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The Villa Medici – French Academy of Rome

The Villa Medici is an architectural complex located on the Pincio Hill, next to Trinità dei Monti, where once stood the gardens of the Roman general Lucius Lucinius Lucullus.

La villa Médicis (Rome)

One of the most interesting and important complexes of Rome from different points of view: history, architecture, and above all culture. The Villa is indeed the seat of the French Academy of the Eternal City, promoting numerous cultural events, hosting various art exhibitions and being the residency of many artists, scholars and fellows (known as “pensionnaires”).

An institution created by King Louis XlV in 1666 and managed by eminent artists like Colbert, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Le Brun, It has hosted the greatest French artists and scholars from Debussy, Ingres, to Garnier, to allow them to pursue their work, studies and research. The structure changed totally during the Renaissance, when it turned into a majestic residential building. In 1576 the cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, a big collector and patron of the illustrious family decided to transform the residency into a magnifique palace. He conceived the villa like a museum, organizing a real gallery where to put its collection of ancient works of art.


The park as well was conceived scenographically, ideating the Italian botanical gardens with several rare plants and precious old works.

La piazzale de la villa Médicis (Rome)

Temple of Fortune ruins were overlaid to give room to a belvedere, the Parnassus, from which you could see most past of the city. In addition a pavilion was built inside one of the old towers of the Aurelian walls. From there you could admire Roman countryside and was composed of a main room and a smaller one with a narrow balcony. The recent restoration have highlighted fine and precious decorations.

The magnificent gardens of Villa Medici, elected “Most beautiful garden of Italy in 2015, spread for 7 hectares and preserves the aspect of that era, that with important terracing works was closed by different walls and is map was divided into 16 quarters and six parterres, in harmony with the principles of the time. Thanks to an excellent irrigation, then gardens were enriched by many basins and fountains and after Umbrella pines were added, now a distinctive trait of the Villa. The villa went through different changes and had different important directors, like The painter Balthus, director of the Villa, who between the 60’s and the 70’s changed some elements in order to restore the Villa’s old prestige.

A great change for the Villa took place after 1803, when from private Palace and secondary residence of the Medici family, it became the seat of the Academy of France to lodge young artists from France who were going to live and work there sharing talent and big ideas. In fact It became logic to modify the structure for the artists installing wide studios, especially for sculptors and painters. Several rooms were then enlarged and furnished with ample windows which still remind us of the nineteenth-century ateliers.


The Villa Medici hosts plenty of noteworthy cultural events

Wire & Theo Teardo - Villa Aperta 2012

Besides being a unique place worthy itself a visit to Rome, the Villa hosts plenty of noteworthy cultural events, involving: painting, contemporary art, sculpture, music, cinema and literature, working as a real art propeller. Are worth mentioning “Questions d’art”, a new series of events dedicated to contemporary creation taking place every Thursday, The exhibition Yan Pei-Ming Rome, to be held from March 18 to June 19, 2016 at Villa Medici, or the Open Day at Villa Medici, when periodically the Villa opens freely to public on Sunday.

Balthus has to be praised for its numerous interventions on the structure and restoration works applied to gardens and the building itself. He ideated many optional solution where original decorations were lacking, paying homage to the past but in a complete contemporary way: murals, vast spaces decorated with thin pigments, an unique illumination system with lamps he designed, and mixing antiques with furniture ideated by himself. This distinctive decor he created for Villa Medici has become, in turn, historic, conferring a one of a kind style to the complex.

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