The Villa Lante in Rome was designed and constructed between 1518 and 1531. The villa was commissioned by Baldassarre Turini, who was an important functionary at the court of Popes Leo X and Clement VII. These popes both belonged to the Medici family. In 1551, after the death of Turini, the family Lante took possession of the villa and gave it their name. Giulio Romano was helped in his decorations of the interior by pupils of Raphael. Since 1950 the Villa Lante has been in possession of the Finnish Institute of Rome.
Villa Lante Rome
The Villa Lante is opened during weekdays from 09.00 till 12.00 hours. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Visits to the Villa Lante are organized by so-called centri culturali. Admission depends on what they ask for their service.
The address of the Villa Lante is Passeggiata del Gianicolo, 10 – Rome. Nearest bus stop: Piazzale Garibaldi (lines 114, 870).
Before you visit
Baldassarre Turini was a rich Tuscan merchant, who played an important role in the courts of two Medici Popes. He was Pope Leo X‘s Datary and Pope Clement VII‘s secretary. (The Datary was entrusted with giving indults, matrimonial dispensations and other favours.)
Not much is known about the villa’s construction. Work was probably started in 1518 and the architect was Giulio Romano, one of Raphael‘s favourite pupils. The decorations inside were done by other pupils of the same school, such as Vincenzo Tamagni da San Gimignano, Polidoro da Caravaggio and Maturino.
Between the death of Pope Leo and the nomination of Pope Clement work was interrupted and the villa was completed in 1525.
A graffitto inside the building (A dì 6 de magio 1527 fo la presa di Roma, or “On the 6th of May 1527 was the taking of Rome”) indicates that the villa was conquered during the Sack of Rome.
The owner used the villa as a country residence for feasts and literary meetings. Not long after his death in 1543, his heirs rented it out to the French ambassador.
In 1551 they sold it to the Lante. This family already owned some properties next-door. After they bought the villa they enlarged the garden towards the garden of the Sant’Onofrio Convent. In 1640 Pope Urban VIII had the Janiculum Walls constructed and the Lante lost part of the garden. The Pope compensated them by giving them another villa in Bagnaia, north of Rome. They also got the title of Dukes of Bomarzo.
In 1817 the family had to sell the villa because of financial difficulties. The new owner, prince Camillo Borghese, ordered the architect Luigi Canina to restore the building. In 1837 the prince sold the villa to Maddalena Sofia Barat, who was the founder of the Order of the Sisters of the Holy Heart of Jesus. She had the Sacro Cuore di Gesù Church built.
When part of the Janiculum Hill became a public park the Villa lost another part of its garden.
In 1880, when the nuns did not need the villa anymore they decided to rent it out. The first renters were Wolfgang Helbig and Nadine Schahawskoy. In 1909 they ended up buying the property, after which they restored the garden and the building itself.
Their heirs would finally sell the villa to the Finnish State, who are using it as both the seat of the Finnish Institute and of the Ambassador to the Holy See.
On the spot
The Villa Lante is built on top of either an ancient Roman or medieval ruin. Among Rome’s Renaissance villas it is one of the better preserved ones. Apart from the richly decorated gate at the entrance it is still more or less the way it was when initially constructed. The gate is flanked by two ancient Doric columns.
The building itself consists of a ground floor, a first floor and a mezzanine.
A double stairway leads to a 19th century portal flanked by two peperino columns. On each side or the portal there are two windows between Doric pillars.
The first floor is characterized by Ionic pillars flanking three windows with balconies. The mezzanine, with very small windows, is under the roof.
The piano nobile consists of a main room, three smaller ones, a vestibule and a loggia on the east side.
The main room is decorated with paintings and sculptures, including eight terracotta busts and eight oval paintings depicting the achievements of the Turini and of Clement VII. The coat-of-arms in the centre is that of Paul V Borghese.
There used to be 32 smaller frescoes of cupids and divinities and four bigger ones depicting events related to the Janiculum Hill. When the order acquired the building in 1837 they opened a kindergarten and the paintings were judged to be indecent.
One of the four bigger wall-paintings was Polidoro da Caravaggio‘s “Discovery of the Sarcofagus of Numa Pompilio”.