Villa Aurora. Rome's best kept secret?
Built in 1570 on the highest point in Rome, Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovis, often referred as Villa Aurora, has been in possession of the head of the Ludovisi and then Boncompagni Ludovisi family since 1621. It is particularly notable for its ceiling paintings by Carvaggio, Guercino, Tassi, Domenichino, and many others.
The villa represents the only remnant of a much larger suburban retreat established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte (1549–1627). The Cardinal was a diplomat, intellectual, art connoisseur, collector, protector and patron of famous figures such as Galileo Galilei and Caravaggio.
OWNERS OF VILLA AURORA: THE LATE PRINCE NICOLÒ BONCOMPAGNI LUDOVISI AND HIS WIFE PRINCESS RITA BONCOMPAGNI LUDOVISI
Meanwhile, the 2,200 square meters of Villa Aurora and a small parcel of land remained in the possession of the Ludovisi family. Apart from the works by Caravaggio and Guercino, it contains important works of art by Pomarancio, Michelangelo, and a collection of Roman and Greek artefacts.
"Certainly there is nothing better in Rome, and perhaps nothing so beautiful.."
In 1621, del Monte sold the villa and its extensive grounds to Ludovico Ludovisi, whose uncle Alessandro Ludovisi had assumed the Papacy earlier that year as Pope Gregory XV and made his nephew a cardinal the day after his coronation, at the age of 25. The cardinal expanded the property until he had created a 30-hectare park between the Porta Pinciana, the Porta Salaria and the convent of Sant'Isidoro, whose buildings were designed by Domenichino, with gardens (purportedly designed by André Le Nôtre), of which Henry James wrote in Portrait of Places (1883): "Certainly there is nothing better in Rome, and perhaps nothing so beautiful. Everything is inside: dark avenues shaped for centuries with scissors, valleys, clearings, groves."
The princes Boncompagni-Ludovisi, heirs to the celebrated property and its vast collections, subdivided and sold the property in 1883. Rome's Ludovisi district was built on the land where the park had been and bore the family's coat of arms. Of the historic buildings of the villa, only the Casino and the facade and staircase of the former Palazzo Grande remain, the latter now hidden behind what became the 19th-century Palazzo Margherita after the Italian State acquired it as a residence for the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. It now houses the U.S. embassy.
The villa could be the most expensive home ever sold at €470 million
Villa Aurora has been at the centre of a bitter inheritance battle between the Principessa and members of her late husband's family. After years of legal battles since her husband's death in 2018, she has now resigned herself to auctioning the home on the orders of an Italian court ruling.
Princess Rita claims that her late husband's will grants her the right to live in Villa Aurora for the rest of her life and that if it is sold, the proceeds will be divided equally between her and her stepsons. However, the parties could not reach an agreement, and a court ordered that an auction be held. The princess expresses her desire for the state to own the villa.
Gallery Villa Aurora
A collection of videos about Villa Aurora.