Need to get away from the busy streets of Rome for a day? In this week’s “Live Like A Local” post, one ACCENT Rome staff member describes the perfect retreat from the crowds of the city.
I might be biased, but I believe Rome to be the most beautiful city in the world. Even though I grew up here, I never get bored of its beauty. But this beauty is both a blessing and a curse—it attracts a massive amount of people, the one thing that makes me want to escape! To avoid going completely crazy, I’ve devised a plan of temporary respite.
Taking the 60 bus, I leave behind the white marble bulk of the Altare della Patria, the buzzing Via del Corso, and all of the tourists trying to snap their selfies, and I go to my happy place: Villa Torlonia.
Villa Torlonia is a public park that once belonged to the rich Torlonia family. The construction of the Villa started in the early 1800s. It was initially commissioned by Giovanni, a banker, but the project was completed under the direction of his grandson, Giovanni Jr., after he had been crowned a prince. His eccentric taste in architecture brought us this gem.
When you arrive, I suggest taking a walk around the park. You’ll discover reproductions of ruins, a Moorish greenhouse, a medieval arena, and a theater. If you explore further, you’ll also find an underground shelter, utilized by Mussolini when he rented the villa in 1925.
My favorite building in the park is Casina delle Civette (aka, “The House of Owls”). As if from a storybook, it is a fantastical building in the middle of the park that was designed by Giovanni Jr. as his own personal residence. Rumor has it that Giovanni was a solitary man with a thing for myths and fables. I challenge you to find all of the mystical symbols hidden in the house. Undoubtedly, the most visible is the owl, omnipresent in the furniture decorations and stained glass.
More often than not, I’m struck with hunger pangs in the middle of my wanderings. If this happens to you, no worries. The former lemon grove in the park has been transformed into a cozy restaurant, La Limonaia. Whether you’re craving cake (vegan chocolate and coconut cake is a great choice) or pizza (focaccia bianca with prosciutto crudo, anyone?), you’ll leave the villa feeling satisfied.
~Alice Mangia, ACCENT Rome