Private property, visibile from outside
Following the riverbank from San Benedetto Po, at the entrance to the hamlet of Portiolo, you come across an imposing and ancient palazzo. The great coat of arms of the Gonzaga di Vescovato, overrun by creepers and wild vegetation, still holds tight to the little doorway to the vast lawn, the remains of the ancient formal garden. In 1419, the Corte di Portiolo, together with other property of the San Benedetto Abbey, was purchased by Guido Gonzaga, though whom it was passed down, in 1528, to Sigismondo Gonzaga. From that moment, Portiolo was to remain until the end of the 1800s part of the heritage of the House of Gonzaga di Vescovato and their descendants.
From 1528, the court boasted a vegetable garden and orchard and, in 1567, even a “bit of garden”. However, its appearance was only changed by the works commissioned by Fulvio Gonzaga – who resided at Portiolo permanently after its purchase in 1603. The adjacent farming land were developed significantly under Pirro Maria, heir of Fulvio, but the greatest interventions to transform the country house into a luxurious residence can be attributed to Ottavio Gonzaga and his heir, Pirro Maria II, as is shown in the ancient Mettacodi cadaster of 1690. The register shows the completed palazzo, fully represented with an imposing and structured garden system consisting of a formal garden, a roof garden, vegetable garden, orchard and a luogo delle verdure (vegetable place), in which aesthetic and productive features are combined in baroque style garden architecture, with pathways and views, pergolas low and high, roses and vines, one of which ends in a beautiful balcony suspended over a vast fishery.
When the male line died out in the early 1700s, the palazzo passed into female hands and was shared between the sisters Ippolita and Rosa, who created two separate residences, sacrificing the giardino in aria (suspended garden). Originally a closed court, new outside country buildings were developed from the end of the 1700s and the ancient country wing was lost. The layout of the complex took on a U shape, which, with the ancient garden reduced to farmland, encircled a new little garden that replaced the great farmyard.
(From M. Brignani, I giardini della Corte di Portiolo, in I giardini dei Gonzaga 2018, pp. 414-420)