Palazzo Verbania in Luino: Culture and More on Lake Maggiore

Visit Palazzo Verbania in Luino, a unique cultural centre on Lake Maggiore that hosts events, conferences, and the archives of Vittorio Sereni and Piero Chiara
Palazzo Verbania of Luino illuminated by the sun
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Palazzo Verbania in Luino, originally known as Kursaal, is a historic building, the beating heart of all cultural and artistic activity in Luino. A venue for events, exhibitions, meetings and conferences, it houses the archives of Vittorio Sereni and Piero Chiara.

Palazzo Verbania: the history

The palace, overlooking the shores of Lake Maggiore in Luino, began its history in 1904 when, based on a design by architect Giuseppe Petrolo, it was built in Art Nouveau style: a refined and elegant style that came from central Europe. Work was completed in 1905, the year of its first inauguration.
In the beginning, the building was known not as Palazzo Verbania but as Kursaal, a name derived from its original function: an elite meeting place, used for catering and dedicated, in addition, to dance parties, concerts and meetings. In 1913, writer Gesualdo Manzella Frontini entertained a lecture on Futurism. During the 1920s, the structure of the building expanded and became the Verbania Hotel. Between 1971 and 1974 the complex was closed and ceased operations altogether. 1975 would be the year when Palazzo Verbania reopened, again, transforming itself into a cultural center (albeit for a few years), organizing the first ever exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini, a native of Dumenza, a small village above Luino.
It is interesting to know that Queen Victoria, a lover of art and Luini, was tempted to visit the Luino community in 1879 during a holiday in Baveno to admire the painter's hometown. Finally, fortunately, in the spring of 2019, following a restoration operation, the current Verbania Palace in Luino saw a reopening and a new inauguration with a renewed cultural impetus by welcoming and preserving, on a permanent basis, the personal archives of poet Vittorio Sereni and writer Piero Chiara, both born in Luino. In addition, the place was chosen as a venue for events, exhibitions and conferences.
Thanks to the presence of the aforementioned archives, the conference hall, and exhibition spaces dedicated to exhibitions, Palazzo Verbania qualifies as a cultural center, library and museum. In recent years, this place has taken on considerable atractive interest by activating processes of cultural awareness and involving different audiences.

Opening Hours

The following are the opening hours of Palazzo Verbania.
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10.00 -13.00 & 15.00 -18.00
Thursday: 10.00 -13.00 & 15.00 -18.00
Friday: 15.00 - 20.00
Saturday and Sunday: In the absence of exhibitions or events, it is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. alternating the 2 days weekly

Palazzo Verbania: the events and exhibitions

The management and organization are entrusted, primarily, to the City of Luino flanked by the cultural aldermen. These initiatives are meeting occasions.

Thanks to its versatile structure and excellent location on the lakefront, Palazzo Verbania can host a wide range of events, making it the cultural heart of Luino. The types of events that the palazzo can host range from photography and contemporary art exhibitions to book presentations and conferences on various topics, such as sustainable mobility and ethical finance. In addition, the palace is an ideal location for meetings dedicated to social and topical issues.

Thanks to its ability to adapt to different needs, Palazzo Verbania has become a point of reference for lovers of art, culture and debate, always offering new food for thought and discussion to the local community and visitors.

From 2019 to the present, events, exhibitions, meetings, and conferences are organized periodically in the interiors of Palazzo Verbania. Some major exhibitions have involved various artists and painters including Giovanni Boldini, Marc Chagall, Gualtiero Nativi, and Elena Rede. The events held, on the other hand, are aimed at various disciplines such as: art, history, writing, poetry, music, tourism, sports, landscape, and politics.

Palazzo Verbania: the services

The structure of Luino's Palazzo Verbania is committed to offering services for the preservation, protection and enhancement of cultural heritage, as required by the Italian Cultural Heritage and Peasaggio Code. In addition, there are oppotunities for personal growth, in historical-artistic terms, thanks to the access and enjoyment of culture and the organization of educational and inclusive spaces, through the setting up of art exhibitions and the promotion of events.

With the possibility of consultation, upon request, of the personal archives of Vittorio Sereni and Piero Chiara, the development and research, in literary and social terms, of the Italian cultural heritage is supported. In addition, through the City of Luino, Culture section, it is possible to make a request for temporary concessions of the spaces of Palazzo Verbania. The concession of these rooms and the conference room offer the possibility to dispose and create cultural realities and impulses.

On a naturalistic level, the accessible terrace on the second floor allows one to admire and contemplate the shores of Lake Maggiore. Finally, Palazzo Verbania infopoint, on the first floor, offers assistance, support and orientation to visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Palazzo Verbania located?
Palazzo Verbania is located at Viale Dante Alighieri,5, 21016 Luino (VA).
When was Palazzo Verbania in Luino opened?
Luino's Palazzo Verbania was inaugurated on Sunday, May 18, 2019.
What is there to do in Palazzo Verbania?
You can visit the building, participate in periodic exhibitions and events, consult the archives and library upon request, learn about a piece of Luino's history, and go to the lake-view terrace.
How can I contact Palazzo Verbania?
One can contact Palazzo Verbania by phone (0332 543546) or by e-mail ([email protected]).

