On the slopes of Mount Tuscolo stands the iconic Villa Tuscolana. It is one of ten Tuscolan villas and occupies a dominant position on the hill overlooking the town of Frascati. It was built in 1578 on the ruins of the ancient Roman residence of Marcus Tullius Cicero according to the will of Cardinal Alessandro Rufini, from whom its local name “La Rufinella” comes. The Villa, historically owned by the Apostolic Chamber, owes its royal appearance to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli – the designer of the Royal Palace of Caserta, – who managed the building around 1700 on behalf of the Jesuit Order and transformed it into a luxurious residence.
Over the centuries, thanks to its undeniable splendour, Villa Tuscolana belonged to many of the most important families of the Roman aristocracy. Famous personalities from all over Europe such as Prince Luciano Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, Queen Maria Cristina of Bourbon and King Victor Emanuel II enlivened the magnificent rooms over the years.
The latter in particular financed archaeological excavations around the villa in 1872, during which historical relics were found and gradually gifted to museums in Paris. The subsequent owner, Elisabetta Aldobrandi Lancellotti, later realised her life’s project of connecting Villa Tuscolana with her two other villas, Villa Aldobrandi and Villa Lancellotti, through an ingenious and sophisticated system of underground tunnels.
In 1834, the Italian poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, who was a guest in the villa, was so delighted by the ambience that he dedicated a sonnet to it: “La Rufinella”. During the Second World War, Villa Tuscolana was damaged by enemy bombardment, but immediately afterwards it was restored and transformed by the Salesian Order into a fabulous hotel that we can admire today.