When a Hospital Turns into a Fairy-Tale Castle: It Could Only Happen in Italy!

If you drive out of Rome going to the airport, you pass by what looks like a modern hospital: Romans call it the Ospedale della Magliana and it is run by the Knights of the Order of Malta. Built in the 1960s, it's one of the most modern hospitals in Italy, well known for its neurology service taking care of paraplegics and endowed with a fully equipped state-of-the-arts coma recovery room.

What is not so well known is the hidden gem behind that modern, efficient fa├žade: a medieval castle turned by a succession of Popes in the 15th and 16th century into a a magnificient villa they used as a hunting lodge. Here's the main entrance to the hospital:

Yes, crenellated walls! And the surprises don't end here. Look at the entrance gate, leading into the inner courtyard:

I couldn't resist, I ran up to that arch:

I walked through and this is what I discovered:

This is the heart of the ancient Renaissance villa-castello della Magliana, as it is called. Restored by the Order of Malta, this part of the hospital is used to house the administration offices and a school for training nurses and voluntaries. The flag of the Order, a white cross on a red background, floats near one of the entrances:

But the main entrance is this one:

And the staircase leads to the main reception room:

A grand room - the ceiling is at least 10 meters high, and on the right, there is a portrait of Charles V, the Spanish King who donated the island of Malta to the Knights of the Order. The frescoes have been taken off the walls to be restored.

At the end of a series of offices, there's this beautiful loggia (the two people conversing here give you an idea of the size of this loggia - indeed of the whole building):

The view from the loggia, looking out on the courtyard is breathtaking:

And just across from the villa, here is the old barn, gigantic and...looking like a military fortress:

This building is of course a part of the actual hospital (operating rooms etc) and here are the bedrooms for the patients (250 beds):

Yes, very modern, with all the rooms looking onto this garden that was filled with white spring flowers when I took the pictures (I took them on 9 March). In fact, because of the requirements of the Italian Belle Arti - the Ministry that acts as a watchdog on the Italian patrimony -  permission for additional, permanent buildings are difficult to obtain. As a result, the chapel has been housed in a vast tent. You can see it here:

Since it is so vast, it also serves as a meeting room, a screening room for films and even a place to sing and hold Karaoke events! Here is the inside, note the altar in the centre and a video screen on the right:

There are also other temporary buildings, including a Day Hospital:

And yet, because Italy is the way it is - there's always something falling apart and that needs to be rebuilt - there is still one building on the grounds, an old farmhouse (probably built in the 1920s) with a roof that has fallen in and that could surely find some appropriate use:

It's quite a large place, and right in the middle of the hospital grounds. Here you can appreciate how big it is and how far the roof has fallen (right side of the picture):

You can also see some of the lovely trees (in the back) that dot the hospital grounds...Surely the Italian Belle Arti will allow restoration of this house and make the hospital a perfect place?

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