Sep 23rd, 2016
We were getting tired of all the tourists by this point, and J was keen to do something a bit different – so today we set off to find Villa (strangely in Italy this seems to mean ‘park’ rather than ‘house’) Torlonia on the edge of the city. Again we decided to walk as it should be a nice relaxing stroll, first through Villa Borghese and then through some non-touristy bits of Rome to this park which is where Mussolini lived at the Villa Nobile (and had his bunker which he never used).
First we found the Altar of Augustan Peace more or less by accident. This was really interesting – Augustus has always been a bit of a hero of mine (although Mary Beard did try to put me off him recently) and again there was no one apart from us there because it was early and expensive. The “Res Gestae Divi Augusti” were on the wall outside which was a nice touch.
Then we walked the long way to Villa Borghese. Here is J looking exhausted after climbing hundreds of steps (good view though).
We got a bit lost on the way out of the park and I started to get a bit stressed as I thought we were lost. Eventually we found it, but I would not recommend walking this – it was a very very long way. Anyway, when we got there they had three ticket options, one for “Casa Nobile”, one for “Casina delle Civette” and one for “Villa Torlonia”. We bought the most expensive one and then walked round the park looking for Villa Torlonia on the basis that this must be Mussolini’s villa. But we couldn’t find it anywhere…. We were about to give up when I realized we had bought a combined ticket for Casa Nobile (Mussolini’s house) and also the Casina delle Civette – the owl house. Doh…
They were both brilliant – and completely empty of tourists (hurray!). Mussolini’s house was beautiful – not at all in the style you would expect for a Fascist dictator (actually I don’t think he was that bad a man for his day – certainly not in the league with Hitler and Stalin). It strongly reminded me of an ancient Roman villa which would have pleased Mussolini himself I think as he always thought of himself as a modern day Roman Emperor.
Then we went to see the House of the Owls which was an art Nouveau creation owned by a mad sounding Italian Prince with a predilection for owls and other creatures of the night. There was one creature of the night outside.
The stained glass was some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
We then took the decision to walk “part of the way” back and take the metro at some strategic point. Needless to say we walked the whole way back – I was starving the whole way but J wasn’t feeling hungry, so I got grouchier and grouchier the whole way back. Anyway, I recovered once we had found our Irish bar and fed the cats again. There was one little sweetie with three legs and virtually no ears which has been at the sanctuary since 2004. When another cat tried to steal its ham, it reared up on its hind legs to bop the intruder with its remaining front paw.
Walked sixteen miles today – I am well impressed with J in keeping up I must say.