Private property, open to the public
The elegant neoclassical façade of the palazzo, built in foundation according to her wishes, looks over the wide square named after the last descendant, Carlo D’Arco. Today, the museum house displays the forms designed by the architect Antonio Colonna, commissioned by Count Giovan Battista Gherardo d’Arco in 1783 to renovate the building derived from the union of various buildings, of which some belonging to the Gonzaga family since the 16th century, and today overlooking the internal garden, such as the famous Sala dello Zodiaco attributed to Giovanni Maria Falconetto and to the commission of Luigi Gonzaga between 1518 and 1522.
Whilst, in the second half of the 16th century, it appears that the property did not feature a garden and, instead, citrus trees were grown in boxes in the corticella (small courtyard), a garden had certainly been commissioned by the Gonzaga family by the second half of the following century. It is shown on a map from 1778, divided into two squares by parallel hedgerows with other central, ornamental plants. The Raineri map of 1831 shows it to be divided into four parts by paths, with another small garden alongside with a central flowerbed.
In 1851, the Austrian Engineering Corps occupied part of the garden, separating it off from the rest with a wall, and established the obligation of allowing passage to the patrol.
From 1874 – and again in 1881 and 1935 – a series of demolitions took place to extend and transform the pre-existing green spaces into a romantic garden. Various species were planted, of which a large proportion still exist today, using the decorative stone elements from the demolished building to simulate ruins.
Today, the garden covers around 3,000 square metres and has even incorporated the garden of the neighbouring Palazzo Chieppio, although it remains completely hidden from view from the outside. It is crisscrossed with paths and divided into three main areas: the central area that extends outwards from the exedra; the western area, overlooked by the lemon garden filled with trees and medicinal and aromatic herbs; the eastern area, embellished with ancient marble statues, which best preserves the romantic structure.
(From L. Valli, Il giardino del Palazzo dei Gonzaga presso il monastero di San Francesco, oggi Palazzo d’Arco, in I giardini dei Gonzaga 2018, pp. 314-320)