Even uncompleted, the Villa Madama, in Rome, Italy, with its loggia and segmental columned garden court and its casino with an open center, was one of the most famous and imitated villas and terraced gardens of the High Renaissance.
The palace is at the lower slopes of Monte Mario, on the west bank of the Tiber, a few miles north of the Vatican, and just south of the Foro Olimpico Stadium. Entrance is limited and touring of gardens requires prior permission with Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Aside from the Raphael loggia, the villa's greatest artistic element is the salone painted by Giulio Romano, with its magnificent vaulted ceiling. Raphael died at the age of 37 in 1520, with work at the villa far from completed. But after Giulio de' Medici became the second Medici pope, as Clement VII in 1523, work resumed in 1524-1525 and the villa was soon completed.
It had a courtyard with a monumental flight of steps, a circular court around which formal gardens were arranged, an open air theater excavated in the hillside, a hippodrome below, and a terraced garden with views of the Tiber river.
In the garden facing the loggia, the Elephant Fountain, designed by Giovanni da Udine, commemorates the Indian elephant "Annone", brought to Rome by a Portuguese ambassador for the consecration of Leo X in 1514.
The villa was restored by Carlo, Count Dentice di Frasso, who acquired the property in 1925, and his American wife, the former Dorothy Cadwell Taylor. Eventually the Frassos leased it to the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and it was soon purchased by Mussolini in 1941. Mussolini's monumental neo-Roman Foro Italico sports complex is next to the villa, on the site of its racetrack.
Villa Madama is the property of the Italian Government, which uses it for international guests and press conferences.