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The Tuscolane Villas are a complex of splendid Renaissance villas, mostly well preserved to this day, built by the papal nobility, between Frascati, Monteporzio Catone and Grottaferrata, between Colle del Tuscolo, between the mid-16th and early 17th centuries. , where on clear days the view stretches from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the hills of Sabina.
They all arise in the same places where Roman villas of imperial times had been built. Almost all have the facade facing Rome, so that guests could see the countryside around the city, the ruins of the aqueducts and the dome of St. Peter’s.
Built by the papal nobility since the 16th century, the Ville Tuscolane were a symbol of prestige of the Roman aristocracy and were destined for the activity of representation and the summer stay of the papal court. From initial country houses surrounded by cultivated lands and woods, they became veritable noble palaces, thanks to the intervention of the most talented architects and artists of the 16th and 17th centuries (including Vignola, Martino Longhi the Elder, Vasanzio, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno, Giovanni Fontana, Borromini and the Vanvitelli). The memories of Ancient Rome echo in the Villas and Renaissance gardens of Tuscolo. And also for this reason they were the destination of the “Grand Tour”, the formation journey of the scions of the European aristocracy and of great travelers such as Goethe, Chateaubriand and many others, who came to visit Italy between the 18th and 19th centuries.
An admirable example of Villas integrated into the landscape, the architectural and landscape complex of the Ville Tuscolane constitutes a heritage of extraordinary universal value, to be valued and protected in all possible ways.
Among the Ville Tuscolane, Villa Grazioli in Grottaferrata is highlighted by various and different characteristics.
“This villa, the most richly decorated of the villas of Frascati named in the guides and in the historiography of the territory has never been the subject of a critical treatment … Revisiting it was a surprise …”, taken from “The Panini in the decoration of Villa Montalto-Grazioli in Frascati in “Villas and palaces, scenic illusion and archaeological myths” by Alma Maria Tantillo Mignosi, former Superintendent of art at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and director of the Central Institute for Restoration.
In fact, on the border between Grottaferrata and Frascati, surrounded by a park of 15,000 square meters, stands the magnificent Villa Grazioli, a Tuscan residence among the richest in decorative terms. The villa dates back to 1580, when it was built by Cardinal Antonio Carafa. At his death, in 1591, the villa passed to Cardinal Ottavio Acquaviva, who had Agostino Ciampelli perform the decoration of the gallery and some rooms on the main floor. There are also mythological and allegorical depictions of the day, the night and the virtues. In 1614 the villa was bought by the Montalto Perretti, who held it for several decades. The “Stanza di Eliseo”, frescoed by a pupil of Annibale Carracci (perhaps his nephew Antonio), dates back to these years, depicting some biblical episodes and a view of the villa from the south. In the first decades of
‘700, his heir Baldassarre Erba made profound changes to the building, adding an’ apartment
novo “and a” nova gallery “frescoed by Pannini.
In this period the garden is also redesigned. The Italian part remains limited to the three terraces of the bastion while the rest of the park is enriched with new trees and groves, while maintaining the aspect of an agricultural farm with fruit trees, vineyards and olive groves.
Damaged during the war and later recovered, today it is under the tutelage of the Superintendency of Fine Arts (restriction issued with Ministerial Decree dated 24.01.1913), which has carefully followed the long and intense ten year restoration and houses a hotel of luxury.
Within Villa Grazioli the Pannini Gallery stands out for its potential beauty and uniqueness, entirely frescoed by Giovanni Paolo Pannini, famous painter from Piacenza (Piacenza 1691- Rome 1765). The gallery, almost 19 meters long and more than 4 meters wide, is decorated with splendid illusionistic architectural depictions – false columns, arches, vaults, balustrades, niches, stuccoes and statues – and, on the vault, allegories of the elements, the seasons and the continents . Pannini also painted the vaults of the four rooms of the new apartment (the creation of light, earth, animals, sun and moon). On the walls, by Giuseppe Aldobrandini, fake marbles and arcades, grotesques, landscapes and the heraldic symbols of the Odescalchi are depicted.
The Galleria Nova or Galleria Pannini represents the center, the core of the wonderful journey through the centuries of great art, which can be rediscovered and re-lived thanks to this innovative project.