Palazzo Verbania - Detailed History

The following is a detailed history of Palazzo Verbania. This text was received at Palazzo Verbania itself.

1904-1905. The Kursaal is born

1904. A number of industrialists from Luino and the surrounding area, some of whom come from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, set up a joint stock company to build a Kursaal on the lakeside, with a restaurant and hall for parties and cultural activities.
1904, 3 October. Architect Giuseppe Petrolo presents the Kursaal project to the municipality, which envisages a two-storey building and a hall with a roof terrace over the waves. Thanks to stimuli from the promoters of the initiative, Petrolo gave the Kursaal a distinctly Art Nouveau look, close to the most advanced examples of Central European architecture.
1905, June. The Kursaal is inaugurated, destined to become the symbol of Luino's aspirations for progress, which had grown since the end of the 19th century thanks to new rail links, a dense network of businesses and a good number of holidaymakers.

1905-1917. The Kursaal in the life of Luino

1905-1911. On the stage of the Kursaal, set up in the lakeside hall for plays, operettas, readings and concerts, an entire provincial society parades by, between cosmopolitan openings and sudden closures, a portent of the end of an era.
1911, 11 November. A staging of Pierrot marks the meeting between Enrico Sereni, on stage as a fine speaker, and Michelina Colombi, an acclaimed performer. From the marriage between the two, Vittorio Sereni was born in 1913.
1913. At the Kursaal in Luino, amidst various conferences, an impassioned defence of Futurism takes place. Gesualdo Manzella Frontini, a Sicilian musician and friend of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was its spokesman.
1913, 23 March. Piero Chiara was born in Luino, in an old building on the corner of the popular Via dei Mercanti (today Via F. Cavallotti) and the bustling fishermen's port.
1913, 27 July. Vittorio Sereni was born in Luino, in a bourgeois building almost opposite the present-day Palazzo Verbania.
1914-1915. The Società Anonima Kursaal goes into liquidation and the building is taken over by the Aletti family of hoteliers. The war rages on and the German name (Kursaal = meeting place for tourists in a holiday resort) is disliked and replaced with Eden-Excelsior.
1917. Giuseppe Battaglia, an enterprising heir to a metalworking company in Luino, publishes his memoirs of a visit to Russia, in the presence of the Tsar, in the days of the first February revolution. His tales of distant lands enlivened the evenings at the Kursaal for some time, but that year would mark the final demise of such broadened horizons.

1921-1927. From Kursaal to Hotel Verbania

1921, January. The first post-war period still saw the former Kursaal as the privileged theatre of the provincial reflection of growing tensions on a national scale. The Patria association, of liberal and conservative inspiration, buys the building and renames it Verbania; a section of the fasci di combattimento (fighting fasces) is installed on the first floor.
1925, early autumn. The Verbania fascist "action squads" are linked to an episode from Vittorio Sereni's adolescence, not yet twelve years old. Sereni recalls a resounding slap he received for poking around a group of armed troublemakers gathered in the restaurant garden. 'On the point of tears' he had sought the support of his father who had not had the courage to publicly console his son.
1925, November. The Sereni family moved to Brescia and, from 1932, to Milan where Vittorio graduated and met Maria Luisa Bonfanti whom he married in 1940. He would only return to Luino "almost in a dream" for holiday periods, which became more and more sparse over the years.
1927. The former Kursaal undergoes a radical overhaul with an extension and one floor raised. It now has 50 beds, a tennis court, lido and marina. The transformation also entails the cancellation of the bold Art Nouveau forms, the mirror of a cosmopolitanism whose end had been anticipated by the name change.
1929. Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, a novel dedicated to experiences, partly autobiographical, during the First World War, is published. The author describes a night crossing on the Verbano, when the "lake widened" and "on the opposite shore [...] we saw the lights that I attributed to Luino". For Sereni, Hemingway would have seen and described precisely the "great light of the hall windows" of Palazzo Verbania, the only ones lit up on that dark night of war.
1932-1934. Piero Chiara is sent as a chancellery assistant to various courts in north-eastern Italy and, finally, to Varese, the city he chooses as his definitive residence. The departure from the places of his early youth marks, as for Vittorio Sereni, an unbridgeable sentimental detachment. In the following years Chiara would still frequent Luino, but only to walk along the streets of memories, when she could on her birthday.

