The Restoration of Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia

Auditorium - Embassy of Italy: 3000 Whitehaven Street NW - Washington, DC 20008 Organized by SMATCH in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute of Washington, DC. SUMMARY: In recent years Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia, two of Rome's most important villas, have undergone major restoration; this lecture presents the renovation that encompassed both the buildings and gardens. ALBERTA CAMPITELLI Art historian Alberta Campitelli is the Director of the City of Rome's Office of Historic Villas and Parks, and is an internationally renowned expert on safeguarding and conserving villas and gardens. She has directed the restoration of many villas in and around the city of Rome, among which particularly noteworthy are Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia. Her volume “Villa Borghese: From a Prince’s Garden to a Park for Romans” (“Villa Borghese. Da giardino del principe a parco dei romani“, Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato 2003), was awarded the Grinzane Cavour - Giardini Hanbury prize in 2004. Her most recent publication “Gli horti dei papi. I giardini vaticani dal Medioevo al Novecento”, Jaca Book 2009, translated into English as “The Vatican gardens: an architectural and horticultural history”, has also been translated into French and Spanish. Alberta Campitelli is currently working on a comprehensive study of Rome’s villas and gardens. VILLA BORGHESE Villa Borghese is probably the most popular villa in Rome. It was built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1580-1633), the powerful nephew of Pope Paul V. It is the embodiment of the Baroque residence, with a park of 80 hectares dotted with stunning buildings, beautiful fountains, antique and modern sculptures, all surrounded by gardens filled with rare and exotic plants and flowers. For various reasons the villa and gardens fell into disrepair, and it was only in the 1990's that restoration began which returned the villa to its original splendor. In 1997 the Villa’s main building, which housed the Borghese Museum and Art Gallery, was re-opened to the public after being closed for 13 years for major repairs to its sinking foundation. This building houses master works of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian. Soon afterwards several other buildings were restored and re-opened, allowing for public enjoyment of the entire property. The Casina delle Rose, an elegant ballroom in the 1920’s that had fallen into disrepair, was re-opened as the Casa del Cinema and is the site of film showings and exhibitions and also contains a restaurant. Another building, named the Casina di Raffaello because it contained many frescoes, had also been abandoned for many years. It is now a children’s center with an indoor game room and play areas outside. A small chapel nearby is in great demand for weddings. One of the most important restorations involves the three so-called secret gardens that adjoin the main building. Cardinal Scipione Borghese had them planted in the 17th Century, ordering plants and flowers from throughout the known world. Among them were multiple varieties of Dutch tulips, at that time prized to such a degree that prices had reached exorbitant levels. The Cardinal would proudly display the gardens to his guests. Over the centuries the gardens underwent several transformations and, during World War II, plants and flowers were ripped out – to be replaced with cabbage and potatoes to feed the starving people of Rome. Before the restoration the gardens bore no resemblance to the splendors of the Baroque age. It was only with patience that restorers were able to reconstruct the original design through careful review of archival documents. Using these documents, the gardens were rebuilt with the same allees and the same species used in Cardinal Borghese’s time. Tulips, anemones, narcissus, ranunculus, hyacinths, mission bells, irises and roses graced the gardens in the spring while in summer the archives revealed that gardens were planted with sunflowers, hibiscus, agapanthus, French marigolds and canna lilies. Throughout the year evergreen perennials provided visual interest. These included rosemary, lavender, santolina, myrtle, boxwood and absinth. The gardens were further enriched by varieties of citrus trees, either espaliered or in large pots. The garden landscape was completed by fountains and the pavilions of the Uccelliera and the Meridiana, constructed in the Baroque style with stucco and bas-reliefs (among which were dragons and eagles, heraldic symbols of the Borghese family). VILLA TORLONIA Villa Torlonia is newer than Villa Borghese. Giovanni Torlonia, a wealthy merchant and banker who had been granted the title of marquis, acquired this agricultural property in 1797. Wanting his home to reflect his wealth and success he built a luxurious villa, a smaller second building, stables and a surrounding park. The park had an elegant simplicity with grand paths lined with oak trees and fountains throughout. His son, Alexander, built on his father’s success and was named a prince. From 1835 to 1845 he purchased additional land that enabled him to enlarge the park. He also enhanced the existing buildings and added others. The main villa was decorated with frescoes