Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

RST Top 40. #25: Villa Torlonia - a park and art and fakes and Mussolini and...

Villa Torlonia is another Rome park with something for everyone: ancient history, fake ancient, medieval, you-name-it history, flora, fauna, World War II site, art, playgrounds, food, palm trees... palm trees? Yes, no expense was spared in the early 1800s when famous Rome architect Giuseppe Valadier designed the buildings and grounds for the super-rich Torlonia banking family, and the City has done a credible job of restoring it.

Villa Torlonia is home to a large children's playground, a nice cafe'/lunch spot (in the fake medieval building - photo at right) the Limonaia, great grounds to walk around and picnic in and several museums that host art galleries. The official website has an English version and a lot of information.

We probably like Villa Torlonia more because when we first saw it over 15 years ago, it was a derelict space, every building degraded and the grounds an abysmal mess. Since then, watching it open up has been like watching a butterfly.

Unlike Villa Pamphili, there are many buildings open to the public in Villa Torlonia, including an Art Nouveau ("Liberty" to Italians) style Casina delle Civette - little house of the owls (photo right), and the Casino Nobile, or Mussolini's home, also called the Palazzo Nobile. For 18 years, this was the family home of il Duce, his wife and their 5 children at the nominal rent of 1 lira/year. The Allies took over the home and did a disgraceful job of wrecking it - presumably because it was the home of the Fascist leader. (Photos at top and at left.)

If you can, get a tour of the restored Casino Nobile and on some days you can also tour Mussolini's bunker and the apparently fake Etruscan tomb below the building (photo above).

And, Villa Torlonia is not too far from the city center.... Don't miss it when you're in Rome the second time.

Dianne - if it seems I like parks in Rome; yes, I do!

PS - More information on Villa Torlonia, Mussolini's high-jinx, etc. is in Itinerary 8 in Rome the Second Time, pp 121-25. And here's a photo on the wall in the Casino Nobile - of the "virile" Mussolini on horseback.

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