Villa Silvia, owned by the Countess Silvia Pasolini Zanelli since 1874, is set in a large park a few kilometres from Cesena. For many years, it hosted illustrious men of culture during their vacations, Giosuè Carducci foremost among them. Since 2007, this 18th century villa is the headquarters of the Italian Association of Mechanical Music (AMMI – Associazione Italiana della Musica Meccanica) – and houses Musicalia, a museum dedicated to the birth and development of mechanical music.
The museum features valuable antique sound machines in seven different halls, each depicting a particular setting: the hall of a typical 20th century Grand Hotel with dead-weight and spring-loaded instruments; the Stanza delle piazze, dedicated to large fairground organs, with the huge 200-pipe Gavioli organ that used perforated cardboard book music; a 16th century war tent with a functioning replica of a mechanical drum designed by Leonardo da Vinci; a late-19th century drawing room with instruments used by the upper bourgeoisie of the time, such as a home barrel organ with music “engraved” on metal discs or paper rolls; a street scene with acrobats and street musicians playing popular tunes on barrel pianos and portable organs; and the Hall of Sound Recordings dedicated to Thomas A. Edison and original instruments to record music and words.
They are followed by the Hall of the Queen, set up in the early 20th century to welcome a visiting Queen Margherita; the hall features a piano melodico built in Bologna by Giovanni Racca, which piano did indeed once belong to the Queen.
In addition to Musicalia, Villa Silvia-Carducci also hosts cultural events, a study centre, a bookshop, and an extensive library dedicated – it goes without saying – to mechanical music.