Villa Celimontana, one of the most loved by the Romans, stands on the Celio hill and has its main entrance in Piazza della Navicella, close to the church of Santa Maria in Domnica.
The Villa covers a site of the Flavian and Traianean ages of which only parts of walls remain today; in this area there were the castra of the V cohort of Vigiles and excavations from the end of the 19th century have brought to light the remains of the Basilica Hilariana, identified as a place of worship for Cybele and Attis.
The area of the Villa, occupied in medieval times by vegetable gardens and vineyards, was purchased in the mid-16th century by Ciriaco Mattei, who, relying on artists of the time, transformed it into a park full of gardens adorned with ancient sculptures, fountains and bitter oranges, and from the Egyptian obelisk of Ramses II. This obelisk, coming from the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis - and which in Roman times was located in the Sanctuary of Isis Capitolina - was donated by the Senate to Ciriaco Mattei in 1582 after having been at the base of the Ara Coeli staircase for a long time.
The construction of the Casino Mattei or Palazzetto Mattei traditionally entrusted to Jacopo Del Duca, a pupil of Michelangelo, the current headquarters of the Italian Geographic Society, dates back to this period. On the death of Ciriaco Mattei, the property was inherited by his son Gian Battista who expanded the surface of the gardens with the purchase of neighboring land: in this period a radial of sixteen avenues and a labyrinth of hedges were inserted.
With the time, the ancient collections of antiquities of the villa, purchased by the Mattei family, were lost or dispersed and the park was renovated until the nineteenth century, when it took the form of an English garden.
The villa changed owners several times, until it was bought by the state property in 1915 and sold in 1925 to the Municipality of Rome, which opened the park to the public.
The area, immersed in the quiet, today is an ideal place for outdoor breakfasts and walks, as well as being a summer setting for concerts and shows.
The villa is subject to substantial interventions aimed at reducing the risk and preserving its beauty.
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