There is actually a real fairy tale castle in Rome.
It was built under directions from its weirdo owner Giovanni Torlonia (last descendant of a noble Roman family of french descent) who completely made over what was known until 1919 as “The Swiss Hut” in the gargantuan “Villa Torlonia”. The Swiss Hut was a little retreat far from the main houses of the villa, hidden behind a hill. Giovanni Torlonia Jr., a notorious loner, decided to retire there, and build it up into his dream mansion, a mix of medieval themes and delightful Art Nouveau craziness that is not to be missed.
Previously known as the “Villaggio Medievale” (medieval town) it became famous for its wonderful stained-glass windows depicting birds, flowers, plants and most of all, owls (from which the house itself takes its current name). There is no way to explain the beauty of this house, without falling into desperate banality. A banker, Giovanni Torlonia Jr. rented the rest of the Villa to Mussolini for a symbolic amount of one lira a year, he died in 1938.
From then on a time of sad decline was set into motion for this gorgeous house. It was occupied by the American military during the liberation, and then left abandoned. A fire destroyed most of it in 1978, and it was vandalized and robbed of most of its values. From 1992 until 1997 it’s been restored to its previous magnificent state.
Know Before You Go
From Roma Termini you can take the 90 express bus