The $533 Million Italian Villa That Nobody Wanted

On January 18, Casino dell’Aurora was auctioned for €471 million (US$533 million). If the auction had been successful, Villa Aurora would have become the most expensive single house of its size in the world.

Unfortunately, the auction failed to attract a single bidder and now, an Italian court has announced that the price should be lowered to €377 million (US$427 million) when it returns to auction.

Now, you may be wondering why this particular Roman villa is one of the most expensive properties on the planet, and why it is being forcibly sold at auction…

Villa Aurora is a luxury villa of 2,800 square meters, located on top of an area of ​​6000 square meters in the heart of Rome. The villa’s occupants are kept completely private with its 500-year-old walls and manicured gardens.

Credit: Google Maps

However, what really makes this 16th-century villa worth its incredible price tag is that it houses a series of incredibly valuable historical artifacts, including a one-of-a-kind “priceless” work by Italian painter Caravaggio.

Caravaggio Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (1597). The only known ceiling work painted by a Baroque artist.

Only this fresco was painted by Caravaggio, widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the modern era, says Professor Alessandro Zuccari, who oversaw the evaluation of the villa’s artwork.

Despite its status as “priceless” among art connoisseurs, the mural has been officially evaluated by independent appraisers, who suggest its true market value is somewhere around €311 million (US$360 million).

The villa also contains thousands of Italian artworks, statues and other artifacts of deep cultural and historical significance.

Ownership of Villa Aurora became a topic of debate in 2018, when owner Prince Niccol Boncombani Ludovisi died at the age of 77. After his death, a protracted legal battle erupted between different heirs of Prince Niccol and the end result was an Italian court order to sell the villa.

The imposition of selling the villa to whoever happened to be the highest bidder immediately raised fears that opportunistic foreign buyers would be allowed to swoop in and take control of important aspects of Italian heritage and culture in particular.

In response, more than 39,000 people have signed a petition in the past few days, asking the Italian government to step in and buy the villa in order to protect Italian culture.

Too much foreign ownership?

This once again raised the debate about the level of foreign ownership that should be welcomed in countries, especially when it comes to purchasing listed heritage or property of cultural significance.

This trend is becoming increasingly relevant in Australia as well. Despite Covid closing our borders and banning travel, 2021 was a huge year for foreign investment in the Australian real estate market, with over $6 billion worth of residential property sold…

Must characteristics With such immense cultural significance, as the Aurora Villa being privately auctioned off to the highest bidder?

Or do governments have a responsibility to protect important cultural assets?

Those who rise up against the sale, including a number of politicians and academics, will find out on April 7, when the villa’s return is scheduled for under the hammer.

This time around, Villa Aurora will be offered for sale at an “affordable” price of over US$427 million…

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