Villa Chigi is today known as Villa Farnesina. It was built between 1506 and 1510 for Agostino Chigi, one of the leading Romans of his time. He was a banker from Siena who came to Rome at the end of the 15th century, and through his political ability, obtained extraordinary power:
he became financier to both Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia, and later to their arch enemy Pope Julius II.
In 1492, he bought a block of land, situated in Via della Lungara and backing onto the Tiber, from the Farnese family. He then commissioned Baldassare Peruzzi to create a place of both meditation and banquets, a place to lavish delights on the mind and the body, a request consistent with Renaissance ideals.
The architect designed a building simple in form but whose decoration would create continuity between the building's interior and its surroundings. Raphael and Sebastiano del Piombo, as well as Peruzzi himself, worked on the decoration.
This villa with its wonderfully harmonious, and classically-inspired proportions, inevitably became the archetype for all subsequent Renaissance villas.
There was a beautiful loggia, perhaps Raphael's design, overlooking the river but this was destroyed when the modern banks of the Tiber were constructed. The loggia was the scene of sumptuous banquets offered by Prince Chigi to the VIPs of those extraordinary years.
The magnificent residence itself was allowed to fall into ruins by the Prince's heirs.
It then passed into the hands of the Farnese family, later to the Bourbon of Naples and in 1861 to the Spanish Ambassador. Today it is owned by the Italian State.