© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown

Discover Serra Moresca in Rome, the Italian Alhambra

5 minutes to read

In addition to the wonderful Spanish Alhambra, there is now a similar and spectacular place in Rome. Today, I accompany you to discover Serra Moresca in Rome, the Italian Alhambra.

Indeed, the Alhambra is a complex located in Granada, Spain, and is today considered the Eighth Wonder of the world, being the concrete representation of one of the most beautiful and extraordinary Arab fortresses.

But, today, the Alhambra in Granada is no longer the only Alhambra in the world. After 14 years of intense and precise restoration work, Rome has brought back to light and its ancient splendour its Alhambra. It is the complex of Serra Moresca, located inside the Museums of Villa Torlonia, which has recently been reopened to the public after these multi-year restoration works.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

The architecture is very similar to the Alhambra in Granada and shines in its original beauty within one of the most evocative parks in Rome. The Eternal City today has the task of preserving and conserving this splendid testimony of Arab architecture.

The Serra Moresca has been renovated, as well as the tower and the artificial cave, which are once again accessible after decades of neglect. The whole architectural complex was commissioned by Alessandro Torlonia in the nineteenth century to decorate and embellish his Roman villa (Villa Torlonia) and was built by the Venetian architect Giuseppe Jappelli, with decorations by Giacomo Caneva. Today, the Serra Moresca is part of the circuit of the Museums of Villa Torlonia.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

In recent years, the Serra Moresca has undergone a double restoration, which has restored it to its original structural and decorative splendour and allows its visitors to take a journey through time.

The visit starts from the greenhouse, an amazing garden pavilion with a structure in peperino marble, cast iron and polychrome windows, but the undisputed protagonist is the central fountain dominating the scene. All around, there are tropical plants, palm trees, pineapple trees and agaves. The route continues towards the artificial cave, or place of the Nymph, adorned with ponds and streams of water, to then arrive at the tower, seen from below, and decorated with coloured glass and luxuriant walls of polychrome stucco.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

The greenhouse was intended to house exotic and rare plants but also spectacular events. The tower, on the other hand, was reserved for more intimate meetings, for the prince's guests who, on the top floor, found a sumptuous dining room. The room had a sofa in the centre which, through the action of a mechanism, could rise towards the ceiling, while a table laden with delicacies rose from the floor below, which was to surprise and impress the Prince's guests.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

In the greenhouse, there are references to different Spanish mosques. The lower area of the walls and the corner pillars with decorations are taken from the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the cast iron doors are decorated with a motif taken from the Alhambra in Granada, and the basins supported by small lions are almost a miniature version of the fountain in the Courtyard of the Lions in the same Alhambra.

The visit to the Serra Moresca is configured as a fundamental and extraordinary stage of an itinerary to discover Villa Torlonia and its wonders. In fact, the neoclassical villa, surrounded by a park of over 100,000 square meters, is a true tribute to Beauty.

©  iStock / ValerioMei
© iStock / ValerioMei
Serra Moresca, Rome
Serra Moresca, Rome
Villa Torlonia, 00161 Roma RM, Italia

Serra Moresca is part of the Museums of Villa Torlonia circuit, which includes - Villa Torlonia and Casina delle Civette.

Villa Torlonia

It is the real jewel of Via Nomentana in Rome and offers welcoming and well-kept green spaces, but also architectural styles, museums, restaurants and a museum dedicated to children. It is a villa dating back to the seventeenth century, owned over the centuries by Rome's wealthiest and most noble families. Inside it houses the Casina delle Civette, an architectural gem not to be missed in Rome. In the other buildings scattered in the greenery of the villa, we can find spaces for temporary exhibitions, but also Technotown, a museum dedicated to children about new technologies.

Teatro di Villa Torlonia

This theatre was commissioned in the late 1800s by Prince Alessandro Torlonia to the architect Quintiliano Raimondi to celebrate his wedding with Teresa Colonna. In addition to the stage spaces, many contiguous environments were created to entertain the guests during the prince's feasts. The project reflects the whole complex of Villa Torlonia, with a mix of different styles. The classic and bursting style is in the central body, the Nordic is in the glass and cast iron greenhouse in the southern part. while the Gothic, Moorish, Greco-Roman, and Renaissance is present in the decorations of the halls of the apartments, which are part of the theatre complex. Almost all the decorations were made by Costantino Brumidi, a little-known artist in Italy but very famous in the United States of America, where he frescoed the Capitol in Washington, for which he was nicknamed the Michelangelo of America.

©  iStock / settantasette
© iStock / settantasette
Teatro di Villa Torlonia, Rome
Teatro di Villa Torlonia, Rome
Via Lazzaro Spallanzani, 1A, 00161 Roma RM, Italia

Casina delle Civette

It looks like a dwelling inside a storybook. In reality, it is a museum in the heart of the Eternal City. The Casina delle Civette Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in Rome, which blends liberty style, esotericism and magic.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

Its name derives from the owls present on the windows' decorations, flanked by fairies, swans, peacocks, butterflies and roses, created by the artist Duilio Cambellotti. The whole structure is full of esoteric symbols, loved by Prince Giovanni Torlonia Junior. Until 1938, the appearance was much more rustic, very similar to an alpine refuge, and in fact, it was called the Swiss Hut. Later, Art Nouveau-style turrets, loggias and arcades were added, and the entire building took on the appearance of a Disney movie set.

© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author
© Musei di Villa Torlonia / unknown author

The absolute protagonists of the Casina delle Civette are the windows, in a perfect mix of colours and details. An incredible residence in the heart of Rome is to be discovered even by booking a private guided tour.

Casina delle Civette, Rome
Casina delle Civette, Rome
Villa Torlonia, Via Nomentana, 70, 00161 Roma RM, Italia

So, if during your stay in the Eternal City you find yourself imagining some similarities with Spain, you just have to discover Serra Moresca in Rome, the Italian Alhambra. You will be catapulted into an Arabian atmosphere full of architecture, colours and scents reminiscent of Arab countries and the wonderful Alhambra. Do not miss this visit!


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The author

Mara Noveni

Mara Noveni

My name is Mara, I am Italian, born in Rome and raised in the wonderful Tuscany. Always in love with reading and writing, I completed this way of expressing myself through photography, especially street and travel photography. Thanks to my many and long travel experiences, I have enriched my mind and my inner life.

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