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Between fairy tale and reality: The Owls’ Cottage in Villa Torlonia.

Prince Giovanni Torlonia Jr. was the scion of two of the most illustrious Italian families: the Borgheses, on his father’s side, and the Torlonias of the maternal branch. Born in Rome in 1873, founder of the Bank of Fucino, proponent of the recovery of the port of Trajan, and senator of the Kingdom of Italy in 1920, granted to Benito Mussolini, as an official residence, the beautiful Villa Torlonia on Via Nomentana. For himself, he kept only a dépendance in the park, the so-called Swiss Hut, but had it completely restored, ideally dedicating it to the owl, a nocturnal bird symbol of wisdom (it was one of the attributes of the goddess Athena) and clairvoyance. Under a stylistic point of view, the Owls’ Cottage is an architectural caprice, a bizarre cross of heterogeneous elements, seemingly assembled by a leprechaun.

Antiquity and fast food: the thermopolium of Via Diana in Ostia Antica

If you believe that finger food, fast food restaurants, bistros and pubs are a prerogative of the modern era, then take a ride in the extraordinary archaeological area of Ostia – the harbor city of ancient Rome, which, during 2nd century AD, at the time of its greatest expansion, could count on a population of about 50,000 inhabitants – to personally find out that we have not invented anything. Along the via Diana, on the ground floor of the insula bearing the same name, an ancient thermopolium (literally ‘a place where something hot is sold’) of Hadrianic times (III century AD) still open its ancient doors.

Roman from Rome: the house of Lorenzo Manilius

Written sources give us no information about the life and activity of Lorenzo Manilio: we do not know who he was, nor what he did to live, nor how his family was composed. But one thing is certain: Lorenzo Manilio must have had a great consideration of himself, and an even greater affection for his city. This can be clearly evicted when admiring the small mansion built in 1468, in the very heart of what, in a little over eighty years, would have become the Jewish ghetto of Rome, right along Via del Portico d’Ottavia, at street numbers 1 and 2.

Art from another point of view: the anamorphosis of Trinità dei Monti.

In art, the term “anamorphosis” indicates a strongly distorted image acquiring a “sense” only when placed in the correct point of view.

Two beautiful and amazing examples – though unfortunately little known – can be admired in the convent of Trinità dei Monti, which houses the Institute of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart and of the Monastic Fraternity of Jerusalem.

Imperial Rome’s Manhattan: the Insula of Ara Coeli

Skyscrapers seem to embody the very essence of modernity: we associate them with the hectic life of the great metropolises, the epicenter of business and pleasures. And this is the truth indeed, considering that, the idea of exploiting the space in height – rather than in width – in order to give accommodation to as many people as possible, was born right in the heart of a metropolis (1st century BC Rome), overcrowded (about a million inhabitants), center of an Empire (“Roma caput mundi” was not a brash nor a joke, but a matter of fact).

Europe’s oldest hospital and the “project” wheel

The foundation of the hospital of Holy Spirit in Sassia, one of the oldest in Europe, dates back to the 12th to 13th century, and is linked to the will of Pope Innocent III (1161 – 1216). The pontiff ordered the construction of a hospital along the banks of the Tiber, not only to offer shelter and care to the sick and old, but also, and perhaps above all, to give a chance of survival to the many abandoned newborns and babies, condemned to certain death along the streets of medieval Rome.

Pope Leo’s living room: the Triclinium Lateranensis

You probably saw it hundreds of times, in the chaothic traffic of Piazza San Giovanni, just behind the Scala Santa… everyone knows, at least by sight, the Triclinium Lateranensis, or Leoninum, but few know its origin and function. This unique monument is all that survives of a sumptuous banquet hall (the triclinium) built by Pope Leo III (795-816) for the pontifical residence of the Lateran.

The meals of the Ancient Romans – part I

Just like ours, the day of an ancient Roman was punctuated by three main meals: breakfast (ientaculum), midday breakfast (prantium) and evening dinner (dinner). As in the Greek world, it was the latter that actually represented the authentic meal, the very moment when Romans met with family or friends at the end of a hard day’s work. The abundance of individual meals varied depending on the historical period, the status of the family, the fact of living in the city rather than in the countryside.

The morning hour has gold in its mouth: the Casino dell’Aurora in Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi

The beautiful Casino dell’Aurora Pallavicini is part of the architectural complex of Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi, on the top of the Quirinal Hill. The Casino, which overlooks the Piazza del Quirinale and the Fountain of the Dioscuri, was erected between 1612 and 1613 at the behest of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who entrusted the construction to the Flemish architect Giovanni Vasanzio.