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.