Stage 2 – The Quarter of Villincino and the church of S. Maria Nascente
By continuing straight on from Piazza Giuseppina Prina, border the left edge of the square for about sixty metres; on the external walls of the buildings on the left, towards the bottom of the square, you may see contemporary paintings by members of the G.A.E. (Gruppo Artistico Erbese –Erba Artist Group). Turn left, take Via Leone Carpani and follow it for about forty metres; in the pretty courtyard at number 9, which is enclosed by a wrought iron gate, you will be able to spot a number of vaults and a lancet window, all of which are underlined by terracotta bricks, architectural traces dating back to the late Middle Ages.
Immediately after the courtyard you come to Piazza Torre, a cobbled square named after the ruins of the tower (torre in Italian) which acted as one of the entrances to the “Quarter of Villincino”. The tower is thought to have been erected in the 11th century.
The house at number 2, on the left side of the square, was a stately home initially owned by the noble family of the Carpanis, and later by the Busti-Carpanis; the wall of the façade still carries part of an arch emphasized by an elegant ornamental terracotta frieze with floral motifs. Beyond the imposing portal you may see a large courtyard surrounded by a portico with pointed arches.
On the same side, at number 4, you can still see the beautiful door of another mansion owned by the Carpani family, preceded by a small masonry enclosure consisting of a low wall with balusters. Erba historian Angelo Bassi recalled that terracotta painted coats of arms with the insignia of the noble Carpanis – now lost – had been walled into these balusters.
On the right side of the square, at number 6, stands the Casa Guenzati-Rivolta complex, which, too, once belonged to the Carpanis, as evidenced by the discovery made in 1940 during the restoration work on a 14th century fresco which depicts two female figures in refined medieval costumes holding the family crest: a hornbeam tree in front of a white castle. Following the fall of Villincino as a castle, in the 16th century this part of the fortress became a friary. The friars who lived there until the end of the 18th century added a beautiful 16th century portico with terracotta flooring in the courtyard.
The ruins of the massive tower (approx. 6 m x 6 m, and 8 m high) made of large, well squared, local stone boulders, which gives the square its name, lie against the Guenzati-Rivolta mansion (St. John Bosco sojourned here in the 19th century). As you approach the Tower the paving turns to cobbles, locally known as “risciol” or “risciada”. Next to the entrance of the Tower, on the left, next to a stone baluster, a small memorial stone bears a bronze plate with a meaningful inscription, placed by the people of Erba in 1928: «Posuerunt me custodem», reminiscent of the function of the building. The portal of the Tower is surmounted by an elegant mullioned window with pointed arches spaced out by a white Candoglia marble column with a leafy capital, framed by a round arch supported by columns with capitals carrying phytomorphic decorations dating back to the mid-fourteenth century.
Walk past the wide portal of the Tower, cross the inner space, and exit by turning left through an arched opening into Via Contrada Villincino, again paved with cobbles and two central lines of stone. We are in the heart of the “Quarter of Villincino”, among old houses in undressed stone with terracotta inserts, where it seems that time has stood still. After about 70 metres leave the hamlet by passing under the “Pusterla”, a tall and slender undressed stone tower, restored in the second half of the 20th century, opened by a granite portal with a round arch made of square blocks, two small lancet windows, and a rustic loggia at the top ; it was once the west wing of the castle.
Once outside the hamlet, the road surface becomes asphalted once again; after about 40 metres, to your right, you will come across an undressed stone building opened on both sides by arches enclosed by wrought iron gates, which hosts the old wash house with two stone basins. Continue along Via Contrada Villincino, and, after 40 metres, turn right into the asphalted Via Garibaldi. After a further forty metres you reach the point where the historian Mauri identifies a delightful «gated living room», a small widening with three 19th century gates that reveal the beautiful gardens of elegant villas; the one on the right is the old orchard of Casa Guenzati-Rivolta. Walk right to the bottom of Via Garibaldi, leaving, to your left, the entrance of Erba’s Tennis Club, followed, on the right, at number 52, by the entrance to the “St. Agostina” House, run by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, and the adjacent headquarters of the St. Vincent Private School, managed since the 80s of the last century by a Cooperative that supports the Sisters in carrying out educational and training activities. Past the entrance of the school, keep to your left; at the crossroads with Via Gerolamo Majnoni turn left, overcome a small gradient, and, after a short stone paved stretch, you will see on your left the small courtyard of Villa Majnoni d’Intignano, enclosed by a wrought iron gate. Across the street there is a short cypress avenue lined with statues (copies, not originals), which was meant to grant a perspective view on the main entrance of the stately home.
The building, now the Town Hall, was one of the famous “ville di delizia (pleasure villas)” scattered around the territory of Erba. In the 18th century it had belonged to canon Carl’Antonio Prina, and, subsequently, to the Lainati family of Milan; around the mid-19th century it was transferred to the Milanese nobleman don Gerolamo Majnoni d’Intignano, and became the country residence of his family. Towards the end of the century, the Marquis Achille Majnoni d’Intignano, architect at the court of Umberto I, refurbished the complex in the eclectic style. Today the building appears very different from the original, partly because of restorations that have deprived it of several architectural elements (the turret on the square, the veranda overlooking the park …). On the façade of the villa that overlooks Piazza Prepositurale you can see a painting of the Madonna and Child, which the Milanese painter Carlo Fumagalli made to replace an older one.
Once you reach the court of honour of the villa cross Via Majnoni (paved with stone cubes in this section) at the pedestrian crossing (please mind the small square section iron pillars – approximately 80 cm high – on each side), turn left and continue for a few metres until you get to Piazza Prepositurale (mostly paved with stone cubes), dedicated by the people of Erba to fellow citizen Father Aristide Pirovano, the missionary bishop who founded the mission of Marituba. The square is separated from Via Gerolamo Majnoni by a series of 13 small square section iron pillars, about 80 cm high and placed every 2 metres from one another. After approx. 30 metres, turn right and head towards the entrance of the Parish Church of S. Maria Nascente (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin). Already mentioned in the 13th century under the name of S. Maria Bella, it became a provost church in the second half of the 16th century by order of St. Charles Borromeo, who, while visiting the Pieve d’Incino, ordered its restoration and enlargement and raised it to the high church of the Parish in lieu of the old parish church of S. Eufemia, which was falling into ruin. The church underwent a last radical refurbishment in 1975 according to a plan by the architect Fulvio Cappelletti, which resulted in the change of its orientation.
Point of departure Erba, Piazza Prina
Point of arrival Erba, Piazza Prepositurale
Path type urban route
Environment urban area
Total length approx. 670 m
Travel time on foot 15 min
Rise approx. 15 m
Maximum height 290 m
Paving asphalt, cobbles, stone setts, stone slabs
Public transport to the point of departure ASF bus service in the surroundings
Public transport from the point of arrival ASF bus service in the surroundings
Parking at the point of departure yes