Over the past 16 months, travel has been almost non-existent. Though summer has meant a brief reintroduction to life after COVID-19—fingers crossed—for those in the Northern Hemisphere, jetting overseas is still limited, even for those in possession of the illustrious double vaxx passport.
But despite the repetitiveness of a working from home schedule, being grounded in one spot for an extended period of time does have its perks. There’s the ease of routine when decadent holidays are out of the question, the money you’re saving by not going away, and the opportunity to explore parts of the country you live in that you otherwise might have missed.
For those in Italy, the Crespi Bonsai Museum has been one such location. Located just a few kilometres away from the country’s fashion capital of Milan, the space, which opened in 1991, is the first permanent bonsai museum in the world, transporting visitors and serving as a little Japanese escape, just 30 mins from the centre of the city.
Founded by painter, art merchant and historian Luigi Crespi, the Crespi Bonsai Museum was born from a vision to allow everyone in Crespi’s home country and beyond to be able to admire his favourite plant and, just as importantly, the culture behind it. The result is a precious collection, including centuries-old plants, antique pots and books and manuscripts from the Far East.
Crespi became interested in bonsai in 1959 at a time when in Europe the art was still practically unknown. Having nurtured his passion for nearly 20 years and after much travelling in places where bonsais are abundant, Crespi started importing the plant to Italy in 1979 through Crespi Bonsai, making his the first company in the country to do so.
At the heart of the Crespi Bonsai Museum is a passion for people to learn the culture in which the ancient art-form has its roots. In recent years, bonsais have become popularised worldwide—so much so that in a recent Architectural Digest home tour Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo revealed they left their entire old house’s furnishings and belongings behind when they moved, except for their bonsai trees, which are Prinsloo’s “other little kids.”
Year upon year the collection improves and expands, thanks to Crespi and the interventions of Master Nobuyuki Kajiwara, a teacher at the triennial course at the bonsai university. Today, the Crespi collection consists of around two hundred pieces, exposed on rotation according to the season. The current masterpiece, which always draws crowds of bonsai lovers, is the millennial Ficus retusa linn, which is aptly placed at the centre of a pagoda between two nineteenth-century wooden Chinese temple dogs. Bonsais aside, the library is also of extreme value, housing both antique and modern volumes, precious incunabula and rare texts from all over the world.
The museum is structured in cement and steel, combined with natural materials like slate and stone of barge with greenery and a celebration of nature in every corner, making it the perfect place for a GRAZIA photo shoot.
Below, see the imagery created at the Crespi Bonsai Museum and for more information about visiting the space, head here.