Casino Ludovisi

June 13, 2011 / Art & Archaeology
Rome, Lazio

There is a secret spot in Rome that only aficionados know about. It is the Casino Ludovisi with its ceiling oil by Caravaggio painted in 1597 at the request of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, in the small room where he performed his alchemy experiments. The young Caravaggio painted his self-portrait on Pluto, Neptune, and Jupiter… and added his genitals to one of them! The oil was covered over until it was rediscovered in 1968.

The building belongs to Prince Nicolo’ Boncompagni Ludovisi and his American wife, Rita. They moved back into the villa in 2003 to undertake a substantial renovation. It was built as a hunting lodge (casino, literally “little house”) in 1570 and expanded in 1858. It has nine rooms painted with ceilings by leading artists (e.g. Guercino; Agostino Tassi; Bril; Viola; Domenichino; and Pomarancio). There are also portrait on the walls of the Prince’s ancestors, including Popes Gregory XIII and Gregory XV. The red velvet throne of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, nephew of Pope Gregory XV, sits in the first entry hall. The Cardinal bought the villa in 1621.

Villa Aurora is all that remains of the former Villa Ludovisi, a much larger property including lush gardens, fountains and statues on 89 acres of land, that had been a ‘must’ for travelers on the Grand Tour. The property was subdivided in the 1880s to create the neighborhood that crosses the Via Veneto with its two streets, Via Boncompagni and Via Ludovisi.

Rita, formerly a real estate broker, came to Rome to seal a deal for a client interested in building a hotel on one of the prince’s properties outside of Rome. The hotel was never built, but Rita moved to Rome soon thereafter to become Princess Boncompagni Ludovisi!

Note: To arrange a visit to the Villa, usually possible on Friday or Saturday mornings, call 06-483-942.

Gretchen Bloom

by Gretchen Bloom

ItalianNotebook.com reader and Central Italy expert. Also a recent Senior Advisor at the UN’s World Food Program as well as head of WFP’s Programme Unit in Kabul, Afghanistan, for 15 months. Expert in gender issues and community health.

8 Responses to “Casino Ludovisi”

  1. BLUEBERRY

    HOW WONDERFUL FOR THESE TWO TO MEET AND NOW THEY HAVE INVESTED IN THE RESTAURATON FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY, GOD BLESS THEM.

    I WOULD NOT HAVE PERMITTED A FOTO OF MYSELF WITH MY LEGS SO FAR EXPOSED MAMMA MIA WHAT HAVE WE WOMEN BEEN TAUGHT BY THE DESIGNERS NOW.

    I KNOW I USE TO SHOW MY STUFF ALSO I KNOW LOOKING BACK FEEL EMBARRESSD
    WHY WHAT WAS I THINKING WHAT KIND OF ATTRACTION WILL WE GET FROM SUCH A DISPLAY MY GOODNESS WHEN I LISTEN TO MY HUBBY HE WILL TELL ME THAT SUCH AND SUCH HAD TO SHOW HER BLA BLA BLA BLA OF.

    WE HAVE GONE WAY OVER BOARD NOT PROTECTING THE FEMALES IN ANY SOCIETY = WE NOW HAVE TOO MANY SEX SCANDALES’

    I HOPE WE CAN GET THESE DESINGERS TO TURN BACK TIME AND GIVE US THE CLASSY LOOK OF AUDREY HEPBURN BACK PLEASE.

    GOD BLESS

    Reply
  2. pietro

    Hi,
    I will be visiting la citta eterna soon; can you tell me the address of Casino Ludovisi.
    Grazie mille
    Pietro

    Reply
  3. Gian Banchero

    My question is why and when were the paintings covered over??? Here in the States we’ve had such scandalous behavior also, especially with our cathedral in Oakland, California which at one time harbored beautiful wall and ceiling paintings only to be painted over after Vatican II(white!!! Give me a break!!), plus all of its 19th century ornate hand-carved woodwork had been removed, apparently no one had ever heard the old quote that God (the devil, too) is found in details… Sometimes -but not always- I feel that “simplicity” is the result of simple minds… Well, then the big earthquake of 1989 hit and severely damaged the lovely old building and it had to be torn down… A Celestial statement???!!! I applaud and thank Nicolo’ and Rita Ludovisi for giving back to the community such wonders of art… And thank you Gretchen for making us aware of Casino Ludovisi.

    Reply
  4. Roberto Schiller

    My wife and I will be visiting Rome in 2012 the week after Easter and would like to visit the room where the Caravaggio ceiling “Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto” is located. Is it open for individuals? We will be glad to make an appointment if that is necessary. Thank you.
    Roberto & Dolores Schiller

    Reply
  5. Yes, you can see the Caravaggio ceiling! You simply email or call their secretary and make the date. It costs $20. The ceiling is low and you can enjoy Caravaggio up close. The tour is interesting, enjoyable and your hostess (seen above) is very gracious. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Italian history and, especially, anyone who wants to see Caravaggio’s ceiling painting.

    Reply
    • Hannah

      How can one contact the secretary in order to arrange a visit? Thank you!

      Reply
  6. It would be wunderful to visit Villa Aurora. Where can I find a phone number/e-mailadress to make an appointment for visit the villa?

    Reply
  7. July 1 2016. I just called this morning (same phone number as Gretchen posted in 2011). Now there is a minimum fee of €300 for groups up to 15 (so €20 per person). If there are less people you still have to pay the visit fee of €300. Looks like a visit is out for for me and my friend. Sad!

    Reply

Leave a Reply