Villa Medici (Book 10) (Map B2) (Day 2) (View C5) (Rione Campo Marzio)
The fašade of Villa Medici overlooking Rome on the slopes of Mount Pincio has the looks of a severe fortress. The inner fašade on the contrary has an incredibly elaborate decoration, mainly made with copies and originals of antique sculptures. 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) Obelisk made of Egyptian granite; 2) Porticoes with statues; 3) Hanging gardens; 4) Granite and porphyry basins; 5) Gallery with statues. The small map shows also: 6) External part of the Villa; 7) Mount Pincio.
Villa Medici was erected in 1540 by Annibale Lippi for Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano. It came into possession of Cardinal Alessandro de' Medici and the inner court reflects the mannerist taste for a very rich decoration. It then became property of his relatives, the grand-dukes of Tuscany and the embassy of these sovereigns in Rome. In 1801 the French Academy of art was transferred there and this is still the use of the building. This short history explains why the Villa has been so well preserved and is today almost identical to the plate, although some statues and the obelisk are copies of the originals which were moved to Florence (to see the originals click here).
Read Henry James's account of his visit to Villa Medici in 1873.
The title of the plate distinguishes between the Casino (literally little house i.e. the building)
and the Villa (most likely from vineyard i.e. the garden). Today Villa means both i.e. a
building with a garden. The garden was by itself a work of art and it still is
(most likely because access to it is normally forbidden and only on a very special occasion
the public is admitted). Some changes have occurred: the obelisk is now at the center of a little fountain.
In the past the view of Rome was from the Gianicolo, precisely from a spot by which the poet
Martial used to describe Rome. But this view lacks the landmark of Rome, because St Peter's
is hidden by the slopes of the Gianicolo. Villa Medici, while a bit too much to the north to
provide a view over ancient Rome, is perfect to fully enjoy the view over St Peter's dome.
The hill overlooking Piazza del Popolo was a
garden since the time of ancient Rome, but only at the
beginning of the XIXth century was it brought back to its past use. Conceived during the
French occupation of Rome it was completed by Pius VII, who in 1822 brought here the obelisk erected
by Hadrian in memory of his favourite Antinous. The obelisk was found outside
Porta Maggiore in the XVIth century and
relocated in 1633 by Urbanus VIII in his
palace (to see all the obelisks of Rome click here). The gardens were
designed by Luigi Valadier, after whom is named a little building, nowadays used as a
Next plate in Book 10: Casino di Villa Lodovisi presto Porta Pinciana
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Porta Pinciana
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Piazza di Spagna