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Marymount - International School Rome

Princess evicted from Rome villa with Caravaggio mural

Casino dell'Aurora is at the centre of a bitter inheritance dispute.

An American-born princess was evicted on Thursday from a historic Rome villa, her home for the last 20 years, as a bitter inheritance battle with her stepsons took a dramatic turn.

Princess Rita Jenrette Boncompagni Ludovisi, 73, left the property in the presence of Carabinieri police, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, with her four poodles.

Her eviction comes after the 16th-century Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, also known as Villa Aurora, failed to sell at a series of court-ordered auctions.

The legal dispute dates back to the death in 2018 of her late husband Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family has owned the site near Via Veneto for the last 400 years.

The eviction notice by Judge Miriam Iappelli to vacate the property - which houses the world's only ceiling painting by Caravaggio and frescoes by Guercino - stems from two issues, according to Italian news reports.

The first issue involves the collapse of a small section of the base of a balustrade on an exterior wall on the property, resulting in the closure of an adjacent street, the second relates to unauthorised paying tours given by the princess who claimed the visits were to raise funds for maintenance of the site.

The inheritance dispute is between Prince Boncompagni Ludovisi's three sons from his first marriage, and his third wife, Princess Rita, who spent much of the last two decades renovating the 2,800-sqm property with her late husband.

The prince's sons contested their father's will, which the princess says entitles her to live in Villa Aurora for the rest of her life and, that if sold, the proceeds would be split between her and her stepsons.

After the two sides failed to reach an agreement, the courts ordered that the 11-bedroom building be put up for auction.

The art-filled villa was first put on the block in January 2022 with a price tag of €471 million, however despite the reserve being slashed several times since then there were no bidders.

The next auction, scheduled for 30 June, has an asking price of €145 million.

The courts stipulated that whoever purchases the property, which is protected by Italian cultural heritage laws, must spend a further €11 million on restoration costs.

The Italian state has a 60-day window to exercise its right of first refusal after a sale agreement to a private buyer.

In recent days Princess Rita appealed to Italy's culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano for the government to step in and "save" Villa Aurora, news agency Adnkronos reports.

Caravaggio's ceiling mural at the Casino dell'Aurora.

A brief history of Casino dell'Aurora

Built in 1570, the villa has been owned since 1621 by the noble Ludovisi family whose ancestors include Popes Gregory XIII – who introduced the Gregorian calendar – and Gregory XV.

The six-storey building, expanded in 1858, was used originally as the family's hunting lodge. The property was once part of Villa Ludovisi, a 30-hectare country retreat established by Cardinal Del Monte.

In the late 19th century the Ludovisi family sold the bulk of the estate during Rome's construction boom, leading to the creation of the upmarket “Ludovisi” district.

The villa sits in what was once part of the Horti Sallustiani, a grand Roman estate with landscaped gardens, on land originally owned by Julius Caesar.

Recent surveys commissioned by Princess Rita and her late husband suggest that the ground on which the villa is built is exceptionally rich in archaeological treasures from the Roman era.

For insights into the property's rich history, in English, see the Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi.

Photo La Stampa

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Address Via Aurora, 6342, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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Princess evicted from Rome villa with Caravaggio mural

Via Aurora, 6342, 00187 Roma RM, Italy

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