The Castelli Romani earned its name from the luxurious country villas noble Roman families established throughout its hills. From the 16th to the 18th century, aristocratic families and the papal court made the Castelli their holiday destination; it was the “in” place to be and they competed in building and updating their extravagant villas and elegant gardens. The Ville Tuscolane are some of the most important examples of these lavish residences.
Villa Falconieri, the oldest of the Ville Tuscolane, is a beautiful period villa full fascinating frescoes, architecture, gardens and a spectacular view over Rome. Also known as Villa Rufina and located right outside of Frascati town, it is now open for free guided visits.
A Brief History of the Villa
Built in the mid-sixteenth century on the site of an ancient Roman villa for the Bishop of Melfi, Alessandro Rufini, the villa was later sold in 1563 to settle the Rufini family debts. It passed through several Roman noble families: Cenci, Sforza, Gonazaga and Montalato, who all took turns modifying the structure.
It wasn't until 1628, when the Falconieri family purchased the villa, it began to undergo splendid renovations we can still see today: Francesco Borromini was
commissioned to oversee architectural extensions and modifications. Stunning frescos
by Pier Leone Ghezzi, Giacinto
Calandrucci, Ciro Ferri, Nicolò Berrettoni, Francesco Grimaldi and work by Luzio Luzi and Perin del Vaga adorned the
walls. Outdoors the gardens were enlarged and transformed.
Fresco of the Falconieri Family in the Grand Hall
The complex was later sold to Elisabetta Aldobrandini Lancellotti, used byTrappist friars (who destoyed many of the frescos, beliving them to be unfit for their holy ways) and the property ownership further changed hands. During the Second World War, the villa was occupied by the German forces and the entire right wing of the home was destroyed by bombing.
It has since been restored and housed various educational entities. Since 2016, the Villa is home to the Academy Vivarium Novum, the first and only academy where students are immersed in Latin and Ancient Greek studies.
Visiting the Villa Today
entering, take note of the monumental entrance, the Falco Portal, designed by Francesco
important gateway once served as the
grand entrance to the Villa of Cardinal
Alessandro Falconieri, and it was rumored he paid a fortune for it.
Once entering further up the road,
the tree lined lane leads you through
another portal and up to the magnificent structure.
You are then led through 6 rooms on the ground floor and able roam free through the gardens. I was surprised we could only visit a section of the home, but the visible rooms are those fully restored, plus the remaining parts of the villa are used by the Academy.
Entering the Grand Hall, you are greeted with floor to wall frescos, which include family scenes of the Falconieri family.
The Grand Hall, Villa Falconieri
Continuing on, each subsequent room has a themed season:
Allegory of Autumn, fresco by Carlo Maratta and Ciro Ferri. A fresco depicting the common thread of wine in paganism (represented on the left) with Christianity (Noah and his sons on the right)
Allegory of Summer, fresco by Carlo Maratta and Ciro Ferri, Villa Falconieri
Fresco by and of artist Leone Ghezzi (1674-1755) in the Winter Hall. The artist gazes into your eyes as he is drawing.
spectacular room was the Spring Hall. Floor to ceiling frescos of garden scenes lush with garland, greenery and putti.
Spring Hall, Villa Falconieri
We couldn't help but finish with a selfie on the balcony overlooking the gardens.
HOW TO VISIT
You can visit the villa on Sundays by booking through the Academy Vivarium Novum. Our tour was run by Ingnacio Armella, Professor of Philosophy and Latin composition.
Visits are held every Sunday with guided tours in Italian at 10 a.m. and 12 noon. The visit is free, lasts about an hour and you need to book here:
A group tour in English could be arranged depending on availability.
They also host concerts and events, which you can find here: https://vivariumnovum.net/en/events/concertsParking is easy to find outside the villa. If coming by public transport, it's a 15- 20 minute walk from the Frascati train station or Frascati's main square, Piazza Guglielmo Marconi.
Viale Borromini, 5
Interested in learning about other noble residences in the Castelli Romani? Check out my article on Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia.
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