Castell’Arquato, one of the most fascinating and intact villages of Italy, located on the hills near Piacenza, is surrounded by fields of wheat and vineyards, as well as forests that create the pre-Apennine landscape of Val d’Arda.
A unique place chosen by Silvio Pinto as a buen retiro for himself and his family. The construction has a powerful structure which Pinto (nephew of the famous interior decorator Piero Pinto) has recently restored with great care, conserving what exists but updating it for new needs. An oasis of relaxation for Pinto and his wife Susanna Avesani, an extended home to welcome children and grandchildren, a convivial space for indoor and outdoor entertaining; and above all a place of the heart, with a garden (also forest and orchard) of rare beauty.
Could you tell us about the history of this house?
The oldest part dates back to the 1600s. In the upper zone there was a barn, while the ground floor was used as a ‘stallino’ for animals: the column in the kitchen bears witness to this past. With the first renovation, done over thirty years ago by the previous owners, this construction was incorporated in another one that seems to be more noble, perhaps from the early 1800s, with arched windows, mullioned windows, hewn stone and architraves. Under my supervision, the recent refurbishing completely respects the historical identity of the buildings, conserving the antique charm of handmade stone.
Why did you choose the village of Castell’Arquato?
My wife Susanna and I knew Castell’Arquato thanks to friends who have been coming here for generations, with whom we have often visited the town. Nevertheless, it was not until we saw the property we eventually purchased that we really fell in love with the place. It was a cold winter’s day, no people were about, but the timeless atmosphere captivated us, and the stone house
did the rest.
How did you intervene in the existing situation? Did you rely on the help of a designer?
The work was difficult because of my desire to preserve the origins of the building as much as possible, in total harmony with the materials, which have rigorously been maintained. The stone, the wooden beams, are all original. I was helped in this by the architect Massimo Trabucchi, who has deep knowledge of this territory and of construction, having worked on previous projects here. We then selected and brought together a team of about forty people, including artisans, carpenters, stonemasons, cabinetmakers, metalworkers and technicians, all from the zone and all passionate exponents of their craft: the results are exciting.
What were the critical factors in the restoration and ‘updating’ of an antique house? What results have satisfied you most?
The biggest concern was to obtain a comfortable home for our large family, introducing all the finest standards and modern systems, without being invasive. I must say that the outcome is at a very high level: air conditioning, WiFi and satellite TV on every floor, and an automated heating and hot water system of the latest generation. Everything is there, but it is not obtrusive. The greatest satisfaction was to have eliminated a staircase in the living area without leaving any trace of our intervention: we removed every single stone, and then replaced it, exactly where it was before!
The garden has a special charm, and you have designed it yourself.
The garden has been created in an existing park that was already well structured, with tall trees, but a zone of connection between the house, the pool area and the woods was missing, which is where I got involved: I created a harmonious whole. Of course, as in any garden worthy of the name, one has to constantly intervene, year after year. I am very proud of the belvedere, a wooden platform immersed in the greenery of the forest, with a marvelous view of the village. The inspiration came from one of our many trips to Bali, which my wife Susanna helped me to discover, where these eco-sustainable constructions are very common.
You are the nephew of the great master Piero Pinto: what do you remember about him, and what did he teach you that become useful for the house at Castell’Arquato?
My uncle Piero Pinto was a great reference point in my life, a truly special person who allowed me to learn the secrets of renovation and decorating of interiors. A true master of interior decoration, capable of transforming spaces, even the simplest ones, recouping secret corners with great taste and refinement. I had the good luck to work together with him during my early years at Bocconi University, and I learned about the art of grasping what others cannot see, “the vision of how a house or a room can be transformed.” That is what I have done at Castell’Arquato.
Project Silvio Pinto with Massimo Trabucchi - Photos Maurizio Barberis