Villa Giulia Part 1: The Villa

It had been more than 20 years(!) since my last visit to Villa Giulia, Rome’s great museum dedicated to the Etruscans.  A friend mentioned the museum was reorganized and spruced up a few years ago, and that it was terrific.  She was right (thank you, ocpony!)

The Villa Giulia is a 10 minute taxi ride, 20 minute mass transit ride, or a 30 minute walk from the Spanish Steps Apartment.


The villa itself is a knockout. Built by Pope Julius III in 1551-53, it was designed by Vignola to be the Pope’s “quick get away” house.  The pale gold facade proudly announces that a man of great wealth and taste once lived here.

Villa Giulia entrance

The interior is even more attractive than the exterior.  The palazzo has a semicircular portico, covered with magnificent frescoes that take you back to ancient Rome.

The gentling curving loggia


Painting detail


Looking up in the loggia


A fresco detail, little winged putti

The villa has multiple courtyards and interior gardens, including one with a small reproduction of an Etruscan temple, surrounded by a few lovely umbrella pines.

Reproduction of an Etruscan temple


In the gardens


And, more gardens

The architecture, in the Mannerist style, is simply lovely.

Looking back from the gardens at the circular portico


Note the delicate and intricate architectural detail


One of the architectural highlights of the villa is the two-story nymphaeum (large picture at the top of this post).  Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati, with input from Giorgio Vasari, it’s a multi-story opus.  One can only dream of how magnificent it would be to dine here, under the summer stars, to the soft sounds of the water feature, the Fontana dell’Acqua Vergine.

The caryatids, with a little “river” running behind


Close-up of the mosaic


Showing a bit of the upper stories


Looking back from the other side


Every part is graceful

The light drizzle of the day didn’t dissuade us from soaking up the features of the Villa’s exterior facades and spaces.  But there’s a large collection to see inside.  More in a later post.