Villa Grazioli was built in 1580 by Cardinal Antonio Carafa. The Villa is rich in artworks by Masters of 16th and 17th century like Ciampell, Carracci and Pannini.
An engraved slab of marble in the Villa’s chapel quotes the words of a letter dated 1580, in which Pope Gregorius XIII honoured the foundation of the Villa and consecrated the Chapel to St. John the Baptist. The memorial stone is important for the history of the Villa, not just because it contains the foundation date, but because it informs us about the identity of the founder and the reasons why he decided to build a Villa.
As Lucullus and Cato many centuries before, Cardinal Carafa chose to build a Villa on the Tusculum Hill because of that mild climate and atmosphere of quietness wrapping up everything. He wanted a place in the peacefulness of rural life, where his spirit could find relief and contemplate the mysteries of nature, away from the fatigue of the city.
At the death of Cardinal Carafa, the Villa was inherited by Cardinal Ottavio Acquaviva d’Aragona, who played a crucial role in the history of the Villa. He commissioned the realisation of most of the paintings, whose colours still brighten up the vaults of the four halls on the ground floor. The next owners of the Villa, the Peretti-Montalto family (about 1613) commissioned the paintings in the Room of Eliseo to an artist from the Carracci’s school, probably Antonio Carracci himself, nephiew of the famous Annibale.
One of the paintings is particularly interesting because it depicts the Villa how it looked at that time: the plane tree painted 400 years ago is the same that can still be seen in the park of the Villa. The purchase of the property by the Odescalchi family in 1683 marked a period of important changes in the structure, bringing to a modification of the southern side of the building.
The large 16th century terrace was turned into a Gallery to make the construction of a third floor possible. In 1737 Baldassarre Erba Odescalchi, commissioned the decoration of the new Gallery on the first floor to one of the most popular painters of that period: Giovanni Paolo Pannini. In 1843 the Villa was bought by Duke Pio Grazioli. He started new restoration works, changing the side of the building overlooking Rome.
Two new parts were built at the side of the big tower rising from the central body of the Villa: they totally enclosed the 16th century tower, making the Villa as it looks today. World War II marked the beginning of a period of decadence for the Villa after the bombing of Frascati. The Villa was chosen as shelter by a group of homeless. Each family occupied a room and turned it into their ‘house’, using campfires and placing mattresses on the floor.
Villa Grazioli was then completely abandoned for nearly forty years. In 1987 Villa Grazioli Ltd took over the property and started the restoration works. Nowadays the Villa has been given back the elegance it deserves. For the years to come, a thorough restoration of the frescoes will take place according to a project approved and supervised by the Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage.