The Villa Torlonia, with its verdant palm-filled park, was the elegant home of the aristocratic Torlonia family from 1797, glorified as Mussolini's suburban HQ in the 1930s and trashed by Anglo-American forces when they made it their high command base (1944-7). When Rome city council bought it in 1978, it was in a disastrous state; the house and its outbuildings disappeared for years behind scaffolding. Enough has now emerged to make this a truly worthwhile hike. The main house - the pretty Casino nobile - was revamped in 1832 by architect Giovan Battista Caretti, who commissioned the interior's frescoes and mouldings, which have now been restored to their former glory.
Mussolini's bunker beneath the house can be visited by appointment. A number of structures are dotted around the park. Exhibitions are held in the Casino dei principi, which also houses the archives of the inter-war Scuola romana artistic movement. The Casina delle civette, a wacky Swiss chalet-folly, was endowed with all kinds of stupendous stained glass and boiseries in 1916-20; the art nouveau fittings have been beautifully restored and supplemented with much more stained glass from the same period. The Limonaia - where lemon trees were kept through the winter - is now a pleasant café-restaurant, and the faux-medieval villa by its side is home to Technotown. Beneath the park, and accessible only by appointment, is one of Rome's few Jewish catacombs.