Villa Torlonia

Mussolini's Bunker

Useful Information

Location: Via Nomentana, Rome.
Light: electric.
Guided tours:  
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1806 begun by Giuseppe Valadier.
1929-1943 the home of Mussolini.
1978 became a part of the public park system.
22-MAR-2006 opened to the public.


Villa Torlonia was built in the first half of the 19th century villa by the architect Giuseppe Valadier and the painter Giovan Battista Caretti. It was built for the banker Giovanni Torlonia and his family, hence the name. The first inhabitant of the house was Alessandro Torlonia, the son of Giovanni Torlonia. At the end of the 19th century it was empty for some time, and then in 1929 taken over by the faschist dictator Benito Mussolini. He paid an annual rent of one lira to the Prince Torlonia. After his dead in 1943 it was unused for many years. Even when the park became part of the public park system in 1978, the villa was allowed to decay. This was probably a result of the notorious faschist history. However, few years ago the restoration of the villa was started and in 2006 it was opened to the public.

The extravagant neo-Classic complex includes various building: the villa, a reproduction of an Etruscan tomb, an exotic garden, and a theatre. The villa has elegant stuccos, polished marbles, and a ballroom with crystal chandeliers. The private chambers contain frescoes, giving the illusion of an ancient Egyptian temple in one room or a Gothic cathedral in another. The Villa houses part of the Torlonia collection of neo-Classic sculpture.

The park of Villa Torlonia is the most famous English landscape garden in Italy. It contains thirteen garden pavilions representing exotic parts of the world. This includes a kiosk in the Moorish style and a Swiss chalet in liberty style.

Under the villa and the park lies an extensive system of catacombs. Catacombs are frequent in Rome, but this ones are special, they are the only Jewish Catacombs in Rome, while all others are Christian Catacombs. The walls show typical jewish ornaments.

A second underground sight of the villa is also connected to the catacombs. A part of them was transformed into a bunker for faschist Italy's dictator Il Duce Mussolini. He lived in the villa until his dead in 1943. He did not own it, he just paid a formal rent of 1 Lira, but he had the catacombs beneath the house reinforced with concrete and a complete air raid shelter installed. Of course, this was done respectively paid by the state.

The bunker and villa have been closed for decades, as the property was managed by the public park system, which was only interested in the park. However, World War II is now long ago, and furtunately now both has been restored and opened to the public.