Villa Celimontana, a green oasis between the Colosseum and Terme di Caracalla
Situated between the Colosseum and Terme di Caracalla, Villa Celimontana is an architectural jewel of the Roman rich past: it is one of the most beautiful parks of the city. Its creation dates back to the 16th century, although during the nineteenth century many changes were made to the original project.
Villa Celimontana, also called Villa Mattei because of the Mattei's palace, is situated on the west part of Celio hill, and you can reach it by the monument entrance situated in Via della Navicella, not far from the fountain with the same name. Next to it there is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, one of the most ancient Christian buildings of the capital of Italy. This extraordinary green lung is on the top of the Camene valley, near the majestic Terme di Caracalla.
The park and the house
Villa Celimontana was built on a site rich in architectural works from the Flavian and Trajan Age. You can see just some parts of the walls of the times, now covered by the various soil layers. Inside the walls and after the park, there where the camping of the V court of Vigiles, the ancient fireman.
In 1889, a campaign of archaeological excavations discovered the Basilica Hilariana, built by the will of Manius Publicius Hilarus, and rich in original and precious mosaics (there is a walk representing the bad luck, made of animals around a human eye pierced by a lance). It was a religious place where they used to venerate Cibele and Attis, site of the religious congregation of dendrophores.
The avenues rich in trees featuring the park are full of various ages remains. Walking around the park, you can see the Egyptian obelisk of Ramses II, from the Sun Temple of Eliopoli, situated in the Iside Capitolina sanctuary in the past, at the beginning of the Ara Coeli stairs. The Senate gave it to Ciriaco Mattei - owner of the garden end of the house -, in 1582. The obelisk is connected to some frightening legends: one of them tells that during the last transfer, the ropes bringing it got broken hurting one of the workers.
He lost both the arms and the legend tells they are still under the pedestal. Another story - more ancient - tells the sphere on the top contains the ashes of Emperor Augustus. Also the entrance door comes from a campaign, in Villa Massimo Giustiniani, situated in Via Matteo Boiardo. At the beginning, before the building of Palazzetto Mattei and the garden, the area was occupied by Paluzzelli's vineyard, lately bought by Mattei's in 1553, for about 1000 golden scudoes. The restyling ordered by the Mattei's finished in 1581, when the fascination of the area became so strong to attract any kind of visitors.
The Mattei's had to sell the house in 1802, moment in which the area started to be sold and bought by many owners until 1869, when the Baron Richard von Hoffmann finally bought it. He made the most important changes: Hoffman ordered all the neo-gothic interventions, Laura Maria Giuseppa of Bauffremont made many landscape transformations, directly made by the French architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Richard von Hoffmann was deprived of its property at the end of the First World War, as it was considered an enemy property on the country soil.
From 1926, the area became property of the city of Rome: the City sold it to the Società Geografica Italiana and made the Gardens a public park. The library of Palazzetto Mattei hosts about 400.000 books, including very rare works dating back the period between the 16th and 19th century.
Music in Villa Celimontana
Villa Celimontana actually is the stage of the Roman entertainment. Surrounded by a green panorama, you can take part to some of the most famous music shows of the summer. Bougainvillea Celimontana is a great jazz festival organized by the Jazz Village Roma.
The manifestation has been inserted in the list of the summer proposals and always offers a very rich programme: in 2017, 6 free concerts per week took place, offering to the most varied guests many kinds of services in the area. It offers a moment of relax to share time with friends and appreciate a green paradise as Villa Celimontana is.
You can't miss the appointment with the festival I Classici in Villa, organised by the Association Alcatraz, inaugurated during the summer in 2012. The music offer makes Villa Mattei even more beautiful, thanks to the participation of many different orchestras, musicians, and young groups meeting in Rome to honour a festival that is getting one of the most interesting ones in the Roman music panorama.
The young kermesse wants to address not only to the lovers but also to the people that don't know it. In a splendid location as Villa Celimontana is, you can take advantage of melodies able to bring you back in time, discovering emotions, memories and songs that were soundtracks of many films.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Panama Garden, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.