Saturday was a great day for taking a short walk to the Villa Torlonia in our neighbourhood with our visitors Dan and Cameron. The Villa was one of the summer homes of the Torlonia family and the residence of Mussolini from 1925 until his arrest in 1943. Prince Giovanni Torlonia was a committed fascist, as where many of the nobility, and rented the Casino Nobile to Il Duce for 1 lira a year. He,in the meantime, lived in the bizarre Casina delle Civette (The House of the Owls)further back in the park.
The property was occupied by the Allied High Command from 1944 until 1947 then lay desolate for the next 30 years. Looting, neglect, the elements and vandalism took the toll on the gardens and buildings. In 1978 the Commune di Roma opened it as a public park and restoration work began. It has now become a popular green space with a very good restaurant - their pizza is amongst the best in Rome - three museums, a children's park, a seniors' casa and a theatre which is currently under restoration. Its a bit off the beaten track so most of the people in the grounds are locals - both Italian and ex-pat. We had an unhurried look through the Casino Nobile with its elaborately frescoed rooms that were designed to sing the praises of the Torlonia family - Mussolini made very few changes to the decorations during the time he lived there.
The third floor (originally a service area and servants quarters)houses an exhibition of works of the Scuola Romana - many of which would have been censored by the Fascist government. But perhaps most fascinating - amongst all the brightly coloured, beautifully restored frescoes - were these four we came across in one of those third floor rooms. Painted sometime in the late 40s they glorify something other than the Torlonia family - it appears this artist was enamoured of Hawaii!
They are the work of an unknown British soldier who decided to brighten the dingy area he worked in. He choose images of a more carefree clime perhaps to counteract the daily images of destruction, hunger and poverty that surrounded him in post-War Roma.
03 giugno - San Carlo