Villas and Gardens

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Roman Villas and Gardens

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The Gardens of Villa Borghese
17th cent

Villa Borghese and its vast park, Piazza di Siena

Villa Borghese is the “Central Park” of Rome, a large, landscaped public park in the English manner, with a zoo, several art museums, a race track and sundry other entertainment venues. In 1605, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and patron of Bernini, began turning this former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity. The vineyard's site is identified with the gardens of Lucullus, the most famous in the late Roman republic. In the 19th century much of the garden's original formality was remade as a landscape garden in the English taste.

Laghetto e Tempio di Esculapio

The Villa Borghese gardens were long informally open, but were bought by the commune of Rome and given to the public in 1903. The Spanish Steps lead up to this park, and there is another entrance at the Porte del Popolo (Piazza del Popolo). The Pincio (the Pincian Hill of ancient Rome), in the south part of the park, offers one of the greatest views over Rome.

Villa Borghese Pinciana
The Borghese villa, now museum, 17th cent

The Villa Borghese Pinciana is now an museum of art housing a substantial part of the Borghese collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities, begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V (reign 1605–1621). The Villa was built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, developing sketches by Scipione Borghese himself, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa at the edge of Rome.

Ucerellaria Borghese
The bird house,
19th cent

The Bird house in the Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese "Bioparc"
The Rome Zoo
, 1651

The lonely elephant. There are reportedly 1113 animals of 222 species in this Zoo...

A Roman Story:
The zoo was designed 1911 by Carl Hagenbeck, the famous German zoologist who designed the zoos in Hamburg Stellingen and in Berlin. The park was built in the style of that in Hamburg: generous green spaces, ditches and pits instead of bars.
This initial success did not hold. Attempts were made to stock the zoo with especially rare and exotic animals. Various park improvements were undertaken, and in 1926 a further expansion was planned into the neighboring red deer park. In 1933, the architect Raffaele De Vico began this work in the new areas, which were to hold two main attractions: a large aviary and a reptile house which opened in 1935.
This Fascist zoo deteriorated too, although several areas were renovated and others fully rebuilt. In 1970, the reptile house had to be abandoned due to its crumbling condition, its improvements took about nine years, and it was finally reopened in 1983.
In 1994 the idea took hold to convert the zoo into a "biopark" (bioparco). In 1997 a master plan was produced based on the principles of the Gilman Foundation. In April 1998, the organization Bioparco S.p.A. was established financed by the city of Rome with 51%, from Costa Edutainment 39%, and 10% from Cecchi Gori.....
Ask Ulysse whether it is working now! His grandmother thinks so: they were both scared by the rhinoceros.

Villa Medici
The French Academy since 1803

Jean Alaux Picot in his studio at the Villa Medici, 1817

The Villa Medici is a mannerist villa and an architectural complex with a garden contiguous with the larger Borghese gardens, on the Pincian Hill next to the church Trinità dei Monti. It was founded by Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and is now property of the French State. It has housed the French Academy in Rome since 1803.

Viale Trinità dei Monti, 1 (Turn left at the top of the Spanish Steps. About 200m on your right.), ☎Tel: 06-98968905, Guided tour of gardens in English daily at 11.45.

Casino dell'Aurora - Villa Ludovisi
17th cent

The Casino dell'Aurora is all that remains of a country retreat, once known as Villa Ludovisi.

The Villa Ludovisi was a suburban villa built in the 17th century on an area once occupied by the Gardens of Sallust (Horti Sallustiani) near the Porta Salaria. On an assemblage of vineyards purchased from Giovanni Antonio Orsini, Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monti and Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi erected in the 1620s the main villa building to designs by Domenichino in part to house his collection of Roman antiquities.
İn 1885, despite protests by the intellectuals, its last owner, Don Rodolfo Boncompagni Ludovisi, Prince of Piombino, sold the property to the Società Generale Immobiliare; it was divided into building lots. The sculptures were dispersed, and most of the buildings destroyed, the only one to remain being the Casino dell'Aurora. The Via Veneto was driven through its grounds, part of which are occupied by the American Embassy in Palazzo Margherita, and the name Rione Ludovisi took shape, borrowing its district name from the cardinal and his villa.

