"Villa Torlonia, Museums [Casino Nobile, Casina delle Civette (Owls), Casino dei Principi (Princes)]" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 17th July 2011
It could be considered as the last of the great princely villas because it was totally remade during the 19th century by Torlonia, rich family of bankers, to compete with the analogue property of the ancient Roman noble families. The last owner of the previous villa was the Bolognetti family from who Giovanni Torlonia bought it in 1806. The architects working on its reconstruction were G.Valadier, and after Alessandro Torlonia came into possession by other architects: Caretti (main building), Raimondi (theatre) and G.Jappelli (garden).
Villa Torlonia, the most recent of the villas belonging to Rome’s nobility, still retains a particular fascination due to the originality of its English-style garden (one of the few examples in the city), and to the unexpectedly large number of buildings and garden furniture in the grounds.
The villa is characterized by 13 constructions simulating mysterious, fantastic, fairy-like creations not common for Rome: different construction for the guests (casa rinascimentale); Capanna Svizzera, i.e. Swiss house (later named palazzina delle civette, i.e. owl palace); Casina dei principi, i.e. the house of princes (16th century); Serra Moresca (Moresque greenhouse); a Theatre and a lake; a camp of Tourney; a Temple of Saturn; false antic ruins and a secret cave. The central decoration elements are two granite obelisks, imitation of Egyptian ones, transported from Lago Maggiore, and erected by Alessandro Torlonia in 1842 in memory of his father and mother. There are also two honorary columns, numerous statues, a tribune for the feasts. It would be hard to image anything wonderfully impressive like this villa open for public.
After 25 years of abandon (the Mussolini family lived here in 1929-1943 paying a symbolic rent of one lira to the Torlonia), Villa Torlonia belongs now to the commune of Rome which opened it for public in 1977 as Torlonia did.
Under the ground of villa there are Jewish catacombs extending for nearly 9km, during the WWII Mussolini and Torlonia built an air-raid shelter inside of one of the catacombs.
The Casino Nobile owes its appearance to the work of Giuseppe Valadier, in about 1802, and, from 1835-1840, that of Giovan Battista Caretti who added the facade’s majestic porch. Many painters worked on the decoration, among them Podesti and Coghetti, as well as sculptors and plasterers of the schools of Thorvaldsen and Canova. From 1925 to 1943, the house and grounds were rented to Benito Mussolini. During this time an anti-gas shelter and an anti air-raid bunker were created in the basement. The restored building holds, on its two display floors, the Museo della Villa, with period sculpture and furnishings. On the second floor is the Museo della Scuola Romana, displaying paintings, sculpture and drawings by the artists of that group. The Roman School did not represent a single artistic current, but rather identified a common conception of what a work of art was. The conception was held by those artists and writers (mostly from Rome or who took up residence there) who rejected the rhetorical vision of the Novecento movement founded in Milan by Margherita Sarfatti and who embraced contemporary ideals and manners of representation. However, their production differed: there was the purism of Donghi, Trombadori and Francalancia, who worked within the current of the ‘Return to Order’ after World War I and avantgardism that typified the decade 1910–20, the expressionism of Mafai and Scipione, whose research was for vibrant signs and vivid luminosity (often, in Scipione’s case, with emphasis on the Neo-Baroque), the tonalism of Cagli, Cavalli and Capogrossi (and Mafai in the 1930s), the strong realism of Ziveri, Pirandello and the early Guttuso, and the technical experimentation and symbolism/metaphysics of Ferruccio Ferrazzi.
The background was therefore extremely varied and marked by different experiences, all of which however derived from the desire for a new realism. Another important aspect of those years was the renewal that took place in sculpture, which also occurred with notable differences between the sculptors themselves but who the shared the desire to escape rhetoric and monumentalism. Mirko, Leoncillo, Mazzacurati, Fazzini and Antonietta Raphaël fully represented this attempt to break away, both in the techniques they used and subjects they portrayed. Their works were very often marked strongly by expressionism or, in portraiture, by the search for a more effective form of realism. It was, therefore, an anti-celebrative and anti-academic form of sculpture.
Designed by the architect G. Jappelli in 1840 as a country cottage or Swiss Cabin within Villa Torlonia, the Casina (Small House) was transformed in1908-1913 by architect Gennai to assume the appearance of a Medieval building. Between 1916 and 1920 the architect V. Fasolo created one of the most interesting architectonic structures of the time on behalf of prince Giovanni Torlonia with the contribution of well-known artists such as D. Cambellotti, P. Paschetto, U. Bottazzi, and V. Grassi. The Art Nouveau style decorations enriched the Casina with mosaic floors, majolicas, wall paintings, and above all stain glasses (vetrate). Due to the prevalence of decorations having owls (civette) as a theme, the building was called Casina delle Civette. On the death of prince Torlonia in 1939 the Casina was abandoned, housing the Anglo-American Military Command from 1944 to 1947. The severe damages to its frail structure and to the decorations took place at that time. In 1978 the whole area of the Villa was purchased by the Municipality of Rome that started long and expensive interventions of restoration on the buildings in the park. Once restored, the Casina was opened to the public as a Museum.
The magnificent stain glass windows that decorate the large number of doors and windows realized between 1908 and 1930 with precious polychrome glasses fastened together by window-leads represent a unique example of the evolution of stain glasses in Rome at that time. The most beautiful and important stain glass windows are those by Cambellotti, such as the so-called Chiodo (Nail), representing a cascade of vine-leaves and bunches of grapes, as well as the various Civette (Owls), stylized representations of the nocturnal bird whose presence is almost obsessive in the decorations of the Casina, or the four rhombi with the Migratori (Migrators) that represents birds in flight. Also I Pavoni (The peafowls) by Bottazzi and Rose e farfalle (Roses and butterflies) by Paschetto deserve to be mentioned. In the past year the Municipal Superintendency has purchased stain glass windows by the same authors and several drawings and sketches, some of which were preparatory studies for the stain glass windows of the Casina.
The Museum of the Park – Casino of the Princes is situated within Villa Torlonia. It exhibits and keeps the statues and the works found within the Villa itself. Fifty statues that can be dated back from the ancient times to Art Nouveau are exhibited in the rooms of the three floors of the Casino, a pink-colored building in neo-classic style. Magnificent frescoes and reliefs, some of which are by Canova, decorate all the halls.
Of particular interest is the room with The Four Seasons by Cavaceppi and the dining room with the walls entirely decorated by G.B. Caretti with views of the Gulf of Naples. Giovanni Torlonia’s bedroom, that was occupied by Mussolini from 1923 to 1943, inlaid in baroque style and furnished with bed, bedside tables, dressing tables, and small armchairs, was also kept intact. A small gallery of Roman statues is also exhibited on the ground floor.
Villa Torlonia, Museums [Casino Nobile, Casina delle Civette (Owls), Casino dei Principi (Princes)]
Via Nomentana, 70
00161, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Quartiere Nomentano (Roma nord)
Villa Torlonia, Museums [Casino Nobile, Casina delle Civette (Owls), Casino dei Principi (Princes)] is Shown By "Map F Zone" As "3"
Museum Hours: 9.00 am - 7.00 pm, December 24 and 31: 9.00 am - 2.00 pm; Closed: Monday, January 1, May 1 and 25 December. Last admission 45 minutes before closing time.
Admission and ticketing:
Museums of Villa Torlonia Email: i...@museivillatorlonia.it and even...@zetema.it (For Current Events)
Also See: Villa Torlonia Park
Museums of Villa Torlonia Website: http://www.museivillatorlonia.it/