Most people who flock to Italy for a taste of history and culture head straight to the country’s world-famous art galleries, archeological sites and churches for a glimpse of its priceless heritage.
What many don’t realize is that a number of masterpieces are not on display in public halls but lay quietly waiting to be discovered in its private properties.
From countryside villas set within lush vineyards, to metropolitan palaces featuring gilded ballrooms, Italy is home to thousands of residences that open their doors to curious travelers eager for an exclusive cultural experience. The vast majority of these heritage properties are part of the Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (ADSI), a network that works to preserve and promote Italy’s Historic Homes.
The Dimore Storiche Association was born 40 years ago and boasts over 4,500 residences scattered throughout every region, from stately masserie (fortified farmhouses) in Puglia to private islands in Lombardy and the elegant princely villas of Veneto. A portion of the villas are open regularly as museums – for instance, Palazzo Colonna in Rome and the Borromean Islands in Lago Maggiore – while others are open sporadically during the year or can be visited by booking a tour ahead of time.