Villa Albani
Via Salaria, 92,

The forgotten Villa Albani

Villa Albani is one of the forgotten places in Rome, yet it is in the highest expression of fine antiquarian taste of the middle of the eighteenth century.
The villa was built by Carlo Marchionni to house the collection of ancient sculptures of Cardinal Alessandro Albani.
The construction took place from 1746 to 1767, during the transition from the Rococo to Neoclassicism, at a time when Rome had become the Mecca of the Grand Tour. The archaeological collection was removed to Paris by Napoleon and only partially returned in 1815. It consists of original Greek and Roman sculptures located in various buildings of the villa, which passed in 1817 to the Castelbarco family and was purchased in 1866 by Prince Alessandro Torlonia.
Cardinal Albani was assisted by Johann Joachim Winckelmann in the arrangement of his collection; from 1759 to his death in 1768 Winckelmann spent most of his time at Villa Albani studying the collection.

Visits allowed from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM.
Address: Via Salaria, 92, Rome. Ph. +39 066 861 044. Bus no. 92, 63, 630, 86. Tram 19
Text from an Italian Guide Book

Another illustrated source is Rome-Lover English Guide Book

Villa Wolkonsky
Adjacent to Piazza San Giovani in Laterano,

The colorful story of the charming Villa of Zenaïda Wolkonskaya.
Villa Wolkonsky was originally owned by the Russian princess, Zenaǐda Wolkonskaya, who made her home there in the 1830s. Her salon was frequented by Karl Bruillov, Alexander Ivanov, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Gaetano Donizetti, Stendhal, and Sir Walter Scott. Nikolai Gogol wrote much of Dead Souls at the villa. Subsequently it passed through various ownerships until it was sold to the German government in 1920, becoming the German embassy and ambassador's residence.

After the Liberation of Rome in 1944, the Italian government sequestrated the property, and it was placed under the Allied Control Commission. For a short time it was occupied by the Swiss legation and then the Italian Red Cross. When the British embassy at Rome's Porta Pia was blown up by members of the clandestine militant Zionist group Irgun on 31 October 1946, the Italian government made the Villa available to the British government to use as a temporary embassy and residence. The United Kingdom purchased the Villa in 1951.
When the new UK Embassy was reopened at its original location in 1971, the offices moved back to Porta Pia and the Villa reverted to its role as Her Majesty's Ambassador's Residence. On the same grounds are outbuildings containing apartments for senior embassy officials.
The Villa itself is frequently used for seminars and workshops, and is also rented out to appropriate academic or commercial organisations for major events.
The extensive grounds are the jewel of the Villa and still contain many plants originally introduced by Princess Wolkonsky. A recent tree and plant census listed around 200 different species.

Villa Torlonia
Via Nomentana 70,
19th cent

Casina delle Civette
Rome's "Hollywood-style" haunted houses from the 19th century...

Villa Torlonia was designed by the neo-Classic architect Giuseppe Valadier. Construction began in 1806 for the banker Giovanni Torlonia (1756–1829) and was finished by his son Alessandro (1800–1880). Disused for a time, Mussolini 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.

ceiling, Casina delle Civette

Fake Roman ruins at Villa Torlonia

Via Nomentana 70 (in grounds of Villa Torlonia. Bus 36 from Termini station),
Open: 09.00-16.00 in winter and to 19.00 in summer. Reservations

Villa Massimo
Gerrman Academy in Rome,

Villa Massimo, Accademia Tedesca Roma Villa Massimo (Deutsche Akademie Rom Villa Massimo is a German art institute in Rome, established in 1910 and located in the Villa Massimo.
The fellowship at the German Academy Rome Villa Massimo represents one of the most voveted awards offered to German artists for study abroad. The award offers residency for one year at the Villa Massimo to ten artists in the middle of their careers, who have excelled in Germany and abroad, including architects, composers, writers and figurative artists.

Beautiful views of the city in the evening.

Michelangelo's dome at night.

