Villa Torlonia

Mussolini's Bunker


Useful Information

Location: Via Nomentana, Rome. The ticket office is at Casino Nobile.
Open: Closed: 01-JAN, 01-MAY, 25-DEC.
[2020]
Fee:
Classification: SubterraneaCatacomb SubterraneaWorld War II Bunker
Light: electric.
Dimension: Mussolini's Bunker: Ar=475m², A=-32.90m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: Villa Torlonia Museen, Via Nomentana, 70, 00161 Roma RM, Tel: +39-06-0608. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1806 begun by Giuseppe Valadier.
1925-1943 the home of Mussolini and his Family.
1940 first bunker constructed in the catacombs.
1941 Mussolini's Bunker constructed.
1978 became a part of the public park system.
22-MAR-2006 Villa opened to the public.
2014 restoration of bunker, opened to the public.
2016 bunker closed again.
JUL-2018 bunker reopened.

Description

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 he was forced from power in Rome in July 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 fascist history.

The extravagant neo-Classic complex includes various buildings: the villa, a reproduction of an Etruscan tomb, an exotic garden, and a theatre. The villa has elegant stuccoes, 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.

In 1940 fascist Italy's dictator Il Duce Benito Mussolini felt the need to build a refuge for himself and his family in case of air raids over Rome. Old cellars were transformed into air-raid shelters. The bunker could have hosted 300 people for a period of at least 4 months. But they were far from the villa, and so he felt not safe. In 1941 he ordered the construction of another air raid shelter with gas doors, ventilation system and concrete roof in the basement of the villa. After the first Allied air raids in 1942 he finally opted for the construction of a real anti-aircraft bunker, a cylindrical structure 6 meters underground protected by 4 meters of reinforced concrete. The bunker was not completed when Mussolini was forced from power in 1943, so he actually never used it. But it was used by civilians during air raids.

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 fortunately both, the villa and the bunker have been restored and opened to the public. The first step was the renovation of the villa which was opened to the public in 2006. The bunker was also open on some special occasions. The restoration of the bunker was finally started in 2014 and it was opened to the public in the same year. For some reason the treaties between the Capitoline Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Associazione CRSA-Sotterranei di Roma (Underground Association of Rome) were rather incomplete and ended in 2016. As a result the bunker was closed again, until finally in July 2018 it was reopened. The current treaty is again limited for some obscure reason, but at least the opening of the bunker is now ensured until 2021. Hopefully the bureaucrats will this time be able to extent the treaty in time.