In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Villa Albani-Torlonia

To the east of the Tiber, outside the old city walls, past the Villa Borghese, lies the Villa Albani-Torlonia, known in Casanova’s era as simply the Villa Albani. Cardinal Alessandro Albani had it built, beginning in 1747, by architect Carlo Marchionni. Johann Winckelmann was involved in the planning because he was working with Albani to house an enormous collection of antiquarian marbles–busts, sculptures, and sarcophagi from ancient Rome and Greece. The Villa, which can today be visited by appointment, calls its collection “the most prestigious private collection of Greek-Roman sculptures in the world.”

Cardinal Alessandro Albani

In 1760 Casanova reunited with his brother Giovanni, who introduced him to people in higher society. After visiting the Palazzo Frascara (see details in a separate post), Giovanni and Johann Winckelmann accompanied Casanova to the Villa Albani “to see the Cavaliere Mengs, who was living there, being engaged in painting a ceiling” (Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 182). That ceiling became the famed “Il Parnaso” (seen below). Willard Trask tells us that Mengs had been made a Knight of the Order of the Golden Spur in 1758 “probably in recompense for 2 portraits of Clement XIII which he painted” (note 51). The commendation was quite prestigious in the 16th century but apparently was later handed out liberally until it lost some of its prestige. Still, it offered a recognition of Mengs’ artistic contributions. Casanova doesn’t say any more about their visit, so we’ll have to be content imagining what they saw by viewing some pictures of the grounds and artwork instead; enjoy this video tour as well.

Gated entrance to the villa
Drawing of the Villa Albani by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
“Il Parnaso” by Anton Rafael Mengs, painted from 1760-61, the same period when Casanova visited the villa

(Details about the villa come from its website: Images are from Google Maps, Wikipedia, and


About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
This entry was posted in Casanova, Italian heritage, Rome and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Villa Albani-Torlonia

  1. I am always stunned by the wealth of the church and it’s clergy (except the nuns).

  2. vos articles sont toujours aussi passionnants, merci

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