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Postcards from Italy: Villa Aldobrandini

Villa Aldobrandini

Villa Aldobrandini

I read in some brochure that the town I’m living in, Frascati, is known for its many villas.  I thought all Italian towns had these romantically creepy old structures, but apparently not. Frascati is singularly blessed. I’ve been trying to get out and see as many as possible while I’m here. I love ‘em.

There’s Villa Lancellotti, practically in my back yard. I’m not sure that’s the right way to put it. I don’t have a backyard and the Lancellotti family has hundreds of acres for theirs. So actually…

Villa Lancellotti

Villa Lancellotti

Up the road from Lancellotti is Villa Tuscolana, which has been converted to a hotel and ristorante. If such a thing was moved over to the U.S. they’d call it a B&B. And if B&Bs in America were hundreds of years old, made of stone, and about ten times bigger than what they are now, it would look like one of these–I don’t know what to call them–Castles without a moat? Mansions as big as an ocean liners? Big, ostentatious monstrosities, built on the backs of the ever-suffering proletariat of centuries past?

I love ‘em.

Villa Tusculana

Villa Tusculana

Down the hill from Tuscolana and across the moor from Lancellotti is Villa Falconieri. I tried to get in to take a photo, but I got kicked out. The grounds are not open to the public. Best I got was the back side of the entrance gate.

You can see Villa Torlonia from all over Frascati. It’s not as magnificent as Lancellotti or Tuscolana; it looks a lot like a big YWCA. Because you can see Torlonia from all over town, though, it gets points for in-your-faceness.

There are a ton more that I’ve yet to see, but without doing a comprehensive survey I can tell you now the most impressive of all is Villa Aldobrandini.

Villa Torlonia

Villa Torlonia

The picture at the top of the post does not do Adobrandini justice. When you first see it, it takes your breath away. Many tourists step off the bus, are overwhelmed by the view of Aldobrinidini on the hill, and turn right back around and head back to Rome. Like the Grand Hotel on Macinac Island, you just don’t need to see anything else after viewing such a monument to humanity’s hubris.

In a way this structure and its accompanying grounds stand as a symbol for the entire town. All over Frascati in lobbys and offices you see old-fashioned photos and maps of Aldobrandini proudly displayed. As if that’s the only story needing to be told. It’s not just its size, but its placement that excites the awe. No matter how you enter the city, it’s the first thing you see. And it totally rules the town by virtue of its chutzpah.

It sits magnificently on the hill with a grove of trees pruned in the draconian Italian style and leading straight up to the “castle.” So chokingly manicured are these trees you suspect that, like the bound-footed Asian women of yore, they have suffered for their beauty. It’s a wonderful effect, but wholly unnatural and somewhat stifling to behold. In this case the trees serve to remind you of what? Punishment if you don’t worship the residents of the Aldobrandini home?

Supposedly an Italian prince does live there occasionally.  I wonder how I’m supposed to behave when he comes to town. Are the Frascatani expected to stay indoors lest our eyes fall upon his visage? Or do we turn out to cheer for his motorcade as it tools up Viale Vittorio Veneto?

In truth Aldobrandini is looking a little shabby. The grounds need some care, the trees are getting scraggly, the lawn patchy. Everything’s old and crumbly. That’s sort of the way of things in Italy, but Aldobrandini’s crumbly contrasts sharply with the nattiness of such places as Villa Tuscolana that caters to wealthy outsiders. Aldobrandini looks run down. Don’t get me wrong it’s still impressive up on the hill like that, jutting from the trees below. It’s creepily romantic. And beautiful. I love it.

There’s a bridge over the road that separates the Lancellotti estate from the Aldobrandini one. I keep thinking of the bored Lancellotti daughters of a few centuries back. I think they pined for entertainment. Did they sneak across the road to take a peak at the Aldobrandini princes? Did they don the vestments of a boy and climb over the wall at night for clandestine rendezvous? I hope so.

Thanks for reading,

Sue Lange

Aldobrandini from the side

Aldobrandini from the side

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