It was originally owned by a Russian princess, Zenaǐde Wolkonsky , who made her home there in the 1830s. Her salon was frequented by Karl Brullov, Alexander Ivanov, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Gaetano Donizetti, Stendhal, and Sir Walter Scott. Nikolai Gogol wrote much of Dead Souls at the villa. Subsequently it passed through various ownerships until it was sold to the German government in 1920, becoming the German embassy and ambassador's residence.
After the Liberation of Rome in 1944, the Italian government sequestrated the property, and it was placed under the Allied Control Commission. For a short time it was occupied by the Swiss legation and then the Italian Red Cross. When the British embassy at Rome's Porta Pia was blown up by members of the clandestine militant Zionist group Irgun on 31 October 1946, the Italian government made the Villa available to the British government to use as a temporary embassy and residence. The United Kingdom purchased the Villa in 1951.
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