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Villa Montecucco: stories of land and title

Editorial staff

19 October 2020

At the start of the nineteenth century, the name 'Pian del lago' identified the piece of land between Castel Gandolfo and Marino, which sat along the rim of the crater and towards the beach. It was considered a separate area from the village, so much so that land registry maps of the time show the urban centre marked only as section I, 'Castel Gandolfo', and section II marked as 'Castel Gandolfo Pian del lago', two separate maps with two separate entries on the registers. The land on which the villa was eventually built is located just north of the village border, in this second section. The land registry of 1819 shows a large vineyard covering most of the perimeter of the current Eni property, belonging to a Giuseppe Galli, who also owned a pasture on the sloping side. While Giuseppe Marroni di Sebastiano, a municipality tenant, occupied the remaining area of land, also covered by vineyards and pastures (1). Over the next three decades, the large vineyard was purchased by Nicola Manzetti. By the middle of the century, only the northern half was still owned by the family, in the name of his daughter Caterina, together with one of the pastures already rented by Giuseppe Marroni. The southern half of the vineyard, as with Galli's pasture, was rented to Caterina's brother, Camillo Manzetti, by the municipality. In 1863, her husband, Francesco Silvestri, took ownership and registered her land as his dowry from her and her brothers, while the land rented by his brother-in-law in the South and the smaller areas to the north, formerly rented by Marroni, had now been partly shared out between the Dezi heirs (2).

From a dowry to the cardinal, the construction of Villa Montecucco

This situation allowed Cardinal Camillo di Pietro to acquire the land and in just two years he managed to take over the whole area, where he built a property with a similar layout and size to that we see today. The Cardinal, son of Faustina Caetani and grandson of the landed gentry was a prominent figure in the Roman Savoy question after the Kingdom of Italy was established. He began his takeover of the land with three consecutive petitions filed on the same day, 6 July 1865, relating to the long-lease belonging to Camillo and the land of the Dezi heirs and Marroni. In November 1866 he acquired the land rented by Marroni. Between March and 30 September 1867 (ten days after he was appointed Bishop of Albano) he also acquired the land belonging to Caterina. The Manzetti siblings' large vineyard was now ideally set up for development, surrounded by a frame of green with the land registry recording that the two areas of land 'were placed' ex officio on 10 August 1883, 'in part decreased by right of way in the urban land register'. Villa Montecucco was built on these areas of land (3).

The original villa would have been built sometime between 1867 and 1883

In the light of this reconstruction, the original villa would have been built sometime between 1867, the year the land was purchased, and 1883, when it was registered in the urban land registry. However, it is likely that the registration took place some time after the villa's construction as a result of the contents of the cardinal's last will and testament, as he died on the 6 March, leaving the property split between his two brothers. In the section II map, where the change of ownership is described, the land parcel already corresponds to that of the building. Unfortunately it is not yet possible to identify the exact date of construction. On one hand, because changes to the maps were added in layers, not always dated and only recognisable because they appear in different handwriting or colour (red), in our case up to 1890. On the other, because the strip of land moved between the two sections. It was so close to the urban area that originally the border of the village reached beyond the villa, while the one noted in 1835 excluded it, and so the information about the land was updated in section II, but the urban changes were recorded in layers and described in detail in the urban register, where subsequent changes in ownership were also incorporated. The urban register does not include a search covering notarial files and restricted land registers, in which, for example, the end of the Di Pietro property parcel rents was noted on 12 June 1888. This is perhaps because of the interests of its second important owner, senator of the Kingdom of Italy Giulio Monteverde, an internationally renowned sculptor and creator of, among other things, the quadrigas of Palazzo Venezia in Rome.