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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in December 2010.

Casino di Villa Lodovisi presso Porta Pinciana (Book 10) (Map B2) (Day 2) (View B6) (Rione Colonna)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 Casino del Monte
 Images of the Past
 Palazzo Margherita
 Quartiere Ludovisi (Hotel Excelsior and Villa Maraini)

The Plate (No. 189)

This etching by Giuseppe Vasi is almost a copy of earlier views by Giovanni Battista Falda and Joachim von Sandrart - external link; he might have done so because during the XVIIIth century the villa was not utilized and probably the gardens were not properly maintained. As a matter of fact, Vasi, unlike Sandrart, did not show almost any people walking in the gardens or standing on the terrace.
At Vasi's time the property belonged to the Boncompagni Ludovisi because Ippolita, the last of the Ludovisi married Gregorio II Boncompagni in 1681, but the villa continued to be named after its founder Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, nephew of Pope Gregory XV.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Casino del Monte; 2) part of Rome; 3) S. Pietro in Montorio and Fontanone sul Monte Gianicolo. 3) are shown in detail in another page. The small map shows: 1) Casino del Monte; 2) Main Casino; 3) Porta Pinciana; 4) Bust of Alexander the Great.


View over Casino del Monte (cross-shaped) and Villa Maraini from a tethered balloon which floated above Villa Borghese before 2009

Almost the whole area of Villa Ludovisi was sold in 1883-86 to build hotels, smaller villas and expensive apartment blocks. The new development is known as Quartiere Ludovisi and two of its streets are named after the Ludovisi and the Boncompagni; in order to facilitate access to the area, a sort of Parisian boulevard (Via Vittorio Veneto) was opened from Chiesa dei Cappuccini to Porta Pinciana. The Boncompagni Ludovisi retained Casino del Monte, which can be seen only from the air, because it is surrounded by trees and high walls.

Casino del Monte

(left) Tip of Casino del Monte; (centre) fake rocks; (right-above) heraldic symbol of the Boncompagni; (right-below) coat of arms of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi

In 1622 Cardinal Ludovisi bought several properties along the walls near Porta Pinciana; one of them belonged to Cardinal Francesco del Monte and it included a small casino which Cardinal Ludovisi asked Carlo Maderno to redesign; it was decorated with paintings including one by Guercino portraying Aurora - external link; for this reason the building is also known as Casino dell'Aurora (not to be confused with that of Palazzo Rospigliosi).
Cardinal Ludovisi gathered in his new villa an impressive collection of ancient statues and reliefs; J. W. Goethe especially admired a head of Juno (Hera Ludovisi - external link), of which he bought a cast: "Yesterday, for my eyes' delight, I set up in the hall outside my room a new cast, a colossal head of Juno, the original of which is in the Villa Ludovisi. She was my first Roman love and now I own her. No words can give any idea of this work. It is like a canto by Homer." (Italian Journey - January 6, 1787 - translation by W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer - Collins).
In 1901 the Ludovisi collection was bought by the Italian government and it is now on display at Museo Nazionale Romano at Palazzo Altemps.

Images of the Past

(left) Bust of Alexander the Great; (right) Fons Ludovisia, a small modern fountain in the ancient walls of Rome

The walls of Rome were also the walls of the villa and they still retain some memories of the past; a niche with a gigantic bust of Alexander the Great was placed at the end of one of the main alleys. The gardens were so described by John Evelyn (1620-1706), an English writer and diarist (November 10, 1644): "We went to see Prince Ludovisio's villa where was formerly the Viridarium of the poet Sallust. The house is very magnificent, and the extent of the ground exceedingly large , considering that it is in a city; in every quarter of the garden are antique statues, and walks planted with cypress. To this garden belongs a house of retirement, built in the figure of a cross (..) above is a fair prospect of the city."
Read Henry James's account of his visit to Villa Ludovisi in 1873.

Palazzo Margherita

(left) Palazzo Margherita; (right-above) heraldic symbol of the Boncompagni; (right-below) coats of arms of the Italian Royal family and of the U.S.A. (by courtesy of Mr. Tom Wukitsch)

The Boncompagni Ludovisi had their Rome palace in Piazza Colonna which was known as Palazzo Piombino as they had the title of Princes of Piombino, a little town in Tuscany. When the palace was pulled down to enlarge the central part of Via del Corso, the Boncompagni Ludovisi built a new very large palace which incorporated the old main casino; it was designed by Gaetano Koch, an architect who played a major role in the development of Rome after its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy.
The palace became the residence of the Queen Mother Margherita, the widow of King Umberto I, who was shot by an anarchist in 1900. Queen Margherita was a woman of rare beauty and very popular and the palace was named after her (also a variety of pizza is named after her!). Today the palace houses the Embassy of the United States.

(left) Main casino; (right) coat of arms of Pope Gregory XV (by courtesy of Mr. Tom Wukitsch)

The fašade of the main casino is now hidden by Palazzo Margherita. Other family members built their homes in the new development; one of these buildings was bequeathed by Blanceflor Boncompagni Ludovisi (external link) to the Italian State. The image used as background for this page is based on the coat of arms placed at the entrance of the building which currently houses a Museum of Decorative Arts - external link.

Quartiere Ludovisi

(left) Hotel Excelsior; (right) Villa Maraini

Otto Maraini was a Swiss architect who was asked by his brother Erminio to design a casino near Casino del Monte; Erminio Maraini became very rich by introducing the processing of sugar beet in Italy; his widow bequeathed the villa to the Swiss Confederation and the building currently houses a Swiss cultural institution; it enjoys commanding views over Rome - external link.
Otto Maraini designed also the fašades of a luxury hotel built by a Swiss company. You may wish to see the entrance of another hotel in the same neighbourhood.
Read William Dean Howells' account of his visit to Quartiere Ludovisi in 1908.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Villa Ludovisi
Dal Card. Ludovisi nipote di Gregorio XV. fu eretta quella deliziosa villa con disegno del Domenichino, la quale ne' suoi amenissimi viali Ŕ ornatissima di statue, busti, bassirilievi, e marmi antichi di gran valore, come ancora ne' due casini, e per˛ farÓ pi¨ agevole rimettersi alla relazione del Custode, che notare quý tutte le sue raritÓ. In questa villa stette per terra l'obelisco, che vedemmo a giacere presso le Scale Sante, e che si crede spettasse agli orti di Salustio,che quivi vengono assegnati, i quali erano di sý fatta magnificenza, che servirono poi per diporto, e trattenimento delizioso agl'Imperatori.

Next plate in Book 10: Casino della Villa Albani fuori di Porta Salaria
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Chiesa della SS. Trinità dei Monti
Next step in your tour of Rione Colonna: Porta Pinciana