"Outside Porta Pinciana he had a beautiful palace built in one of his Vineyards, or Gardens or Villas, however we wish to call it, in which every delight we might desire or have in this life was to be found. It was entirely adorned with beautiful antique and modern statues, fine paintings, and other precious things, including fountains, fishponds and embellishments...", this is how G. Baglione, a painter and art critic of the period, described Pope Paul V's (1605-1621) urban innovations.
After the purchase of land and vineyards and the concession of water from the Acqua Felice aqueduct in the first decade of the 17th century, work on the construction of the palace began in 1612 and was virtually completed in one year. Whereas the sculptures which were to decorate the building,
the construction of the aviary by Girolamo Rainaldi (1617-1619) and the landscaping of the garden took until circa 1620.
Apart from the contribution made by the Flemish architect Vasanzio, the architectural features are to be attributed above all to Flaminio Ponzio, an extraordinary architect in whom the Pope and the cardinal placed absolute trust. Ponzio designed the proportions of the rooms, and the Doric order on the exterior. He freed its architecture from the traditional style of other villas, which was more monolithic and confined, causing unexpected front and side projections to emerge in a dynamic relationship with the upward movement of the towers, which is enhanced by the arrangement of the windows and the doors communicating with the garden avenues on all four sides.
The Villa Pinciana was built as a museum to house fine examples of ancient and modern art, as a music centre, but also as a place for the contemplation of nature (in the form of rare plants and animals), of fossil specimens and of modern technology of the time, i.e. automata, mirrors, bizarre lenses and special clocks.
The villa administered a large farm with vineyards, vegetable gardens, hunting grounds, stables, barns, dovecotes in the towers (whose entrance are still visible),a large aviary, an ice store, a wine cellar and even silkworms. Extremely rare plants imported from Holland and Indies and a zoological garden completed Cardinal Scipione's Theatre of the Universe.
In contrast with its appearance in 1984, the glowing fašade of the villa set in its green garden, has now been returned to its original 17th century splendour. the fašade's creamy marble colour and paler background tones have been restored and the pilaster strips and string-courses are a shade of ivory resembling travertine. The colour, the Doric order of pilasters and the harmonious proportions of the whole building are reminiscent of classical architecture. The original double staircase by F.Ponzio has been reconstructed and will be surmounted by a copy of an ancient vase with two cornucopias (the originals are in the Louvre). This replaces the late 18th-century pyramid-shaped staircase and now provides access to the lower ground level containing various amenities. The shutters that altered the original design of the windows have recently been removed. All the busts and statues on the fašades, which had sadly deteriorated owing to lack of routine maintenance and were eroded by rain, wind, dust and lichen, have now been restored.