The architecture of the palace

Musei Civici Gian Giacomo Galletti - PALAZZO SILVA

In the center of the city of Domodossola stands the palace of the noble family della Silva, which still displays its Renaissance features today. Its simple smooth facades are adorned with large cross-shaped windows carved in marble from the quarries of Crevoladossola. The palace originated from an original nucleus dating back to the late 14th century, accessible through a portal dated “1348,” which no longer exists today. Thanks to Antoniolo, the original house-tower was expanded, creating five floors connected by a spiral staircase. To this central core, Giovanni Antonio della Silva added a new wing, a building of different type and style, more closely resembling Lombard tradition. However, it was the condottiero Paolo della Silva who left the most significant mark on the residence in 1519, by constructing the new three-story wing on the north and west fronts, surrounding the nucleus already built by his father with two elegant facades each featuring six windows. This marks the maturation of a long and complex transition in Lombardy, from late medieval Gothic to mature Renaissance. An additional enlargement of the building was carried out towards the east in 1576, by Giovanni Paolo della Silva’s wife, Francesca Arconati. The heterogeneity of the palace’s southern fronts was corrected around the mid-17th century by Guglielmo della Silva; he harmonized the late 15th-century construction with the Renaissance part, thus giving unity to the entire building. Few and negligible further modifications were carried out at the end of the 18th century when the family branch became extinct, and in 1882, it passed into the ownership of the “Galletti” Foundation.

The Silva family


The origins of the family are uncertain; its founder, Guglielmo della Silva, appears in the “Trattato di Latinasca” in 1267. In the early 15th century, Marco della Silva and his son Antoniolo, after obtaining the right of “citizenship” in Domodossola, expanded the original nucleus of the palace in the village. The prestige of the family grew with the marriage in 1473 between Dorotea Arrigoni and Giovanni Antonio. He was responsible for important works in what was called the “painted great house,” which, with his son Captain Paolo, was becoming a sumptuous palace.

With Captain “regale” Paolo, the family’s history reached its peak of fame. After splendid enlargements and embellishments of the palace, completed in 1519, it became a true Renaissance jewel in the heart of the Alps.

Having died without heirs, the palace passed to another branch of the family. In the 16th century, Giovanni Paolo married the noblewoman from Milan, Francesca Arconati, who added a new wing to the palace facing the square. Their grandson Guglielmo had eighteen children, including Marco Antonio II, the father of the last great della Silva: Paolo II, known as “il consultore.”

From room to room… the museum setups

The Renaissance Palazzo Silva was purchased in 1882 by the “G.G. Galletti” foundation and completely renovated to be used as a museum headquarters. The historical-archaeological collections were hosted there in a rather heterogeneous arrangement. After the unification of the naturalistic collections from Palazzo San Francesco to Palazzo Silva, between 1900 and 1909, the historical collections returned to its rooms. In 1939, a new setup for Palazzo Silva was approved, featuring “period environments” from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The museums were reopened to the public in 1948.

With the dissolution of the Galletti Foundation and the transfer of the museums to the municipality of Domodossola, part of the archaeological and historical-artistic collections were relocated to the Museum of Palazzo San Francesco along with the naturalistic collections and some works from the art gallery.

The current path, limited to the ground floor and the first floor, reproduces the arrangement of the mid-20th century, moving in an anti-clockwise direction around the imposing stone spiral staircase. There are numerous rooms encountered during the museum visit. On the ground floor, there is a large hall and a room furnished as a kitchen. Going up to the upper or noble floor, visitors arrive at the reception hall and, continuing, to the room furnished as a bedroom; the next room is set up as a chapel. In addition to these, there are smaller rooms where various objects are displayed.

Traditional Costumes of the Ossola Valleys

The traditional women’s costumes are part of a collection of mannequins made of wood, plaster, and papier-mâché by Abbot Giuseppe Luzzardi in 1881 and exhibited in the same year at the Industrial Exhibition of Milan. The original garments were partly reassembled according to the provided models and partly borrowed or donated by local families.

The costumes, displayed on the second floor of the palace, represent some of the Ossola Valleys, including: the Anzasca Valley, reassembled at the end of the 19th century; the Antigorio Valley (possibly from the 18th century); the Vigezzo Valley (dating back to 1760); and the Antrona Valley, remade at the end of the 19th century based on the original patterns.

The complete collection of these garments is reproduced on the original curtain of the city’s theater, temporarily exhibited on the ground floor of Palazzo San Francesco. This curtain was created in 1882 by the Vigezzo scenographer Bernardino Bonardi.

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Musei Civici Gian Giacomo Galletti rappresentano una fonte di ispirazione e arricchimento per la comunità locale e oltre. Attraverso le loro collezioni eccezionali, i Musei preservano il patrimonio culturale e artistico di Domodossola.

Orari Musei

giovedì, venerdì, sabato e domenica 10-13 / 15-19

Palazzo San Francesco

Piazza Paola Angela Ruminelli 1, 28845 Domodossola (VB)

Palazzo Silva

Piazza Giovanni Chiossi 1, 28845 Domodossola (VB)

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