The family, originally from Garlate, near Lecco in northern Italy, was, with the spinning of silk, among the initiators and promoters of the Italian Industrial Revolution since the middle of the XVIII century.
Moving to Milan at the beginning of the XIX century in keeping with the development of their industrial and commercial activity they also had an interest in the area of North of Milan, the Brianza, where most of their factories were located.
Since the Renaissance villas had been built by the aristocracy of Italian cities as pleasant summer residences, centre of their farmland properties and status symbols.
Giuseppe Antonio Gnecchi, born in Garlate in 1783, the first of the family to graduate in Engineering from Pavia University, had married Giuseppina Ruscone. Her brother Giacomo Ruscone, also in the silk business, died without issue in 1842, leaving his property, including a villa in Verderio to his nephew Giuseppe Achille Gnecchi on condition that he added his surname to Gnecchi.
THE VILLA CONFALONIERI
Adjacent to the villa Ruscone was a very grand villa, owned by the Confalonieri, one of the oldest and famous families of Milan aristocracy. Count Vitaliano Confalonieri, its owner, nephew of Federico Confalonieri, a well know member of the Carbonari, an association conspiring for the overthrow of Austrian rule over Milan, mysteriously left the villa one evening, in the middle of dinner, and was never heard of again.
Giuseppe Achille, who had taken part of the 1848 uprising that liberated Milan, had much expanded the industrial and commercial activities of the family also with the help of his father in law, Francesco Turati, a great cotton industrialist, who gave the couple in 1846, as a wedding present, the palace in Milan in via Filodrammatici, adjacent La Scala Theatre, that was to be the family’s main residence until 1947 and is now seat of Mediobanca.
Having three sons and wishing to leave a villa each, he purchased the villa Confalonieri for his eldest son, Francesco and, with his wife he started making it the centre of his cultural and philanthropic activities.
FRANCESCO GNECCHI RUSCONE
Inheriting the villa in 1893, with his wife Isabella Bozzotti he continued and completed his parent’s activities. A very young volunteer in 1866 war of independence he continued the industrial and commercial activities in the silk industry, expanding it into banking. Besides his business commitments he was also very active as a landscape painter of some fame and especially as a numismatic. Founder in 1888 of “La Rivista Italiana di Numismatica” his collection of coins of the Greco-Roman classical period has been declared a National Patrimony and is now in the National Archeological Museum of Rome. As an expert he assisted the young Prince of Naples, later King Vittorio Emanuele III, to set his numismatic collection.
Vittorio Gnecchi Ruscone was his second son and grew up in this atmosphere.