The Maison de l’Italie was constructed late due to the political context of the interwar period. The initiative for a Maison de l’Italie at the Cité internationale came from a “Committee for the Italian Student Building in Paris” that was created in 1951 and chaired by the senator Enrico Falck, who succeeded the senator Achille Marazza. Since 1953, this committee has managed to collect a large amount of the funds necessary for its construction, thanks to generous donations from the Italian State and public and private foundations such as the Italian Rotary Club. The project was graciously realised by Piero Portaluppi, a rotary club member and dean of the faculty of architecture in Milan.
The Maison de l’Italie was inaugurated on the 25th of January 1958 by René Coty, president of the French Republic and Cesare Merzagora, president of the Italian Senate.
Renovated in 1993 and 2010, the house has been visited by three presidents of the Italian Republic: Giovanni Gronchi in November 1956, Sandro Pertini in July 1982 and Giorgio Napolitano on the 29th of September 2010 as well as several other statesmen and Italian figures.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by the Italian ambassador in France.
Loyal to the spirit of the thirties, the building combines the rationality of the composition with the grand classical Italian tradition. It has elements that are characteristic of this tradition such as its arched porch on the ground floor and its iconic capitals in the fourth-floor gallery.
In order to reinforce the impression of its Italian link reused elements are integrated into the façades: its entrance porch dates from the 15th century, and is punctuated by pilasters and topped with a triangular pediment; its balcony windows from the 14th century are from Sulmona and its baroque chimney from the 17th century is from Mantua. The hip roof is covered in Roman tiles. Fragments of ruins are arranged in the garden and under the loggia in order to recall the ambiance of Roman monuments such as the cypress trees and Italian pines.
The building was completely renovated in 1993 thanks to funding from the Italian state, the Rotary Club and several Italian banks. It was the object of new work undertaken in 2009 to improve the rooms’ comfort and to increase its capacity.
The house has 88 rooms.
Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012): Italian writer, translator and professor was a specialist in the literature of the old continent, translator of Fernando Pessoa, director of the Italian Cultural Centre in Lisbon at the end of the 1980s. His first international success was the novel “Indian Nocturne” (1984) which was awarded the Prix Médicis in France.
Inside the house you can admire the 14th century fresco from the Santa Maria dei Servi de Milan church that was destroyed in 1847. This work, crated by an anonymous Lombard painter depicting Saint Francis receiving the stigmata and Saint Christopher is from the Pinaoteca in Brera in Milan. It was entirely restored in 2008 in Italy.