Return to Verbania

1936-1940. During his holidays, Vittorio Sereni revisited the places of his youth for the first time, to which he dedicated several poems. Among these, Terrazza invites one to contemplate the "tacit mystery" of life in the lake landscape. Composed in 1937 at the landing stage in Luino, since 1941 it has been associated by Sereni with the "pensile terrazza" of the Verbania salon, both because of family memories linked to the Kursaal, and because of the suggestion of having discovered the citation of the palace in Addio alle armi (Farewell to Arms).
1941, February. Vittorio Sereni's first collection of poems, Frontiera, was published in Milan. Partly centred on his recent return to Luino on the thread of memory, the publication preceded the call to arms that would lead him to the American prisons in North Africa.
1947. For Piero Chiara too, the former Kursaal begins to become the privileged place for a literary exercise. On 3 March, he wrote to Sereni: "yesterday [...] I mingled with a group of [...] frequenters of Verbania [...]: those who live in Milan or elsewhere and [...] are led to Luino by the illusion of their memories".
1962. Piero Chiara published his first novel, Il piatto piange (The Crying Plate), destined for great success. It tells of destinies entwined around gambling tables, in the basements of pre-war Verbania (renamed Metropole by Chiara), carefully darkened "with rags and sackcloths pressed into the loophole under the step of the side door". The title, referring to a poker expression, is suggested by Sereni.
1965. Vittorio Sereni reached the milestone of his third collection of poems, Gli strumenti umani (Human Instruments), with new lyrical references to Luino and Verbania. In the poem Il piatto piange il gioco di azzardo nel "sottoscala" del palazzo, "qualche metro sotto il filo del suolo", seems to offer a moment of respite to the life of the provincial "vitelloni", before "una voce di vento" (a windy voice) arrives to upset everyone's cards.

1970-2012. From hotel to cultural centre

1970. Luino is awarded the title of 'city' by decree of the President of the Republic.
1971-72. Hotel Verbania closes.
1973-1978. In 1973 the municipality of Luino decides to renovate the former hotel to house the Civic Institute of Popular Culture (active elsewhere since 1968), the library and a small museum.
1975, August-October. The first exhibition in Palazzo Verbania, Sacro e profano nella pittura di Bernardino Luini (Sacred and profane in the paintings of Bernardino Luini), dedicated to the well-known painter, one of the greatest representatives of Renaissance painting after Leonardo and a native of the valleys above Luino, is opened to the public. The avant-garde setting, the captivating graphics (Roberto Sambonet) and the video and audio installations (Livio and Piero Castiglioni) give the exhibition the value of an experiment on all levels, as confirmed by the 11 November review on the cultural page of 'Le Monde'.
1976-2012. Palazzo Verbania confirms its role as a national and international cultural salon thanks to important art exhibitions (Enrico Baj, Alberto Burri, Franco Rognoni, Mario Sironi, Emilio Tadini, Paolo Troubetzkoy, Valentino Vago), concerts (memorable appointments of the Momenti musicali or Giorgio Gaslini's jazz lecture) and conferences on history, religion, law, philosophy, literature and poetry.
1979. The first issue of La Rotonda is published, an almanac wanted by Chiara and Sereni (with the help of other friends and an enlightened editor, Francesco Nastro) to start a new association with Luino and participate in its cultural and civil revival. The annual presentation of the magazine (later renamed the Rondò) would become one of the most popular events at Palazzo Verbania. 1979. Piero Chiara publishes Una spina nel cuore. The author relives his youthful and ill-fated love affair with Caterina, consummated in the secluded rooms of the pre-war Verbania hotel, and the years of painful separation from Luino.
1981. Sereni's last homage to Palazzo Verbania appears in the magazine "Week-end": "... the worldly elegance of the past flocked to a Kursaal with a terrace overlooking the lake for glittering parties and banquets".
1983, 10 February. Vittorio Sereni died in Milan.
1986, 31 December. Piero Chiara dies in Varese. Chiara and Sereni rest in Luino cemetery.

1998-2018. The Piero Chiara and Vittorio Sereni Archives. Verbania Palace is reborn

1998, December. The municipality of Luino, thanks to the interest of Dante Isella and the contribution of the Lombardy Region, acquires the Vittorio Sereni Archive, which represents the main nucleus of papers related to the poet's production. The archive is opened to scholars in the town library.
1999, May. The municipality of Luino acquires a nucleus of papers from Piero Chiara's private archive from his heirs.
2002-2005. The Vittorio Sereni Archive is enriched thanks to various donations from the heirs, including the fund regarding his employment at the Mondadori publishing house.
2007. The poet's personal library arrives in Luino, acquired thanks to the generosity of the Luino Lions Club and public and private sponsors.
2014. As part of agreements with the State Property Office and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the municipality of Luino acquires Palazzo Verbania free of charge, with the commitment of promoting its restoration as the home of the literary archives of Piero Chiara and Vittorio Sereni with a view to enhancing the rich heritage.
2015-2018. The restoration and enhancement work leads to a technical and functional adaptation of the palazzo and the rediscovery of the interior rooms in their former decorative values.
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