Friday, 6 April 2012

Una Passeggiata alla Villa Torlonia

Villa Torlonia on Via Nomentana outside the walls of Rome near Porta Pia. This great estate was until 1945 the summer residence of the Princely Torlonia family, great supporters of the Fascist movement, like so many of the aristocratic families in Italy.
Porta Pia (in antiquity was known as Porta Nomentana)

As of 1926 Prince Torlonia invited Benito Mussolini to live in his palace, renting it out for 1 lira a year. The Prince who was elderly retired to a smaller pavilion in the park called Casa delle Civete, (house of the owls). When the Duce fell from power in July 1943, the estate was attacked by the mob and all the buildings were ransacked and burned. The wife of Mussolini and his children fled, the Torlonia family had moved to their other palaces. The Allied forces, namely the British army occupied the palace for a while as of 1944 but left in 1949, in the attic of the palace where army clerks worked, one wall is covered in rather beautiful pastoral scenes, drawn by a soldier. Villa Torlonia is not very far from the seat of the British Embassy at Porta Pia. The estate was left in a state of total abandonment until 1999, quite the eyesore in the centre of Rome.
Villa Torlonia entrance gate on Via Nomentana.

Then the mayor of Rome had the idea as a cultural revival and with the help of the European Union to restore the buildings of the estate. This restoration project has been on-going now for 12 years and is nearing completion.  I decided to take a walk around the Villa Torlonia to have a look and see the evolution of the project since we left Rome in August 2011.
the Moorish green house completely restored as it would have been in 1890
coloured glass, painted stucco and ironwork, an extravagant building for exotic trees.

The idea of this restoration of the estate on Via Nomentana was to show how a great family lived in the 19th century, with the commuting between the city residence and the outside the walls country residence.
The Torlonia family has other palaces in Rome, one very near the Vatican State now used as an administration office for their estates and properties in Italy, the other at Villa Albani, a baroque palace with gardens even larger than those of Villa Torlonia currently serves as their residence. They also have very large farm estate by the airport at Fiumicino with spectacular ruins of the ancient port of Rome which connects to the Tiber River.
The private theatre of the Torlonia family now restored, the column holds the ashes of Princess Torlonia who had this grand building built.

I took a walk around the park to see the main theatre built as a ballroom, dininghall and concert, theatre for the Torlonia to entertain large groups of friends. The other building I wanted to see was the Moorish house, an arabic style building which housed exotic trees and plants during the winter, a rather elaborate green house. The other green house, known as the lemon tree house is on the other side of the park, it is now a restaurant, this building once housed all the orange, lime and lemon trees during the winter. In the 1930's Mussolini used it to host the different officials of Italian colonies who came to Rome to pay homage to the King-Emperor of Italy Vittorio-Emmanuelle III. The large stables and carriage house is now used as administrative offices, the library of the Prince is used for exhibits of rare books and prints.
The Prince lived in this house on the grounds of the estate while he rented out his palace to Mussolini. Very eclectic style.

The main house which dominates the estate has been beautifully restored, though unfurnished, with the exception of one bedroom, the rest of the original furnishing long ago disappeared. The bedroom in question is that of Mussolini and his wife. He lived in the house for 20 years with his family. It gives the visitor a very good idea of how the wealthy and powerful lived. The estate also has fake roman ruins and temples, it use to have numerous statues, all gone except for a few. Villa Torlonia is only one of the many great estates that once graced Via Nomentana. The story of the Torlonia family is also interesting, a rags to riches story, commoner is elevated to Prince of Italy. If in Rome, I recommend visiting Villa Torlonia.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy posts like this. Rome has such an exciting history, and not just 'Empire 'times'. Thanks for posting this.