History
The tollhouses of Piazza Sempione - History

The tollhouses of Piazza Sempione are located to the sides of the imposing Arco della Pace, in the historic city centre of Milan. Combined with the Sforza Castle, Triennale and Civic Arena, the architectural complex is one of the emerging poles of Milanese culture, playing host to events of international importance.
Designed by architect Luigi Cagnola, with the Arco della Pace, and built at the end of the 1830s, the Levante and Ponente tollhouses are two quadrangular pavilions with a central plan and regular façades, characterised by porticoed entrances and rusticated finishing, a significant example of neoclassical architecture.
Situated at the start of the Strada del Sempione, which linked France and Italy, they marked one of the main entrances to the City of Milan aligned with the Sforza Castle and the original Piazza d'Armi, which is today known as Parco Sempione.
The tollhouses acted as customs offices for the collection of duty from visitors to Milan, and also marked the boundary between the city and the surrounding countryside. They ceased their function in June 1873 with the divestiture of the payment system and annexation of the Holy Bodies to Milan.
Over the years the tollhouses have had different functions and were damaged by heavy bombing in early 1943.
With time their condition has progressively deteriorated, until the recent restoration and reallocation by Pessina Costruzioni S.p.A.


Redevelopment and reallocation – Pessina Costruzioni S.p.A.

In 2014 the A.T.I. headed by Pessina Costruzioni was granted licence to use and promote the former tollhouses, after making a proposal in line with the State Property Agency's "Country-Residence Value" project to restore and promote assets of historical architectural interest. The call for tender was aimed at identifying a private entity to involve in the restoration and reallocation of the former Levante and Ponente tollhouses.
The project was curated by L22 Design Studio in Milan, aimed at recovering one of the city's symbolic spaces and returning its value to the district, as well as transforming it from a passing place to one where people stop and spend time.
The Ponente Tollhouse's area of approx. 720 sq m is today completely restored as an architectural volume in stone and glass. The full height of the atrium and the restored vestibule offer the visitor new glimpses of the piazza and the park's greenery. The aim of the project was to prefigure a unitary body to explore new paths. This is realised by an innovative element that adds complexity and dynamism to the pure volume of the atrium: a walkway-footbridge of steel and glass connecting the first floor balconies.
The glass entrance doors and colonnade optimise the usable surfaces and enhance the distinctive atrium and vestibule, transforming the internal usability of the tollhouse without altering the perception of its external volume.
The restoration has created a space that perfectly balances conservation and innovation.
North-west façade
The façade of the Ponente Tollhouse visible from Corso Sempione, with rusticated Viggiù stone finishing and plaster. The façade has a base of about one metre. Four baseless columns in Doric order with a one-metre diameter stem in pink Baveno granite mark the entrance to the monument, which is now enclosed by a glass wall and double door with an external opening providing a glimpse of the double-height atrium and the park's greenery. The colonnade supports an architrave with a frieze that runs along the entire perimeter, and is completed with a cornice and a pediment. To the sides of the columns are two windows, one rectangular on the first floor, and one with a round arch on the ground floor.
The main building is crowned by a square-shaped tower, with a four-pitch copper roof, which has an arched window on each side. In this view the windowed volume of the similarly rusticated hemicycle is visible.
North-east façade
The façade of the Ponente Tollhouse visible from Arco della Pace, with rusticated Viggiù stone finishing and plaster. The façade has a base of about one metre. Four baseless columns in Doric order with a one-metre diameter stem in pink Baveno granite mark the entrance to the monument, which is now enclosed by a glass wall and double door with an external opening. The colonnade supports an architrave with a frieze that runs along the entire perimeter, and is completed with a cornice and a pediment. To the sides of the columns are two windows, one rectangular on the first floor, and one with a round arch on the ground floor.
The main building is crowned by a square-shaped tower, with a four-pitch copper roof, which has an arched window on each side.