Giovanni Torlonia, having risen to the title of marquis in 1797, retained Giuseppe Valadier for the renovations to his estate, in keeping with the standards, expected in noble Roman villas of his day. From 1802-1806 Valadier converted the building housing the owner's quarters into an elegant Palazzo.
Even more impressive were the renovations to the small Casino Abbati, now known as the Casino dei Principi (prince's bungalow). He also built the stables and landscaped the grounds. After Giovanni's death, his son, Alessandro, finished the project under the architects Quintiliano Raimondi and Giuseppe Japelli, the latter of whom decorated the southern end of the villa with whimsically ornate structures and furnishings.
Of the thirteen buildings on the property, representative of various periods and world cultures, perhaps the most intrigueing of all is the Casina delle Civette (bungalow of the owls), which seems like something out of a fairy tale. The original structure, designed by Japelli in1840, takes the form of a Swiss chalet. Succesive additions by architects Gennari and Vincenzo Fasolo, expanded its original form, to include loggias and porticos, and other decorative elements, such as leaded glass windows designed by noted artists: Duillio Cambellotti, Paolo Paschetto, Umberto Botazzi, and Vittorio Grassi, and brought to light by master glass artist Cesare Picchiarini. The almost obsessively recurrent presence of owl motifs throughout the structure, gives us its name.
From 1925-1943 the Villa was the home of Mussolini, rented to him for the symbolic amount of 'one lira a month'. From 1944-19947 the villa was occupied by the Anglo-American military command, whose presence caused inestimable damage to the property.
Underneath the Villa's grounds lie the Hebrew catacombs, extending over 9 kilometres, its two ornate cemeteries, with paintings and symbols going all the way back to the 3rd and 4th centuries.
CASINA DELLE CIVETTE MUSEUM
In 1978, the year the villa was acquired by the city of Rome, this building was in ruins. After extensive restorations, the museum now houses an artistic tribute to roman eclecticism. Crowning the collection are the stained glass windows, outstanding examples from the period of 1908-1930.
CASINA DEL PRINCIPE MUSEUM
This tiny villa houses some of the most outstanding pieces from the Collezione Tolono (Torlonia collection). Not to be missed are the three large stuccos of Canova and the furniture collection taken from Giovanni Torlonia's bedroom, which exalts Genovese Barroque artistry.
Museo dell'eclettismo Romano
Museo del Casino dei Principi
Via Nomentana, 70 (termini Station)
Tel.: 06 4450072
Hours: October-March 9:oo A.M.- 5:00 P.M; April-September 9:00 A.M.-7:00 P.M guided tours every Wednesday and Friday; closed Monday, New year's Day, May 1st, august 15th.
Entrance fee charged
Internet site: www.comune.roma.it
How to get there: buses 36, 60, 60D, 62, 84, 90