Take a walk here, there is a bus from both sides. Bus 34, 46, 46b, 64, 98, 881, 982, and 916 (Oak Square), 23, 280 and 116 (Lungotevere Gianicolense), 870 (Garibaldi Square)

Villa Lante
On the southern end of the Gianicolo above Trastevere,
16th cent

This summer house was designed by Giulio Romano during the early part of the 16th century and came into the ownership of Ippolito Lante, Montefeltro della Rovere, Duke of Bomarzo, during the 17th century. The later impoverished Lante family had to sell the Villa Lante in Rome by the early 19th century.
After the sale the house belonged, among others, to the German archaeologist Wolfgang Helbig in the late 19th century. Today, the property is owned by the Republic of Finland through Senate Properties, and the building houses the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the Embassy of Finland to the Holy See.

Villa Doria Pamphili
On Gianicolo,
17th cent

The Villa Doria Pamphili is a seventeenth century villa with a large landscaped public park. It is located in the quarter of Monteverde, on the Gianicolo, just outside the Porta San Pancrazio in the ancient walls of Rome where the ancient road of the Via Aurelia commences.
It began as a villa for the Pamphili family and when the line died out in the eighteenth century, it passed to Prince Giovanni Andrea IV Doria from which time it has been known as the Villa Doria Pamphil

Villa Madama
Overlooking the Forum (Mussolini) Italico,
restored 1925

The Villa Madama with its loggia and segmental columned garden court and its casino with an open center, was one of the most famous and imitated pleasure villas of the High Renaissance
The palace is at the lower slopes of Monte Mario, on the west bank of the Tiber, a few miles north of the Vatican, and just south of the Foro Olimpico Stadium.

The villa was restored by Carlo, Count Dentice di Frasso, who acquired the property in 1925, and his American wife, the former Dorothy Cadwell Taylor. Eventually the Frassos leased it to the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and it was soon purchased by Mussolini in 1941. Mussolini's monumental neo-Roman Foro Italico sports complex is next to the villa, on the site of its racetrack.

Prime Minister Berlusconi having his arm around Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara on an official state visit to Villa Madama

Villa Madama is the property of the Italian Government, which uses it for international guests and press conferences. Entrance is limited and touring of gardens requires prior permission with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Palazzo della Cancelleria (Pontifical)
Off Corso Vittore Emanuele,

Courtyard of the palazzo

The Palazzo della Cancelleria (the Papal Chancellery) was built between 1489–1513 by an unknown architect as a palace for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, Camerlengo and is regarded as the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome. The palazzo houses the Papal Chancellery, and is an exclave of the Vatican, not subject to Italian sovereignty.
In the palazzo is a vast mural that Giorgio Vasari completed in a mere 100 days (therefore called Sala dei Cento Giorni).

Villa Farnesina
on the Trastevere embankment of the Tiber,
not to be confused with Palazzo Galleria Farnese across the river

The villa with the now glazed loggia

The villa was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and the treasurer of Pope Julius II. Between 1506–1510, the Sienese artist and pupil of Bramante. Baldassarre Peruzzi and Giuliano da Sangallo designed and erected the villa. The novelty of this suburban villa design can be discerned from its differences from that of a typical urban palazzo (palace). Renaissance palaces typically faced onto a street and were decorated versions of defensive castles: rectangular blocks with rusticated ground floors and enclosing a courtyard. This villa, intended to be an airy summer pavilion, presented a side towards the street and was given a U shaped plan with a five bay loggia between the arms. In the original arrangement, the main entrance was through the north facing loggia which was open. Today, visitors enter on the south side and the loggia is glazed.
Chigi also commissioned the fresco decoration of the villa by artists such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and Il Sodoma. The themes were inspired by the Stanze of the poet Angelo Poliziano, a key member of the circle of Lorenzo de Medici. Best known are Raphael's frescoes on the ground floor; in the loggia depicting the classical and secular myths of Cupid and Psyche, and The Triumph of Galatea. This, one of his few purely secular paintings, shows the near-naked nymph on a shell-shaped chariot amid frolicking attendants and is reminiscent of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
At first floor level, Peruzzi painted the main salone with trompe-l'œil frescoes of a painted grand open loggia with city and countryside views beyond. The perspective view only works from a fixed point in the room otherwise the illusion is broken. In the adjoining bedroom, Sodoma painted scenes from the life of Alexander the Great.

Via della Lungara 230 (on the northern edge of Trastevere), ☎ +39 6 6802 7268. Mon-Sat, 9AM-1PM.

