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Saturday, April 6, 2024

Villa Altieri - "one of the most prestigious" 17th-century villas in Rome - hiding in plain sight

 Villa Altieri is one of those "Rome the Second Time" places in the middle of Rome rarely visited by the individual, and only occasionally by groups. Last year we encountered it only because we were interested in an exhibit featuring artists' responses to the Resistance in World War II (more about that in a later post). We had no idea of the place to which we were heading. What we found was a magnificently restored building, the kind of restoration for which few can match the Italians, and the layers of Rome that consistently surprise and delight us. At viale Manzoni 47, it's just steps from the Manzoni Metro A stop , on the edge of the Esquilino quartiere.

Above, the monumental entrance to Villa Altieri. Today one enters on the ground floor, beneath these grand staircases.

The palazzo is a 17th-century building. Pope Clement X (1670-76) was an Altieri, giving the family money to build this villa on top of an earlier structure.

The main hall of the ground floor of Villa Altieri has exposed "scavi" - excavations - from the earlier villa and from Roman times.

A collection of antique statues and other works is well-displayed in the various rooms. It's described as a small museum for the "prestigious" collection of the families that owned the property. Through the glass floor (a little disorienting when one first walks on it) one can see the "ancient" cobbled floors of the prior villa and the "archaeological stratifications" discovered in the restoration work.

That's me, focused  on the art exhibit. You can see the glass floor beneath my feet and some of the statuary in the hall.

A little of everything - the glass floors with
ruins below, a statue from the museum's
collection, a view out to the gardens, such
as they remain, and, center right, a painting
of Antonio Gramsci from the
 Resistance exhibition.

The city of Rome acquired the villa in 1975 and began restoring it in 2010. It's now the city's headquarters for "Culture and Historical Memory," with an archive open to the public that includes the Library of the Metropolitan City with the Historical Archive, the Study Center for literary research, linguistic and philological Pio Rajna , with the Dante Historical Library. (I'm using the site's English translation - links provided). 

The "museum" supposedly has visiting hours, but the website is woefully out of date. I suggest going when there is an event or exhibit and one can be more sure of it being open and accessible.

Facebook may provide the most up-to-date information on opening days and times. Specifically "Amici di Villa Altieri" here. It shows current events and exhibits. (Don't be misled by the Palazzo Altieri elsewhere in Rome or the Villa Altieri hotel in Albano.) 

On the other hand, the villa is so accessible, you can try simply stopping by. It's a lovely site, quintessentially Roman, with surprises from many eras.

A print - with description - from the Stanford collection here:
Description of a bas relief with Mithras, here:

(Part Two of Villa Altieri - the exhibition of Resistance art- will be the subject of a subsequent post.)

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