. Lavatelli, N. Guilizzoni, M. Mantegazza and some 8,000 photographic prints; collection of contemporary photographic works by P. Gioli, L. Ghiri, G. Basilico, F. Radino, and N. Zoppis (not open to the public).
Library: specialised in history of art, local history and popular traditions (approx. 13.500 volumes).
A number of events are organised throughout the year, including exhibitions and conferences (on painting, sculpture, photography, landscape topics, historic gardens). In addition to the normal editorial activity of catalogues, studies and research relating to landscape, painting, archeology and sculpture, a large number of works are published by the Museum in the historic garden sector.
Landscape Research Centre
The aim is to promote knowledge of the landscape and to safeguard it through the study and documentation of the various features and components of the local landscape (identification and study of the environmental and cultural heritage in the area); to spread knowledge of the landscape to the public, schools, public and private bodies (collection, processing and divulgation through exhibitions, publications, conferences, courses and seminars).
Historical and morphological aspects of the landscape
Protection and transformation of the landscape
Urban image
Villas and Gardens Archive
Villas and Gardens Archive
The traditional landscape on the banks of Lake Maggiore, made up of woods, small fields and cultivated terraces, was transformed between the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century by rich Italian and European families who, attracted by the pleasant climate and surroundings, built villas and surrounded them with gardens filled with typical lakeside flora and imported botanical species from all over the world.
The Villas and Gardens Archive carries out surveys based on documentary, bibliographical, oral and iconographical sources, processes the data collected and compiles catalogues, acquiring images and information on the manufacts, trees, architecture, architects, garden designers, gardeners, patrons, craftsmen, etc. The study is carried out by professionals from a variety of different backgrounds (art, architecture, landscape, history, geography, botany) who process the collected data and catalogue the entries. The results and the problems highlighted by the study have in turn formed the focus of publications and conferences at an international level.
Publications, Exhibitions and Conferences on gardens
- Villa San Remigio a Pallanza, by Renata and Carola Lodari, Museo del Paesaggio, 1982;
- Giardini e Ville del Lago Maggiore. Un paesaggio culturale tra Ottocento e Novecento (edited by Renata Lodari), Regione Piemonte, Centro Studi Piemontesi e Museo del Paesaggio, 2002 (Special Grinzane Cavour Giardini Hambury prize);
- La cornice del Lago Maggiore. Documenti per la storia del giardino sulla sponda piemontese, Archivio di Stato Verbania e Museo del Paesaggio, Exhibition and catalogue forming part of “Editoria & Giardini” 2003;
- Il paesaggio dei giardini del Lago Maggiore. Conoscenza, tutela e valorizzazione, Conference organised by Renata Lodari, Verbania 7 September 2002; proceedings published by Tararà edizioni, Verbania 2003;
- Per un Atlante dei giardini del Piemonte. Criteri di lavoro per conoscere e valorizzare i giardini del Piemonte, Travelling exhibition curated by Renata Lodari, 2004;
- Il mestiere del giardiniere. Conoscenze e tecniche per il giardino storico, One-day seminar, Verbania 23 October 2004;
- La campagna ornata. Giardini storici in Provincia di Cuneo, Exhibition organised by “Associazione Culturale Marcovaldo” in collaboration with Museo del Paesaggio, Costigliole di Saluzzo 2005.
Museo del Paesaggio di Verbania
Palazzo Viani Dugnani
Via Ruga, 44 - 28922 Verbania (VB)
Tel. +39 0323 502418
Open from 1 April to 31 October
Opening times: 10-12 a.m.; 3.30-6.30 p.m. (closed on Mondays)
Extended opening times from 5 to 8 October in the occasion of the Conference:
9.30-12.30 a.m.; 3-7 p.m.
Palazzo Biumi Innocenti
Salita Biumi, 6 - 28922 Verbania (VB)
Tel. +39 0323 556621
Fax +39 0323 508167
Open all year
Opening times: 10-12 a.m.; 3.30-6.30 p.m. (closed on Mondays)
Extended opening times from 5 to 8 October in the occasion of the Conference:
9.30-12.30 a.m.; 3-7 p.m.
Guided visits to the Landscape Museum