Palazzo Galleria Farnese
Piazza Farnese 67 close to Campo de'Fiori,

The Galleria Farnese 

Palazzo Farnese is a High-Renaissance palace, which currently houses the French embassy, the Ecole Française de Rome, and the Galleria of Alessandro Farnese (Pope Paul III)
First designed in 1517 for the Farnese family, the palace building expanded in size and conception when Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III in 1534, to designs by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, its building history involved some of the most prominent Italian architects of the 16th century, including Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta.

At the end of the 16th century, the important fresco cycle of “The Loves of the Gods” in the Farnese Gallery was painted by the Bolognese painter Annibale Carracci, marking the beginning of two divergent trends in painting during the 17th century, the Roman High Baroque and Classicism.
The famous Farnese sculpture collection, now in the National Archeological Museum of Naples, as well as other Farnese collections, now mostly in Capodimonte Museum in Naples, used to be in this place.

Piazza Farnese 67, ☎ +39 06 68892818. call for opening times.

Via Giulia
A most alluring street parallel to the Tiber behind Palazzo Galleria Farnese

Il Mascherone fountain in the Via Giulia behind the Palazzo Farnese (French Embassy)
“Un mascherone è una scultura o una decorazione raffigurante un volto umano, animale o di fantasia.”

L'Arco Farnese right next to Il Mascherone in beguiling Via Giulia

Villa Chigi
Via di Villa Chigi, east of Villa Ada,
17th cent

The gardens of Villa Chigi behind Cornelius' house in Rome.
Built by the same Chigi as the Villa Farnesina. Owned by the State. No information found in the internet.

Villa Ada
A large park in the northeast of the city of Rome, 19th cent. a favorite with Cornelius

The 182 hectares wooded expanse was owned by the Italian royal House of Savoy in the latter half of the nineteenth century; it contained the royal residence (1872–1878). In 1878 the area came under the control of Count Tellfner of Switzerland, who named it in honor of his wife Ada. The royal family regained control of the land in 1904 but did not change the name. They retained control of the area until 1946.
As of 2009 the area contains both public and private areas. The public area is controlled by the Council of Rome; the private area is controlled by the Egyptian Embassy, although the Town Council has made a formal claim to take control of the whole area.

Bus no. 92, 310, 63, 630, 86

Villa d'Este Tivoli
In Tivoli outside of Rome,
17th cent

The Villa d'Este was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, son of Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia, a grandson(!) of Pope Alexander VI.
He had been appointed Governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III, with the gift of the existing villa, which he had entirely reconstructed to plans of Pirro Ligorio carried out under the direction of the court architect of the Este, Alberto Galvani.
The chief painter of the ambitious internal decoration was Livio Agresti from Forlì. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, Cardinal d'Este created a palatial setting surrounded by a spectacular terraced garden in the late-Renaissance mannerist style, which took full advantage of the dramatic slope but required innovations in bringing a sufficient water supply, which was employed in cascades, water tanks, troughs and pools, water jets and fountains, giochi d'acqua. The result is one of the great villas of the 17th century with water-play structures in the hills.

Villa Adriana, Tivoli
Emperor Hadrian's Villa outside of Rome,
220-230 AD

The villa was constructed at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) as a retreat from Rome for Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second and third decades of the 2nd century AD. Hadrian was said to dislike the palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome, leading to the construction of the retreat. During the later years of his reign, he actually governed the empire from the villa. A large court therefore lived there permanently.

During the decline of the Roman Empire the villa fell into disuse and was partially ruined. In the 16th century Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este had much of the marble and statues in Hadrian's villa removed to decorate his own Villa d'Este located nearby.

Il Teatro marittimo

An interesting structure in the Villa is the so-called "Maritime Theatre". It consists of a round portico with a barrel vault supported by pillars. Inside the portico was a ring-shaped pool with a central island. During the ancient times the island was connected to the portico by two drawbridges. On the island sits a small Roman house complete with an atrium, a library, a triclinium and small baths. The area was probably used by the emperor as a retreat from the busy life at the court.

The area has an extensive network of underground tunnels. The tunnels were mostly used to transport servants and goods from one area to another. The paths and roads above ground were reserved for more high-ranking residents of the Villa. Domes and barrel vaults are used extensively.