You'd be hard-pressed to envisage the riches contained within this amazing pile from the wrong side of its sizeable walls. And indeed, it's too often eclipsed by the more obviously appealing zoo next door. But the megalomaniacal Count Šternberg, a major beneficiary of spoils after the Thirty Years' War, created a monument here that still competes with its surroundings fairly well. An 18th-century Czech nobleman, Šternberg was anxious to demonstrate his loyalty to the Habsburg emperor and literally moved mountains to do so. The hillside had to be dug out to align his villa with the royal hunting park of Stromovka, still accessible via a footbridge from the embankment, and the distant spires of St Vitus's Cathedral. The result, built by a French architect and Italian craftsmen, is a paean to the Habsburgs, modelled on a classical Italian villa and surrounded by formal gardens in the French style.
The interior is replete with beautiful trompe l'oeil murals. On the massive external staircase, classical gods hurl the rebellious titans down into a dank and dreary grotto. In the Grand Hall, meanwhile, the Habsburgs enjoy a well-earned victory over the infidel Turks, a fascinating though slightly ludicrous example of illusory painting that constitutes Troja's main attraction. To see it, you'll have to don huge red slippers to protect the marble floors.