Standing majestically on Monte Mario just north of Rome overlooking the Tiber and the Milvian Bridge, the unfinished Villa Madama (1518) is one of the most celebrated and innovative buildings of its time. As a locus amoenus for Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and his friends, and as a setting used by Pope Leo X to accommodate foreign dignitaries when they visited the city, the villa represented an attempt to create an environment in which visitors could imagine themselves transported back to Roman antiquity. Its spaces were intended to seem ancient in name, form, and function. It was to have had a semicircular theater cut into the hillside; a...

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