and sculptures, and its main entrance was rebuilt to include reproductions of ancient ruins to give the villa an antique look. Alexander added a classical theater, a conservatory, a tower in the Moorish style and the rustic Swiss Hut. These additions were purposely constructed in diverse architectural styles, a popular technique at the time. Similarly, the park was constructed in a non-linear manner with many visual diversions, including an artificial hill, a large pond and an orangerie to serve as a winter home for the many potted citrus trees. The theater wasn’t finished until 1871, however, because Alexander suffered a series of setbacks -- his beloved wife Teresa Colonna, born of an old noble family, became ill. As the couple’s only child was Annamaria who, being a woman, wasn’t able to inherit his title, Alexander lost interest in patronizing the arts and worldly pursuits and dedicated himself to works of charity. The enormous family wealth was eventually inherited by Annamaria’s son, Giovanni Torlonia, Jr. (1872-1938). He was an odd character, who never married and refused to live in the main villa. Instead he transformed the rustic Swiss Hut into a fanciful smaller villa called the Casina delle Civette. Civetta is Italian for owl, and the villa was so named because many owl figures were used in the décor. Polychrome windows are among the elaborate decorations. The rest of the property, other than the Casina delle Civette, was rented to Mussolini from 1925 to 1943 for the symbolic sum of one lira per year. Mussolini lived there with his family and had two bunkers constructed for protection in case of aerial bombing. At the end of the Second World War the property was occupied for three years by the British and American military. The villa and park deteriorated greatly during this period. After decades of neglect the property was acquired by the City of Rome, which began restoration of the buildings and grounds. In the course of this restoration conservators discovered that the frescoes had been done by Costantino Brumidi in 1844-45, before he immigrated to the United States where he decorated the US Capitol. Villa Torlonia is resplendent today. The park has been restored, and the buildings are used as museums and sites for temporary art exhibits. There are also playgrounds and restaurants that encourage visitors to spend the day in a beautiful park with many diversions. “Management and conservation in the historical villas and gardens of Roma: the perspective of today” Wednesday, November 14, 2012 – 11:30 AM Dumbarton Oaks 1703 32nd Street NW. Washington, D.C. 20007 Organized by SMATCH in collaboration with Dumbarton Oaks (Garden and Landscape Studies) SUMMARY: Presentation and discussion on restoration of villas and gardens of Rome, followed by a luncheon. Link: http://www.doaks.org/research/garden-landscape/garden-and-landscape-symposia-and-colloquia/public-lectures-film-screenings/alberta-campitelli ALBERTA CAMPITELLI Art historian Alberta Campitelli is the Director of the City of Rome's Office of Historic Villas and Parks, and is an internationally renowned expert on safeguarding and conserving villas and gardens. She has directed the restoration of many villas in and around the city of Rome, among which particularly noteworthy are Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia. Her volume “Villa Borghese: From a Prince’s Garden to a Park for Romans” (“Villa Borghese. Da giardino del principe a parco dei romani“, Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato 2003), was awarded the Grinzane Cavour - Giardini Hanbury prize in 2004. Her most recent publication “Gli horti dei papi. I giardini vaticani dal Medioevo al Novecento”, Jaca Book 2009, translated into English as “The Vatican gardens: an architectural and horticultural history”, has also been translated into French and Spanish. Alberta Campitelli is currently working on a comprehensive study of Rome’s villas and gardens. Restoration of Villas and Gardens of Rome Saturday, November 17, 2012 Italian Cultural Society of Washington, DC, Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD Organized by SMATCH in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Society (ICS) of Washington, DC. SUMMARY: Presentation and discussion on restoration of villas and gardens of Rome. ALBERTA CAMPITELLI Art historian Alberta Campitelli is the Director of the City of Rome's Office of Historic Villas and Parks, and is an internationally renowned expert on safeguarding and conserving villas and gardens. She has directed the restoration of many villas in and around the city of Rome, among which particularly noteworthy are Villa Borghese and Villa Torlonia. Her volume “Villa Borghese: From a Prince’s Garden to a Park for Romans” (“Villa Borghese. Da giardino del principe a parco dei romani“, Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato 2003), was awarded the Grinzane Cavour - Giardini Hanbury prize in 2004.

Her most recent publication “Gli horti dei papi. I giardini vaticani dal Medioevo al Novecento”, Jaca Book 2009, translated into English as “The Vatican gardens: an architectural and horticultural history”, has also been translated into French and Spanish. Alberta Campitelli is currently working on a comprehensive study of Rome’s villas and gardens.

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