Naples, and Posillipo


The British government acquired the Villa Crispi, formerly called Villa Lina, for the consulate-general in September 1946 for about £18,000 under the same arrangement that governed the purchase of the Villa Wolkonsky in Rome. The offices were on the ground floor and residence on the two floors above. It was later scheduled an Italian Historic Monument.

The villa was built in 1883 by the architect du Fresnay on land bought in 1882 by Signora Philomena Barbagallo, the wife of Francesco Crispi, prime minister 1877-91 and 1893-6, who died in 1901. His widow died in 1912, and left the Villa to her daughter Giuseppina, Princess of Linguaglossa. She sold it in 1921 to the Marchese Giovanni Ajossa, and it remained the property of this family until sold to the German government, for use as the German consulate-general, in 1940 for 600,000 lira. After Naples was liberated by the Allies, the Villa became the headquarters of the Allied Property Control Office until 1945, when it was confiscated from the German government and put under the administration of the Bank of Naples, which acquiesced in the British government using it as their consulate-general until its purchase was negotiated.

The Villa was sold in ?2000 for £???.

Posillipo, Rome’s summer residence, 1910-32

The fifth Earl of Rosebery, twice Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister once, in 1909 gave his beautiful estate on the western shore of the Bay of Naples to the Commissioners of Works to be the summer retreat for the British embassy at Rome. (Rosebery had also been, for four months, First Commissioner of Works in 1885.) The estate, at Posillipo, had once belonged to the Conte d’Aquila, an uncle of the last King of Naples, and comprised six hectares of ilex groves and orange orchards complete with three houses and all their contents. Rosebery had coveted the property, then known as Villa Serra Marina, for a long time before he bought it from Gustave Delahante in 1897. Because Rosebery could make little use of the Posillipo estate, he let the consul at Naples, his close friend Eustace Neville-Rolfe, and his family live there instead. It was Neville-Rolfe’s death in 1908 that prompted Rosebery’s donation the following year.

Sir Rennell Rodd was the first ambassador to use the estate in 1910 and for the next few years most of the embassy moved there for about four months in the summer, leaving two staff by turns in Rome. Rodd and his wife used the top house – Casa Reale, built in white marble. The middle and largest one – Grande Foresteria, an attractive old Bourbon palace with splendid verandahs – was used as chancery and accommodation for the secretaries and children (who generally preferred to sleep on terraces under the stars). The one by the sea – , the Piccola Foresteria – the smallest but with a bathing house, was for a married secretary. ‘Thus a succession of summers passed very happily until the outbreak of the Great War, when all pleasant things ceased perforce’.

Use of the villa was slight during the 1920s and, after Rosebery’s death in 1929, the Office of Works could no longer justify the cost of its upkeep. Under the 1909 Deed of Gift, the estate was to be handed back to the family if the Commissioners no longer required it. Rosebery’s son, the sixth earl, at first asked the Office of Works to find a buyer but two years of fruitless searching led to his offering the estate instead as a gift to the Italian Government. The offer was accepted by Mussolini in May 1932. The houses were not in good condition and some fairly ad hoc arrangements had to be made. The Italian Government took over the estate staff and received most of the furniture and pictures. The Deed of Transfer was completed on 7 December 1932.

Villa Rosebery is now the official residence of the President of the Republic of Italy when he visits Naples.

Site plan of Posillipo, c.,1910.