La Cascina Roma, located behind the old church of San Donato , and in front of the new church, shows its north face to the small square (named nowadays “Piazza delle Arti”), which opens up on via Martiri di Cefalonia. The building we can see today, was the main portion of an estate, formed, as it typically happened with the 19th Century big farms in Lombardy, by various units, now disappeared, which were destined to many different uses: stables, barns, shops and houses for the peasants and laborers.
Its plant, however, and even more its position at the back of the church, suggests that this building could have been in ancient times a monastery, forerunner of the most famous ones of Chiaravalle and Viboldone. Its oldest part, which coincides with the wing overlooking via Martiri di Cefalonia, dates back to the Visconti era (end of the 15th century) and has come down to us after many restorations and partial reconstructions.
There are no traces of the first owners. The building appears in the chronicles of the Battle of Marignano (the ancient Melegnano): at the end of the battle, the French king Francis I had lived here for a week (and received the tributes of the defeated nobles of Milan).
In 1526 it hosted also the historian Francesco Guicciardini, sent by Pope Clemente VII to coordinate the operations of the army of the Holy League, in an attempt (failed) to snatch the Duchy of Milan from Spain and give it back to the Sforzas.
In the seventeenth century the propriety was transfered to the Marquises Orsini “of Rome”, and it was ever since commonly named Casa Roma. In the nineteenth century, it was inherited by the Falcò family, and finally by the Brivios.
Until the second post-war years, Cascina Roma was an important farm, led by the Castelnuovo family. It is often named in the chronicles of the 30’s, as it won many awards of the Government as one of the most productive farms.
The renovations of 1994
It is worth mentioning the restoration, finished in 1994 and carried out by Architect Carlo Baccalini with great conservative rigour, using all the materials recovered from the collapsed parts (the building was indeed extremely degraded) and making the original structure visible, without hiding the history of the transformations operated to the building in five hundred years. On the stairs, it was highlighted the ancient terracotta handrail, dating back to the era preceding the last renovation, to which belong the mantelpieces and the decorations of the vaults and false ceilings, brought back to their original freshness. The recognized parts do not imitate the ancient, but they combine the modern materials and decorations with the original ones.
After the renovation, until today
Cascina Roma has survived almost miraculously to the periodical floods of the Redefossi and the disordered urbanization of the 60’s and 70’s.
The acquisition by the Municipality of San Donato and the accurate renovation of 1994 has brought it to a new life. Today it is the centre of the art and culture of San Donato Milanese, hosting many exhibitions, concerts, meetings and debates. The wide and elegant rooms of Cascina Roma on the ground floor host the newspaper library (for the reading of newspapers), a wedding hall, a conference room and an exhibition hall dedicated to the local artists and to the Photo exhibitions.
On the first floor, we can find a “gallery”, including seven rooms for important exhibitions and the gallery of contemporary art, displaying thirty works of painters and sculptors, bought by the municipality and donated by the artists or by their heirs. Finally, on the second floor, it has been created a concert hall, which is used also for conferences and debates, and which hosts the music season of San Donato, as well as literary and poetical events. The frequent and qualified cultural events taking place here, with a huge participation of the citizens of San Donato, have really brought Cascina Roma to a new life and at the same time they are valued by this framework.