Villa Ponti - built by rich Flemish merchant Bartolomeo Pertossi in 1760 on the ruins of the Rocca Borromea (Borromean fort) - was modified several times up until the last significant intervention by architect A. T. Rocca in the 1920’s. He radically changed the aspect of the side overlooking the road by embellishing it with several architectural ornaments.
Napoleon I stayed here after the conclusion of the Egyptian Expedition. Engineer Gian Giacomo Ponti – an electronics teacher at Turin’s Polytechnical Institute and a student of Thomas Edison - was also born in this building 28 December 1878. A successful industrialist, first he promoted the Piedmont hydroelectric company and then the Piedmont and Lombard inter-regional telephone company thus contributing through his work to the beginning of modern telephony in Italy. The villa was named after him.
It is located on Via San Carlo, not far from the 15th-century Palazzo Borromeo and just a short distance from the elegant shops, bars and restaurants enlivening the town of Arona.
3-storey Villa Ponti is characterised by its ashlar ground floor. The entrance is decorated with small wrought-iron balconies and valuable gratings embellishing the windows. The different styles of the two façades is obvious: the side seen from Via San Carlo has decorative 19th-century pomp while the one facing the garden stands out for its classical style with a solemn pediment and long flight of steps providing access to the garden. The garden occupies over 5,000 m2 and has a baroque fountain surrounded by scented magnolias, azaleas, century-old beech and Atlas Cedars.
The villa’s original charm has been maintained in the rooms and halls, which are enriched with valuable floors and sophisticated decorations. A portico was adapted to obtain a picturesque coffee shop.
Since 1999, initiatives have been organised within the programme Grandi Mostre sul Lago Maggiore (Great Exhibits on Lake Maggiore). These cultural events display works and masterpieces belonging to private, Italian collections but created by world-acclaimed, international maestros (the ones dedicated to Picasso and Kandinsky were memorable).
These exhibits are organised by the Fondazione Art Museo, attracting over 300,000 visitors in 10 years, thus contributing to the increased, generalised knowledge of art in the area of Lake Maggiore.