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On our first trip to Milan’s Terraforma Festival back in 2018, we called it “one of Europe’s low-key festival highlights”. Five years on, the same rings true.

Despite its reputation amongst those in the know as one of the most impeccably curated, well produced and picturesque high-points of the summer calendar, it has managed to maintain a pleasantly low profile. It hasn’t scaled up, watered down or sold out. Rather, its core ethos, spirit and family-like community remain unspoiled. For us and everyone there, returning this summer felt like a home coming of sorts.

Set in the manicured gardens of the gorgeous 17th century Villa Arconati – 30 minutes northwest of Milan – the location is the first thing that sets Terraforma apart. Two of the three stages are situated in shady corners of the villa’s lawned gardens, while a third is found in the middle of an annular hedge maze. Acts are timetabled one-by-one so that no two artists overlap and days are spent strolling between different parts of the estate, taking in the broad sonic spread laid on by the festival’s curators.

Over the years, a few key artists have become mainstays at Villa Arconti. Paqutia Gordon is one, and her set this year was a treat as ever – her drifting, ethereal selections echoing out through the slow humidity of the hot afternoon. Likewise, Donato Dozzy and Marco Shuttle – both more or less yearly fixtures – returned and provided one of the festival’s undisputed highlights, closing out the weekend with an open-ended, freewheeling back-to-back set amidst thunderstorms and a total lighting blackout.

2023’s edition also marked a widening in scope for the festival’s curation. During the daytime, the programme leaned into more live music than previous iterations with daytime matinee performances. These were the result of a collaboration with New York platform Blank Forms, which helped curate a series of concerts and talks that placed contemporary names like Beatrice Dillon, Nkisi and Hudson Mohawke alongside more eclectic and unexpected treats: reggae legend Dennis Bovell MBE and Moroccan folk band The Master Musicians of Jajouka amongst them. Then, in the evenings, as the heat of the day subsided, the energy shifted at the hands of some of the best DJs around – Batu and Josey Rebelle being unsurprising highlights.

Crack photographer Femke Campbell was on the ground capturing candid scenes from the perspective of the crowd and the performers. Check out her photos in the gallery below.