In front of the Villa Medici stands a fountain made up of nothing more than a large stone basin with a cannonball in the centre.
The story of how a cannonball came to be the centrepiece of a fountain goes back to the middle of the 17th century and the triumphant arrival in Rome of Christina, ex queen of Sweden. Christina had been obliged to abdicate the Swedish throne when she decided she wanted to convert to Catholicism. Her conversion was seen as a great coup for the papacy, who received her in the Eternal City with much pomp and ceremony.
Christina Alexandra, as she came to call herself, first took up residence in the Palazzo Farnese, but later settled in the Palazzo Riario (today, the Palazzo Corsini), which is situated at the bottom of the Janiculum Hill. It was from this hill that, according to legend, the somewhat drunken ex-queen fired the cannonball across the city, during a night of revelry. The missile hit one of the doors of the Villa Medici and the dent (and the cannonball) remain to this day.
The Villa Medici used to enjoy one of the most beautiful views in Rome, as Augustus Hare writes in his book 'Walks in Rome', "From the door of the Villa Medici is the scene familiar to artists, of a fountain shaded by ilexes, which frame a distant view of St Peter's."
Nowadays, the view, sadly, is blocked by a cluster of overgrown olive trees.
Blogging about Rome, its history, art and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian, writer and guide