A short walk from Vatican City, Casale dei Cedri is an Italian stately home set on stunning grounds on the famous via Aurelia Antica. It is a site of great beauty and historical significance with a direct connection to the Vatican.
The villa's prestigious and central location, in an elegant district of Rome sought after by Ambassadors, together with its fairy-tale charm has long attracted Italian’s elite.
It all began in the 19th century when my uncle Ettore Franceschini ran a thriving family business. The Franceschini brand became a symbol of wealth. The luxurious stores in Largo Goldoni and Via Del Corso were a mecca for those who wanted to wear fashionable garments imported from France and England, to ensure they would stand out at Rome’s most glamorous social events.
Later my grandfather, Cesare, joined his brother's business. He was so sought after that he opened another store in Paris. However the outbreak of World War II forced him to limit his activities abroad.
After Ettore passed away, Cesare inherited the farmlands and vineyards just south of the Vatican. They were located between today’s Villa Doria Pamphili and Via Gregorio VII. The lands had a number of abandoned country houses on them. One, built in the seventeenth century, Cesare particularly liked.
My grandparents - Cesare and Adriana - lived a luxurious life in Rome but they also greatly valued nature. So they decided to refurbish the 17th-century property thus turning it into today's Casale dei Cedri. It was a rural oasis of peace just on the outskirts of Rome. There they would throw parties and balls for their friends. They would play tennis and ride horses. My Grandfather loved horses, so the 3-hectare estate had stables and also garages for his impressive collection of vintage carriages.
As Rome grew in size, what was once a country estate was enveloped by the capital. This is how over the years it became a luxurious residence in the centre of the city. In 1947, my grandparents commissioned their friend, the famous architect Marcello Piacentini, to design an Italian garden. To this day it is the showcase of the property and the picturesque surroundings of the swimming pool. Piacentini also supervised the renovation of the villa. He designed a spiral staircase, which is the architectural pearl of the main house.
What makes this estate completely unique is the precious secret found hidden behind an iron caste gate. It leads to the catacombs deep beneath the grounds. There lie the remains of two Popes, ”Two Feliks". In 274 AD, Pope Felix I was buried there. Then in 365 AD, the remains of Pope Felix II, infamous for being an anti-pope, were added. The historical significance of these catacombs means the keys to the gate are kept by the archeological team in the Vatican.
This property has been at the heart of my family for 4 generations. It has witnessed the growth and transformation of the Italian capital. Although moments from the centre of Rome, Casale dei Cedri has always been a magical hiding place from the bustle of city life. It is a part Rome’s history as well as being a luxurious family home.