Villa Torlonia (Rome)
For other villas of this name, see Villa Torlonia
Villa Torlonia
Villa Torlonia is the name applied to several country retreats of the Torlonia princely family in the outskirts of the city of Rome, in Frascati, Lazio, including:*Villa Torlonia *Villa Torlonia, San Mauro Pascoli*in Rome:...


Villa Torlonia is a villa and surrounding gardens in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, formerly belonging to the Torlonia
200px|thumb|Coat of arms of the House of Torlonia.The princes Torlonia are an Italian noble family from Rome, who acquired a huge fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries through administering the finances of the Vatican.-History:...

 family. It is entered from via Nomentana
Via Nomentana
Via Nomentana is an ancient road of Italy, leading North-East from Rome to Nomentum , a distance of . It originally bore the name Via Ficulnensis, from the old Latin village of Ficulnea, about from Rome. It was subsequently prolonged to Nomentum, but never became an important high road, and merged...


It was designed by the neo-Classic architect Giuseppe Valadier
Giuseppe Valadier
Giuseppe Valadier was an Italian architect and designer, urban planner and archeologist, a chief exponent of Neoclassicism in Italy.-Biography:...

. Construction began in 1806 for the banker Giovanni Torlonia
Giovanni Torlonia, 1st Prince di Civitella-Cesi
Giovanni Raimondo Torlonia , son of Marino Torlonia and Marie Cambray, was a Franco-Italian noble of the Torlonia family....

 (1756–1829) and was finished by his son Alessandro
Alessandro Torlonia, 2nd Prince di Civitella-Cesi
Don Alessandro Torlonia, of the House of Torlonia, was an Italian nobleman titled Duca di Ceri, Prince di Fucino. He was the second Prince of Civitella-Cesi, and the son of Giovanni Torlonia. He greatly expanded Villa Torlonia, which was started by his father....

 (1800–1880). Disused for a time, Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 rented it from the Torlonia for one lira a year to use as his state residence from the 1920s onwards. It was abandoned after 1945, and allowed to decay in the following decades, but recent restoration work has allowed it to be opened to the public as a museum owned and operated by Rome's municipality.

Buildings and grounds

Between 1802 and 1806 Valadier turned the main building into a palace, and transformed other buildings. He also laid out the park with symmetrical avenues around the palace. Numerous works of classical art, many of which were sculptures, were purchased to furnish the palace. Following the death of Giovanni, Alessandro commissioned the painter and architect Giovan Battisti Caretti in 1832 to further develop the property. In addition to expanding the buildings, Caretti constructed several buildings in the park. These included the False Ruins, the Temple of Saturn, and the Tribuna con Fontana. To plan and carry out other works Alessandro employed Quintiliano Raimondi for the theatre and orangerie (today known as the “Lemon-house”), and Giuseppe Jappelli
Giuseppe Jappelli
Giuseppe Jappelli was an Italian neoclassic architect and engineer who was born and died in Venice. He studied at the Clementine Academy in Bologna. In 1836–7, he traveled to France and England, an experience that would be formative on his career as a park architect. His best known work is...

, who was in charge of the entire south section of the grounds, which he transformed with avenues, small lakes, exotic plants and unusual buildings. These included the Swiss Hut (later rebuilt as the Casina delle Civette), the Conservatory
Conservatory (greenhouse)
A conservatory is a room having glass roof and walls, typically attached to a house on only one side, used as a greenhouse or a sunroom...

, the Tower and Moorish
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

A grotto is any type of natural or artificial cave that is associated with modern, historic or prehistoric use by humans. When it is not an artificial garden feature, a grotto is often a small cave near water and often flooded or liable to flood at high tide...

, and the Tournament Field. The project culminated in 1842 with the erection of two pink granite obelisks that commemorated Alessandro’s parents.

In 1919 a large underground 3rd and 4th century Jewish catacomb was discovered in the north-west area of the grounds. In 1925 the Villa was given to Mussolini as a residence, where he remained until 1943, with few changes to the structures. An air-raid shelter was built into the catacombs by Prince Torlonia and Mussolini.
In the grounds Mussolini's wife created vegetable gardens. In June 1944 the property was all occupied by the Allied High Command which remained there until 1947. The Villa was bought by the Municipality of Rome in 1977 and a year later it was opened to the public, but with many of the buildings in a run-down state. Restoration was initiated in the 1990s, and has been completed with the exception of the Theatre and Moorish Conservatory. The landscaped grounds are in the English 'picturesque
Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal introduced into English cultural debate in 1782 by William Gilpin in Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770, a practical book which instructed England's...

' style.

The museum

The museum in the villa contains a small collection of pieces of statuary from the Torlonia collection found in the Villa and several pieces found in the gardens. Giovanni and Alessandro were for almost a century leading figures in the field of art collecting. The works exhibited were in part
produced by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi
Bartolomeo Cavaceppi
Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was an Italian sculptor who worked in Rome, where he trained in the studio of the acclimatized Frenchman, Pierre-Étienne Monnot, and then in the workshop of Carlo Antonio Napolioni, a restorer of sculptures for Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who was to become a major patron of...

 (1716–1799), an eighteenth-century sculptor, restorer and antiques dealer, following Giovanni’s purchase in 1800 of all the works in Cavaceppi’s studio. Other exhibits come from other Torlonia properties and include pieces of the Villa’s furniture that managed to survive the years of neglect. Other exhibits include three plaster reliefs by Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova
Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

, a woman’s head in the style of Michelangelo, several pieces of furniture,and a marble pediment taken from a tomb on the Appian Way
Appian Way
The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy...

. All of these were discovered in the basement of the theatre in the gardens. A final section of the museum is the reconstructed Bedchamber of Giovanni Torlonia (1872–1938), with the pieces of furniture that were used by Benito Mussolini during the period he resided in the Villa.

Casina delle Civette

The Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls) results from a series of additions to the nineteenth century “Swiss Cabin”, which was originally intended as a refuge from the formality of the main residence. It was designed in 1840 by Jappelli. The outside of the house was faced with blocks of tufo, while the inside was painted in tempera
Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium . Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist...

. The complex now consists of two buildings, the principle house and the annex, connected by a small wooden gallery and an underground passage. These buildings bear little resemblance to the original. In 1908, work began to convert the small building into a residence with huge windows, loggia
Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall...

s, portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

s and turret
In architecture, a turret is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle. Turrets were used to provide a projecting defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification...

s, decorated with majolica
Maiolica is Italian tin-glazed pottery dating from the Renaissance. It is decorated in bright colours on a white background, frequently depicting historical and legendary scenes.-Name:...

 and stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

. From 1916 the building began to be known as the “House of the Owls”, probably because the motif of the owl is used widely in the decorations and furnishings. Casina delle Civette can be visited as part of the museum. The twenty rooms include 54 pieces of stained glass replaced, after restoration, in their original positions, 18 pieces of stained glass acquired and displayed on separate frames, and 105 sketches and preparatory cartoons for stained glass.

External links

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