What to see in Rome | Villa Torlonia

November 18, 2018

This beautiful estate with a fascinating villa used to belong to Rome’s nobility. It is comprised of three villas “Casino Nobile”, “Casina delle Civette”, “Casino dei Principi” that together hold an eclectic collection of sculpture, paintings, furnishing and decorative stained glass.

One of a very few English style gardens in Rome still persists among the beautiful historic villas which add a certain allure to this magnificent place that holds even more wonders within its walls. This beautiful estate, which was formerly belonging to the Pamphilj family, was purchased in 1797 by Giovanni Torlonia once he inherited the title of Marchese and for the sake of confirming his new status. An architect Giuseppe Valadier was hired to renovate the property with a task to raise it to the standard of other noble families villas. And so between 1802 and 1806 glorious transformations took place, beginning with the main building being converted into a sophisticated palace, the small Casino Abbati (today Casino dei Principi) turned into a very stylish palazzina. He also designed the appearance of the park by creating symmetrical avenues, perpendicular to each other with the palace in a central position.

Villa Torlonia Casino Nobile in Rome
Casino Nobile

The lavishly decorated interior was composed out of many works of Classical art, mainly made out of sculptures. The Casino Nobile with its oversized neoclassical facade is quite an impressive sight with a specifically lavishing interiors that are filled with Torlonia family’s collection of sculptures and early 20th-century painting from the Roman School of Art. This was the main building of Villa Torlonia which was neglected and then restored to its previous 19th-century glory with its abundance in decorative elements by the most famous artists of the time.

Interior of Villa Torlonia
Interior of Villa Torlonia

Encircling the grand Ballroom, a central figure to the building, there are rooms which exhibit Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, Neoclassical style and even an Egyptian room on the upper floor. Everything set in the rooms from sculptures to furniture is a manifestation of luxury and sumptuousness, documenting the culture and art of that time. Sculptures exhibited throughout the villa include creations from the ancient and neoclassical period. The second floor houses the Museum of the Roman School of Art which presents a collection of valuable works by the artists that belonged to the Roman School. Through about 150 works the artistic world of that period is depicted and brought back to life. On the ground floor, you will come across two rooms, which are dedicated to presenting the documented history of the Villa and its family, be it through film projections or photographic and educational panels.

 

The basement holds the anti-gas bunker and the anti-aircraft bunker made out of Jewish catacombs from the 3rd and 4th century which existed underneath the villa. These were created from the period of 1925 until 1943 when Mussolini together with his family used the villa as his residency.  Giovanni Torlonia Junior rented the villa to Mussolini for a symbolic price of 1 lire and with that, he moved into the Casina delle Civette leaving the main villa to Mussolini. As the war finished the villa was left unattended which caused it to become a ruin up until 1978 when the city of Rome bought it and transformed it into a public park.

Casina delle Civette at villa Torlonia in Rome
Casina Delle Civette

La Casina delle Civette also known as the House of the Owls is another gem on this property that will be both a delight and a surprise. It was designed in 1840 by the famous architect G.Jappelli and then restored in 1917-20 to become what has been since 1997 a home to an interesting museum dedicated to the artistic stained glass.

The windows that adorn this quite interesting looking villa, much like a Swiss Cabin, are made out of the wonderful stained glass with a famous one depicting two owls among ivy sprouts. The owl is a quite frequent decorative motif used almost obsessively in the decorations and the furnishings of the house. However, the stained glass which embellishes the house serves as the most distinctive feature and something worth paying attention to, because it is a representation of a unique moment in the international artistic attitude of that time.

Stained Glass in Villa Torlonia

What today is Rome’s most unusual and interesting building of the early years of the previous century was destroyed in 1944 during the occupation of Anglo-American troops and then by the following fire together with theft and vandalism. It was due to meticulous and long restorations carried out from 1992 until 1997 that the much like the original state of the house was able to come back into life.

Small and refined the Casino dei Principi is rich both in its exterior and interior decor, a Neo-Cinquecento style house which was restored in 2002. It houses the Archives of the Roman School on the ground floor and the two other grand floors are used for temporary exhibitions. An interesting thing is that it is connected to the Casino Nobile by a tunnel. On the estate and as part of Villa Torlonia there is Teatro diVillaa Torlonia, renovated and opened in 2013.

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