The Ludovisi Casino, a 16th-century villa in Rome with a ceiling painting by Caravaggio and frescoes by Guercino, has failed to sell at auction for the second time in three months. News broke to the backdrop of intensifying calls for the Italian state to snap up the 2,800 sq. m property that was recently valued at nearly half a billion euros. However, the country’s culture ministry has said it has no official policy on the matter.
Currently owned by Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, the villa was first auctioned online in January with a starting price tag of €471m but failed to attract any bidders. It suffered the same fate at the second auction yesterday afternoon, even though the guide price had been reduced 20% to €377m. The villa will be re-auctioned on 30 June for €301m, a further 20% reduction. If it does not sell at the next time of asking, Italian courts will decide on the villa’s opening price for a fourth round.
An online petition demanding the state purchase the property with money from Italy’s €192bn pot of EU Covid recovery funds had gained more than 40,000 signatures at the time of publication. The property has been listed since 1987, meaning the state is entitled to purchase it for the price it reaches at auction within 60 days of the sale. Beniamino Milioto, the princess’s lawyer, said during an interview that he believed the reduced price tag would now make the villa “much more appetising” to the state.
Yet a culture ministry press officer said by phone that it is too early to determine whether the government will purchase the villa, adding that the property’s price tag is “enormous” compared with recent state acquisitions. The ministry purchased the Villa Buonaccorsi near Macerata for €2.3m in February, and ring fenced €40m to renovate the Palazzo Silvestri-Rivaldi in Rome last year.
Michele Campisi, vice president of heritage protection organisation Italia Nostra, says the state should ensure the Ludovisi Casino must remain open to the public even if the property is privately purchased. This could be guaranteed by conferring "exceptional interest" status on the building in accordance with article 104 of the Code of Cultural Property and Landscape, he said. Italia Nostra forwarded its request to culture minister Dario Franceschini in a letter dated 14 March that has been shared with The Art Newspaper.