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The Villa

Located on a hill overlooking the Caina riverbank flat, Villa del Cardinale is the most famous among the Umbrian Villas because it was built in the mid-16th century, by His Eminence, Cardinal Fulvio Della Cornia, nephew of Pope Julius III Del Monte.
The estate of the Della Cornia family—whose origins date back to its 13th century historical progenitor, fief lord of Bastia Corgna, Ser Berardo—extended from lake Trasimeno to the river Tiber, near the town of Perugia. In such a strategic position, the Villa had to be both a prestigious mansion and a large-scale farm from the beginning.
A generous and prolific venture in the construction of both private and public buildings is due to the brothers Ascanio and Fulvio, who were the offspring of Francesco Della Cornia. They often recurred to the designs of the Perugian architect Galeazzo Alessi for this work. Conceived in this manner, the Della Cornia construction sites initiated the work in 1553, with the Palace in Città della Pieve during the pontificate of Julius III, then they were resumed in 1563 with the construction of the majestic Palace of Castiglion del Lago, and continued during the 1570s with the restoration work on Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia and the Castle of Pieve del Vescovo.

Villa del Colle was built by the cardinal in this context—in 1575—as a summer residence of great magnificence. But soon it had to go through the various vicissitudes connected with the family’s decline. In 1644, Fulvio II, who was the last Marquis and Duke of Castiglione, sold the Villa to Count Cornelio II Oddi, a member of a historical and powerful Perugian family. In 1782, with the marriage of Caterina Oddi and Alessandro Baglioni, the Villa became property of the Oddi-Baglioni family line, which transformed it into an appreciated literary salon during the second half of the 19th century. Sold in 1926, the Villa shifted to the lawyer Luigi Parodi, and was handed over to the State in 1997 with the financial intervention of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, for the purpose of its tutelage and value enhancement in the territory and to render it open and available for public fruition. The plan for the restoration of the monumental and naturalistic complex, under the supervision of the Superintendence of the Historical Artistic and Ethno-Anthropological Heritage of Umbria, is still in course and will allow for the complete recovery of the estate as a “Historical House” and a place for events, with the individuation of didactic and cognitive itineraries of visits extended to the garden and the park.


The Villa

The original plan—whose paternity is attributed to the Perugian architect Galeazzo Alessi by some and to Vignola by others—concerns the entire complex and hill.

The structure of the palace, which is huge, is compact in its rectangular plan. It rises for three and a half floors above ground: the Above-ground Floor, the Noble Floor, the Second Floor and the Attic plus the Basement below ground.

Outside, at the diagonal corners, there are four angular constructions: the so-called “Bagno del Cardinale”—the Cardinal’s Bath—and Library; the Winter Garden with its Aviarium—the Aviary—and the Saddle and Harness Room; the Study; the Guest Lounge Room.

In the main façade of the central body—with its framed prospects, horizontal white stripes underlining the floors of the building and the frame of the windows, and angles well defined by flat smooth rustication masonry called “bugnato”—the portal opens underneath an elegant balcony. To the West, the rear façade was modified by the construction of a small tower—added at the end of the 19th century to build the restrooms—that modifies its original flat design.

Inside, the rooms are characterized by their large surface and their vaulted ceilings with barreled or cloistered vaults. A large corridor disengages on the floors two symmetric groups of rooms leading to the rectangular vestibule that provides access to the Grand Staircase, the Small Tower and the Service Staircase. On the Main Floor, there is the magnificent Salon d’Honneur—the reception room—with its polychrome gilded and carved wooden coffered ceiling. Laterally, other rooms and living rooms—in which it is sometimes possible to see traces of later decorations from the 18th-19th centuries.

Above, you enter into the Mezzanine, once used for guests and services. The floor above ground was used as a boarding room, while the vast space of the basement hosted the kitchens, storage rooms and laundries allowing underground communication with the external building at the corners.

The Villa is entirely decorated by an extraordinary cycle of frescos—from the Pomarancio and Zuccari School—that are, after a recent study, attributed to the Florentine painter Salvio Salvini, who should have completed them around 1581. Other decorations executed later are the work of Alessio de Marchis (1684-1752), Carlo Labruzzi (1748-1817), Marcello Leopardi (1753-1795).


The Park

The ancient 16th century plan foresaw an Italian garden—contemporary with the magnificent Roman ones—on the Northern side of the Villa, still legible in a 1729 cadastral map, a vegetable garden, orchards and olive tree groves for the needs of the house.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the austere aspect of the Villa goes through important transformations ordered by the Oddi family. These transformations, which mainly involved the environment surrounding the building, mitigated its 16th century austere appearance. It was at that time that the Towers with an L shape form—on the front of the terrace—and probably the cylindrical one at the rear and the entire surrounding garden furniture of the space outside the Villa were built. Everything was transformed, between the 18th and 19th centuries, and enriched with steps, fountains, statues, vases, pinnacles and balustrades, following the very popular and widespread fashion in Perugia at the time.

However, the most far-reaching intervention done under the Oddi-Baglioni does not concern the important works executed on the gardens of French style, but rather the creation of the huge English garden landscape—in line with the 18th century taste of William Kent and Alexander Pope—whose fame resounds abroad to the point that, in 1819, the Habsburg monarch, the Austrian Emperor Francis I, visited it while passing by Perugia.

The naturalistic complex—of notable extension with its 13 hectares—in addition to its extraordinary beauty and undisputed historical and artistic worth still has a great scientific importance today for the variety and richness of the botanical species it possesses. These have been object of recent studies by the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Perugia.

What is new?

The website is online.
Is possible to navigate the various sections, immersed in the wonderful virtual tour and further thanks to the many photographs.
We are waiting for a guided tour.
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