Villa Mondragone and its gardens are situated on a hill (416m above sea level) and from part of the group of Ville Tuscolane scattered around an area encompassing the territories of Frascati and Monte Porzio Catone. The Villa complex is formed by 18 hectares of parkland: at the centre, in an elevated and stunningly panoramic position, is the imposing Villa building of about 80.000sqm. The history of the Villa is marked from the very beginning by an alternation of Cardinal owners which culminated with Cardinal Ugo Boncompagni, the future Pope Gregory XIII.
It was actually Pope Gregory XIII who suggested to build a new, grandiose Villa on the knoll above Villa Tuscolana, using as foundations the remains of the ancient Roman Villa dei Quintili (Roman Consuls in 151 d.C.). The Villa was designed by the architect Martino Longhi. The name Mondragone refers to the dragon which is represented on the coat of arms of the Boncompagni family and that is depicted in various parts of the Villa and the gardens.
The Villa was further enlarged in the 17th century with a gallery linking the Casino del Longhi and La Retirata, a small residential lodging built for the son of Cardinal Altemps, a new garden (the Giardino Grande), a portico and the Teatro delle Acque, and also a quadrangular court similar to the "cour d'honneur" of the royal residences in France. The most flourishing period of Villa Mondragone terminated with the death of Pope Paul V, and its decline began. In 1866 the Villa, bought by the Jesuits Order, became the foreign seat of the Collegio Ghislieri and then a boarding school for the upper classes. In 1981 the Villa was bought by Rome's Tor Vergata University with the approval of the Sopraintendenza ai Beni Architettonici e Paesagistici of the Lazio Region.
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