Villa Taverna, The U.S. Ambassador’s Residence

The fifteenth century Villa Taverna, commissioned by Cardinal Consalvi, was first rented by the U.S. Embassy in 1933.  The Villa and its historical gardens are filled with valuable art from antiquity through the Renaissance, to the nineteenth century.  Among the important objects in the collection are a Baroque fountain, a 3rd century A.D. Roman sarcophagus, ancient Egyptian granite columns with white Luna marble capitals, and 300-year-old busts of Roman emperors.

The property was first mentioned in the tenth century as being in the center of a large farm and vineyard estate owned by the St. Silvester Monastery.  Portions of the Villa probably date to the sixteenth century, when Pope Gregory XIII gave the property to the Jesuit German-Hungarian College.  St. Philip Neri worked here, “inspiring honest men with Christian wisdom,” according to a plaque inside.  When the Pope dispossessed the Jesuits of their properties in 1773, the papacy reclaimed ownership.

Throughout the 1800s Roman nobility escaped the summer city heat here.  In 1824 Pope Leo XII opened the Papal Seminary College, and for the next one hundred years, many illustrious scholars frequented the well-known center of learning.  There are Latin inscriptions inside the Villa commemorating the visits of Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 and 1833, and of Pope Pius IX in 1863.

In 1920 Milanese aristocrat Count Ludovico Taverna purchased the building and, with his architect Carlo Busin Vici, transformed the Villa’s original structure into a country home reminiscent of those of 19th century Roman patricians.  Vici embellished the residence with sculptures and archaeological findings from the property, dating to ancient times.

Beginning in 1933, the U.S. Embassy rented the Villa from Taverna’s daughter.  During World War II the property managed to avoid destruction by serving as a convalescent home for the Italian military.  Returned to the U.S. Government in 1944, the Villa and gardens were purchased thereafter on March 6, 1948 from Princess Ida Borromeo-Taverna.  The Villa has since served as the residence for 18 American ambassadors, and is protected by Italian law for cultural heritage.

Source: Department of State publication “The Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property: Selected Property Briefs” and Department of State booklet “ART in Embassies Exhibition Villa Taverna, Rome”