In the fifteenth century the powerful Castiglioni family had their principal fortress on the hill of nearby Castiglione Olona, still today the site of the collegiate church built in 1422 by Cardinal Branda Castiglioni. The family divided the surrounding territory among their various branches. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Schianno branch of the Castiglioni family owned most of the land surrounding the present day village, where they possessed a ‘casa da nobile’, most probably the antecedent of the present day Villa.
In 1564 the last Schianno Castiglioni, Nicolao, died without descendants, naming as his heirs his nephews, sons of his sister Violante, who in 1519 had married a certain Giovanni Della Silva from a well-known family of Domodossola. The heirs were obliged to assume the name and crest of the Castiglioni and to respect the terms of Nicolao’s will, which required the properties to remain inalienable (except under certain predefined circumstances) for the benefit of all the heirs. In this way the estate was preserved intact in the Della Silva Castiglioni family until the time of the French Revolution, when all such restraints on the free sale of property were abolished.
A brief description of the Villa exists in the inventory prepared in 1564 after Nicolao’s death. The main body of the house lay on an east-west axis (the axis of the present driveway), with a portico opening to the south. Behind the house to the north were the features still present today, the rustic courtyard with its elegant gallery in wood and its massive tiled renaissance entrance.
At the time of the 1848 ‘Five Days’ revolt in Milan against Austrian rule the people of Schianno together with the Della Silva improvised the revolutionary tricolore flag (now the flag of Italy), which they hid in the courtyard when the revolt failed. A small portion of this flag is preserved framed on the wall of the hall.
According to family tradition, after the collapse of the Campanile in Venice in 1902, the then owner of the Villa, Giovanni Della Silva Castiglioni, deeply worried by the age of the building and its possible imminent collapse, pulled it down (with the assistance of the entire village) and replaced it with a modest house, which survives incorporated into the present structure. Giovanni Della Silva had no male offspring, so his heirs were his four daughters, one of whom, Vittoria (who had married Dr. Ludovico Necchi Villa, one of the founders of the Catholic University of Milan), inherited the Schianno estate.
In the 1960s Vittoria and Ludovico’s second son, Antonio Necchi Villa Della Silva and his wife Agnese (Piva), decided to restore the complex, then still used for agricultural purposes, to its former glory, combining the 1900s house with the stables and rustic dwellings around the courtyard, which they paved with stones from Piazza San Marco in Milan, which were then being discarded.
The owners of the Villa today are the two children of Antonio and Agnese, and the facilities for events are run by Antonio and Agnese’s grandchildren.