The ceiling fresco Aurora, by Guercino, after which the villa has been named, Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Roman villa, promoted as most expensive in Italy, fails to sell for fifth time

Roman villa, promoted as most expensive in Italy, fails to sell for fifth time

The princess occupying it is also facing eviction

The property saga surrounding the Renaissance Villa Aurora, in Rome, has concluded yet another chapter after the Renaissance palace failed to attract any buyers in its fifth auction. It turns out that despite the significant drop in the asking price from the head-spinning 471 million euros, a little over a year ago, to the latest 141 million euros there was still scant interest in acquiring the historic mansion.

Initially, it made news when it was deemed to be the most expensive property in Italy, and among the top-rated in the world. It was rumoured that Saudi princes and even Bill Gates had their chips in the game. But it all fizzled out into nothing, as the sellers kept reducing the initial price tag.

Yet, the whole thing could make a good story for a film or for a soap opera as it has all the spicy elements of melodrama: luxury, art and family feuds.

The sale is the result of a bitter inheritance battle following the death in 2018 of Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose family has owned the site near Via Veneto for the last 400 years. The children of the prince are contesting his will, which stipulated that his American-born widow, Princess Rita Jenrette Boncompagni Ludovisi, can stay there for the rest of her life, or if the house is sold the proceeds will be split between her and the heirs.

The relative nature of value

The court finally ordered for the palace to be put on auction, which spun into a series of auctions and this is where we are now. Yet, Villa Aurora is generally regarded to be an important architectural gem and a site of national (even global) heritage importance.

It is something of a museum on its own, given that it contains the only known Caravaggio ceiling mural in existence. What’s more, on its grounds one can also find a statue attributed to Michelangelo and frescoes by Guercino. It is precisely these art treasures which would oblige any potential buyers to fork out an additional 11 million euros on restoration costs alone, as mandated by the courts. Also, the Italian state has a 60-day window to exercise its right of first refusal after a sale agreement to a private buyer.

The situation has taken an even more gloomy turn, since apart from the sale failure, the widowed princess now also faces eviction, according to media reports. The reasons behind this are two.

On one hand, the bad upkeep of the property has caused on of the walls to collapse and block an adjacent street. On the other hand, Princess Rita had given unauthorized tours of the property, which she claimed were a fund-raising venture.

She has 60 days to leave the villa, although she’s told Reuters that she is planning to appeal the decision.



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