Along Rome’s Catacombs-lined Via Appia Antica, visitors gaze over ruins, stroll down one of the city’s original seven roads dating back to 312 B.C., and pause to marvel at the significance of this ancient historical site that’s so deeply contrasted against modern Rome and just minutes away from an international airport.
But just down the road from the thermal baths of Capo di Bove, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, and the imperial Circus of Maxentius, lies what may be the most exciting of its well-preserved sites: the villa once belonging to screen siren Sophia Loren and her late film producer husband, Carlo Ponti.
The couple’s historic 24-acre villa, now listed for sale for $44.9 million with Andrea Barbera of Coldwell Banker Bodini Barbera International Real Estate, is every bit as alluring as the actress herself, and as compelling as the cinema stars that once were hosted on the property. The villa’s proximity to Cinecittà, the famed Roman movie studio responsible for films like “Ben Hur,” “Spartacus,” and “Cleopatra” during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, made it a favorite gathering spot for actors, including Kirk and Michael Douglas and Charlton Heston.
Although current owner Giorgio Greco bought the property in the 1980s, the villa’s pedigree lives on. It was a neighbor who regaled Greco with stories of a teenage Michael Douglas sliding down the master suite staircase using his stuffed bear as a sled.
“Another time, I ran into my favorite Italian actor, Alberto Sordi, who was outside the villa,” he says. “He had previously been Ponti’s guest for dinner, and he dined in the Roman Room with the elite of cinema — Italian and foreign actors and actresses. Sordi persuaded me to shoot the initial frame of the movie “Un Tassinaro a New York” here, and we were very honored to host him for dinner during the two-day shoot.
The Roman room of which Greco speaks is an extraordinary space carved out of volcanic rock to form a one-of-a-kind dining room. Like something out of a fantasy — or a movie — the cavelike former catacomb envelopes guests under its curved ceiling and sparkling chandelier, a mosaic floor punctuated by a portrait of Alexander the Great in the center.
It’s this room, and what lies directly beyond, that the home’s listing agent finds most compelling about the property.
“I think the unique charm lies in combining ancient and modern,” says Barbera. “An ancient Roman tomb has become a unique dining room adorned with an original mosaic, yet only a few meters away, an elevator takes you comfortably to the panoramic terrace with its beautiful view of the grounds.”
Along with the terrace, the upper level of the residence features four additional bedrooms, a library with fireplace and a conservatory, as well as the grand master suite and wraparound terraces.
“The master bedroom is one of my favorite environments, because there is a nice view of the green garden contrasting with the blue of the swimming pool,” says Greco. “From this room, you can also see Terminillo Mountain, which, in winter, is often covered with snow. In the evening, when I turn on the fireplace, I completely relax and enjoy the view.”
Downstairs, three massive living areas are linked by a series of arches and embraced by a canopy of wood-beamed and accented ceilings. The villa also includes an additional building that was once used as stables and is today an open, loft-like space with a professional kitchen (and an apartment) that is ideal for a large gathering — like a film premier party, perhaps.
“It’s difficult to make a prediction about the profile of the future owner,” says Barbera. “It could be an Italian who’s looking for a principle residence, or a foreigner who wishes to purchase a piece of ancient Rome modernized and made functional by the current owners. Or, maybe an entrepreneur or industrialist who wants to spend later years not far from airport and downtown, or an American who wishes to recreate, maybe with a circle of friends, the magical atmosphere of the cinema that produced major movies.”
A property of this caliber appeals to each of those potential buyer groups, and perhaps one more. With a new wave of high-profile films being shot on site at Cinecittà, including “Zoolander II” and the remake of “Ben Hur,” starring Morgan Freeman, perhaps it’s only time until another mega-celebrity snaps it up.
Ben Stiller would look really good practicing “Blue Steel” out in the garden.
For more information about this property, contact Andrea Barbera at Coldwell Banker Bodini Barbera International Real Estate.