Villa Malta

Two of my previous posts are about the Sovereign Order of Malta in Rome. During my research for those posts, I discovered that a bit back behind the church of Trinità dei Monti, which sits at the top of the Spanish Steps, lies Villa Malta.

Once owned by the Order of Malta, now the only link the villa has to Malta is its name. Today it is home to the newspaper Civiltà Cattolica (I won’t get into a discussion of that controversial entity because doing so would be long and difficult). The villa seems to represent the city of Rome: people from many countries, besotted by the Eternal City, have added to its fascinating history.

With its signature square tower, the villa itself is certainly handsome and has inspired artists over the years (the terrific painting at the top of this post is by Domenico Quaglio, 1830).


Scene from the Villa Malta by Johan Christian Dahl, 1821


Franz Ludwig Catel, Villa Malta in Rome (Pincio), before 1856


Villa Malta in Rome by Frederic Leighton, circa 1860


Villa Malta by Sanford Robinson Gifford, 1879

In the 15th century, the original structure was a monastery connected to the nearby church, which later became the home of some cardinals. But it was in the 17th and 18th centuries when things become really interesting.

During this period, the villa became associated first with the widowed Queen of Poland, Marie Casimire, and then with a number of foreign intellectuals. These people included artists and writers, such as the Swiss painter Angelika Kaufmann, German philosopher Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the poet Friederike Brun, the Prussian ambassador Wilhelm von Humboldt, and the group of painters known as the Nazarenes.

Marie Casimire, Queen of Poland


The painter Angelica Kauffman, who is buried in my local church, Sant’Andrea delle Fratte 


The famous portrait of Goethe in the Roman countryside. His home in Rome, on Via del Corso, is now the Casa di Goethe.

In 1827 Villa Malta was bought by the Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria. He is probably the personality most linked to Villa Malta. While he owned it, the villa became a center of German culture in Rome.

“Crown Prince Ludwig in the Spanish Wine Tavern in Rome,” showing the prince dining with various artists, including the painter of this piece, Franz Ludwig Catel (who is buried at Santa Maria del Popolo)
Among other things, Ludwig commissioned paintings showing the vistas from Villa Malta, here are just a few.


View of St. Peter’s from Villa Malta, Johann Georg von Dillis, 1818


View of the Quirinale from Villa Malta, Johann Georg von Dillis, 1818

In 1873 the villa was bought by a Russian count, a descendant of Catherine “the Great,” Czarina of Russia. He filled it with sculptures and paintings. Thirty years later, in 1907, the villa was once again home to a German, Prince Bernhard von Bülow, former Reich Chancellor. In his later years, Bülow created a salon for writers as well as a center of political discussion.

Today, you can rent the Villa Malta for events, and it certainly still looks lovely. Perhaps I’ll be able to get inside some day. I’ve added it to my ever-growing list of places to see in this amazing city.