Villa Albani Torlonia, with its collections, fountains, sculptures, stairways and frescos, and other opposite side of the Italian garden, the hemicycle of the Kaffeehaus, is a sublime testimony to that style midway between Rococo and Neoclassicism for which Rome became a favourite destination on the Grand Tour. The Villa was built in the mid-eighteenth century by the architect Carlo Marchionni, on the basis of a project heavily influenced by key figures such as Giovanni Battista Nolli, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Johann Joachim Winckelmann in order to host the prestigious collection of antiquities (curated by Winckelmann himself) belonging to Cardinal Alessandro Albani, nephew of Pope Clement XI. The inscription in bronze letters on the façade recounts its history: Alexander Albani vir eminentissimus instruxit et ornavit / Alexander Torlonia vir princeps in melius restituit (“The emeritus Alessandro Albani built and adorned it / Prince Alessandro Torlonia restored and embellished it).
Villa Albani Torlonia and its collections of ancient masterpieces were laid out according to a precise ground plan: statues, bas-reliefs and fountains – ensconced between the various buildings and gardens of the villa – rise like a vast architectural complex, in a choral composition of environments, landscapes and works of art that ‘live’ here as if forever waiting to be rediscovered. The classicist dream of Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), who promoted the growing neoclassical movement thanks to the ‘Cenacle of Villa Albani’ – which included talents of the likes of Giovanni Battista Nolli, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Johann Joachim Winckelmann – was preserved thanks to the Torlonia Family,who purchased the Villa in 1866, enlarging the collection and the gardens and restoring the most important cardinal residence of the eighteenth century, where in 1870 the Capture of Rome from the Papal States was signed.