So imagine walking in for the first time, in the heart of winter, and in the dark of this closed up building - with the exception of a caretaker who kept the roof on, uninhabited for the last 20 years - and through the cobwebs, seeing a dome with ceiling frescoes. Cracking open a dilapidated shutter and looking out over a snow covered maze garden.
I saw vaulted ceilings and arched windows that had been cemented in and needed opening up.
1980's carpet, linoleum tile, and piles of cement covered the floors, but where I could get a peak by pulling up an unglued corner, I could see the original terracotta tiles. Some wood ceiling beams were visible, and I had the correct suspicion that others were behind the recent paneling.
Love is in the details: the history of the building (papers dating back to and making reference to the French revolution), the rod iron balconies, the little angel above the stairwell, the fresh running mountain water in the basin behind the building, and the village neighbors.
One neighbor saw me and came over to tell me that when he was a boy he used to get Latin lessons, as all the children from the neighborhood, from the head nun, "Mère Sophie". He let me take his picture even though his nose was bleeding.
Casa Regis is named after the nobleman and physician, Sig. Regis, who originally lived here. He was philanthropic and distributed free medicine to the needy and eventually gave the building to a neice, Mère Sophie, to bring as a dowry when she joined the sisterhood. The nuns, who enjoyed the location as a summer retreat, were the last group to inhabit the building, even though it was passed on to the church in the 1990's. (See Sara Bojaniç's aticle)
So back to that cold first day, I already had starry eyes for what is called the "Nobleman's" section or the semi-detached villa, but once I saw all these rooms wrapping around a common courtyard, my vision was complete and my fate sealed. There was clearly so much potential for residencies with each guest/artist/writer having a work space while still being able to join a community setting.
While the altitude of this village makes winters snowy, it also makes for the perfect temperature for summer retreats. In my mind's eye, I saw the complete summer scene with hanging ivy, climbing wisteria and little lights, inspired by one of my favourite Milano courtyards, at the Sozzani gallery. With my background being in the arts, imagining Casa Regis - Center for culture and contemporary art was instantaneous!
So here you see the goal!
Would you like to participate and be a part of the salvation and restoration? Maybe you would like to do a retreat in the area.