The House of the Owls
The House of the Owls, in Villa Torlonia’s park, exudes the nocturnal quality of the predator after which it is named, the ‘Athene noctua’ that in antiquity was a symbol for Minerva, the goddess “with gleaming eyes”.
The house has the gothic charm of a witch after dusk… reminiscent of the demoniac aura attributed to owls during the Middle Ages.
The darkness of those times and the mysterious symbols of exotericism were inspiring to Giovanni Torlonia jr, the shifty prince who resided here. In 1908 he decided to radically transform the look of the 1800s building – which until then had been known as the Swiss Cabin, for its resemblance to an alpine refuge. He entrusted the renovation to Enrico Gennari – who built towers and porticoes, erected loggias and created large windows – and to Vincenzo Fasolo, who added the lively Art Nouveau decorations in 1917.
But what makes the house a unique place and an example of refinement are the stained glass windows, installed between 1908 and 1930, which were designed by Duilio Cambellotti, Vittorio Grassi, Paolo Paschetto and Umberto Bottazzi.
Rome may soften the mystery and enigma of the House of the Owls in broad daylight, but at sunset it hands it over – to use Rainer Maria Rilke’s words – to “its nights that last so long, still and filled to overflowing with great constellations”.