Visiting the Collegio

Information

The Campus of the Almo Collegio Borromeo consists of the following buildings and green areas: (1) the historic building, (2) the seventeenth-century garden, (3) the nineteenth-century garden, (4) the Horti area, (5) the section dedicated to Contardo Ferrini, (6) the women’s section. More details are available in the Collegio Borromeo’s Quick Guide.

An independent visit of the Collegio is allowed every day from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, and is limited exclusively to the common areas on the ground floor of the historic building and the seventeenth-century garden. Guided tours, reserved for individuals or small groups, are free, but must be booked by sending an email to visite @ collegioborromeo.it. They are available both in Italian and English, and also include areas that cannot be visited otherwise.

Entrance and reception

The Palace is accessed by a stone staircase that leads to the large portal. The entrance hall is closed by a carved wooden wall, with the Collegio’s motto “Humilitas” and two of the Borromaic heraldic emblems: the horse’s brake and the camel crouched in the flower basket. Next to the entrance is the reception, with two portraits of the founder, Saint Charles Borromeo and the first patron Federico Borromeo.

The internal courtyard

The internal courtyard is characterized by a double loggia with coupled columns and large arches. The chromatic contrasts between the white of the plaster, the red of the terracotta frames and the grey/cream of the stone parts are highlighted by the play of light and shadow. At the top of the side opposite the entrance, stands the wrought iron bell, whose sound marks the rhythms of the Collegio still.

The Chapel

The Chapel, where service is regularly officiated, is dedicated to Santa Giustina Martyr, patroness of the Borromeo family, and to Saint Charles, since his canonization in 1610. Its access is highlighted by a rich 17th century marble portal, surmounted by the bust of Saint Charles. The barrel vault is decorated with the oldest frescoes in the Palace, made by local painter Giovanni Battista Muttoni in 1579, in typical Mannerist style, and represent four scenes from the Old Testament. The walls were frescoed in 1909 by Manlio Oppio, Osvaldo Bignami and other local painters: the patron saints of the college and university students are depicted in the four circles. The floor is the original sixteenth-century one, in Lombard terracotta, with the typical two-tone veins reminiscent of wood.

The Fireplace Room

Today, the Fireplace Room welcomes students and guests who want to read newspapers and magazines and for coffee breaks. It was once the seat of the Rector’s Room. The large polychrome marble fireplace is decorated with painted stucco reliefs, with cherubs with the Borromeo family crest and all the heraldic emblems. The paintings depict seventeenth-century portraits of Charles and Federico Borromeo, while the canvas is from the seventeenth century and shows the biblical character of Job.

The seventeenth-century garden

The seventeenth-century wrought iron gate leads to the belvedere terrace overlooking the seventeenth-century garden, connected by two flights of symmetrical stairs and in perspective axis with the entrance hall. The Italian garden was built in 1629 by architect Francesco Maria Richini. There are box hedges and Carpini tunnels, while a large niche with fountain closes the surrounding wall. The wall of the elegant portico connected to the nineteenth-century garden houses the commemorative plaques with the names of the Collegio’s Rectors and the Borromean pupils who fell in the two world wars.

The Hall of Fireplaces

Originally, this was the room were pupils could study, in the warmth of two large fireplaces. Today, this is where breakfast is served and the B-Talks – dinner-debates between the pupils and the university professors who are guests of the Collegio – are held.

The refectory

The pupils have lunch and dinner in the Collegio’s Refectory. The entrance to the room is embellished with the stone coat of arms of the Medici family and the inscription dedicated to Pope Pius IV, maternal uncle of Saint Charles. The original sixteenth-century wooden tables are lined up on the walls. The pulpit on the longitudinal side of the room is due to the fact that the pupils originally read books during meals.

The White Room

The room takes its name from the light colour of the plaster, on which the Borromean emblem of the three intertwined rings is stamped. The room communicates with the Prince’s Apartment, now a prestigious guest room, and with the Hall of Frescoes.

The Hall of Frescoes

It has always been the most prestigious room in the Palace. This barrel vaulted room is 10 m wide and 30 m long. It is characterized by various entrances from the loggia and by a double register of windows from which you can admire the view of the seventeenth-century garden and the other buildings that make up the Collegio Campus, located in the adjacent via Tosi and via Vercesi. The frescoes, made by Cesare Nebbia and Federico Zuccari at the beginning of the seventeenth century, depict scenes from the life of Saint Charles. The eight large canvas paintings on the longitudinal walls of the room portray Pope Pius IV, the founder Saint Charles and Federico Borromeo, among others.

The nineteenth-century garden

This is where the Romanesque church of San Giovanni in Borgo, demolished in 1811, used to be. The romantic English-style garden overlooks the avenue that runs along the Ticino river.

The Borromean Gardens

Beyond the walls of the Collegio lie the Horti Borromaici, which were once cultivated with vegetable gardens and orchards, and later transformed into a park, inside which there is a seventeenth-century farmhouse. This land results from the unification of different areas and the demolition of the Capuchin convent and the San Marco convent. Instead, the Pio Luogo Pertusati, is now the seat of the Graduates Section.

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